The first strands of sunlight stretched across the Friday morning horizon like a detached bystander, unaware of the anxious uncertainty that had consumed our state for the last week. Yet, it was comforting to see something normal and predictable in a time when so much is not.

Most of us have never experienced the upheaval and ongoing concern that we face today with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is scary. In some respects, it feels out of our control. But mostly it feels isolating.

As journalists, our job is to keep you informed and ask the questions you can’t or perhaps have not thought of yet. That is what we are doing right now as it relates to this and other issues that continue to occur in our communities. We have always been committed to covering stories at the local level, and we are continuing to do that.

We recognize that much of what is happening now is rolling over our world like a tsunami.

The information and updates are engulfing us so fast it has, at times, been difficult to sort and separate the most important information for your consumption.

Our websites have always been the place where breaking and time-sensitive information gets posted first and now that has never been more important.

We have created coronavirus landing pages on our sites that can be accessed through the main navigation bar and through links. That is where you will find all of the COVID-19 stories that we have produced to date. We have made all of the stories available without a subscription. Given the circumstance and the need for everyone to be aware of what we should be doing to slow the spread of this disease, it seemed critical that everyone should have access. You will also find resource links, a place to submit your own photos, videos, stories or questions, and some of the more popular COVID-19 stories from our coverage areas.

We have also reached out to our local leaders who are working hard to prepare and plan for what may be a lengthy reality of COVID-19. We are stressing the importance of maintaining open access to all meetings, including those that may soon be conducted via teleconference because of social distancing. Open access is important for the entire public, which must be aware of all that is happening locally. The public wants to trust our decision-makers, so officials shouldn’t give them a reason in this moment to become skeptical or distrustful. This is not the time for any of us to contract and make plans behind closed doors. Now is the time to work together and discuss all of the options at our disposal as a community.

We’ve already seen what happens when people act in self-preservation mode, mostly out of fear. We get shortages at the grocery store for no good reason. Select products at discount stores have been gobbled up so fast that somewhere, somebody must have a serious stockpile of water, TP and hand sanitizer. And the fear extends beyond just the standard items at the grocery store. One popular ammunition website reported visits had increased 77 percent in the last month alone and revenue had leaped by 309 percent.

What we need now from everyone is a sense of calm and community. And we need leaders at all levels to be clear, compassionate and direct. We don’t need closed meetings and backroom discussions in this moment of shared concern. We need county, city and school officials to solicit ideas, seek the advice and counsel of others in the community, develop action plans that benefit us all, and do it all in the open where we can all see and hear what is being contemplated. In short, we need leadership.

Good leaders unify, inspire and provide a sense of calm through their actions. Bad leaders operate in the margins, make unilateral decisions and create instability in their communities.

Although much of the news now is devoted to getting test kits out, pleading with citizens to isolate themselves as much as possible to contain the spread, and to clearly stay home if you are showing any signs of flu-like illness so you don’t infect others, we still need to remain safely connected in any way possible.

Good communication is like those ribbons of sunlight stretching across our landscape. It offers the shared stability and warmth that can embrace our need for greater understanding in our world.

We know many of you are concerned and perhaps afraid. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to keep you informed of everything local.

Together, as a community, we will encourage shared solutions, provide help to those in need, and eventually be stronger for what we have all experienced. But we must do it together.

Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.

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