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There’s no end of news and none of it’s good
Jeff Whitten NEW
Jeff Whitten is managing editor of the Bryan County News and Coastal Courier, his favorite papers. - photo by File photo

My sister Kay lives out in Colorado. She texted me about 8 p.m. our time Monday: “Three cases confirmed in my little county. I have something with fever and aches and headache. Little cough and sore throat. Hope you and all there are doing ok.”

Yep. She’s referring to COVID-19, which is pretty much all anyone’s referring to at the moment and as I write this my email alert pings a steady beat at me. 

Ping: Gov. Brian Kemp announces he’s shutting down public schools for the rest of the month.

Ping: Liberty County School System announces it’s opening them up for a day before the shutdown takes affect. And reverses that decision around 3:20 a.m. I slept through that ping. 

Ping, ping: Dollar General announces it’s dedicating the first hour of every day it’s stores are open to senior citizens so they can get what they need without being run over by younger folks. 

Presumably, those Dollar General shopping lists will include toilet paper, which has become nonexistent on store shelves across the country and makes me wonder who got it all and why didn’t they leave some for the rest of us?

In that regard I have an in of sorts with Georgia Pacific, “one of the world’s leading makers of tissue ...” because my brother-in-law has worked there for years (he started when it was Fort Howard).” Yay, me, I guess. 

But the empty shelves and run on what the Greeks call charti ygeias got me to doing some research on toilet paper, and I wandered into a site called There I learned the first “modern commercially available toilet paper,” was sold in packages of flat sheets called Gayettey’s Medicated Paper,” by Joseph Gayetty, who doctored the paper somehow with aloe and watermarked the sheets with his name. The site also said America suffered its first documented toilet paper shortage in 1973 because of a Johnny Carson joke, but didn’t give details. 

The fact-checking site explained Carson’s reading of a newspaper clipping alluding to a shortage of “commercial toilet paper”  led to panic buying which led to a brief shortage of consumer toilet paper, but it wasn’t all Johnny’s fault. His joke came after a Republican congressman from Wisconsin named Harold Froelich issued the statement warning the U.S. about a possible shortage of paper due to shortages of pulp paper. 

Now, word of a pandemic and we’re back to 1973 somehow. 

By the way, toilet paper in German is toilettenpapier. In French it’s papier toilette. In Spanish it’s papel higienico. And everywhere it’s gone, at least for the moment. 

And back to the inbox and that infernal ping. These recalled in no particular order. 

Ping: “Dear Friend, The sign on our office door says ‘closed’ but let me assure you: At this time of great uncertainty, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation is very much open and working!”

Ping: “Today, the National Park Service temporarily suspended visitor service operations at Fort Pulaski National Monument. Park visitor facilities, programming, and visitor services will be CLOSED starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020.:

Ping:  “Good afternoon, Effective immediately, health departments throughout our eight-county district will go to appointment-only scheduling in an effort to limit the number of people in waiting rooms. Additional details attached.”

Ping: “This afternoon, Dr. Jerome Adams, the Surgeon General of the United States, will hold an on-the-record briefing for state and local reporters focused on updates from the Coronavirus Task Force and the President’s new Coronavirus Guidelines for America. The briefing will be conducted via conference call at 5:30 PM EDT and the information will be embargoed until the conclusion of the call.  The number of lines are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis, so please limit to one per outlet.” 

Ping: “Dear small business owners and community partners, As we all experience the changing and volatile situation brought about by the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), I want to assure you that SBAC is prepared to continue supporting small business owners in our community. ”

Ping: “Hi Jeff, With the world in hysteria over the rapid-spreading coronavirus, parents should be taking this as an opportunity to teach a financial lesson to their kids.”

I’ll be sure to remind them of that first chance I get in the middle of all this hysteria – which I have yet to see first hand, mind you. Mostly, I see people doing the best they can to cope with a situation outside their control, and doing a pretty good job of it so far. 

Except for the toilet paper hoarders.  

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