Over the past few weeks, the COVID-19 crisis has completely upended life as we know it. Dayton Daily News investigative reporter Josh Sweigert has been reporting on how the pandemic is affecting the people and businesses here in the Miami Valley, and he spoke with WYSO's Jerry Kenney and talked a little bit about what he's found.
Jerry Kenney: Josh, thanks for speaking with us today. You recently wrote about what people in the Miami Valley were not only afraid of during this time, but also what was giving them hope under some difficult and unprecedented circumstances. Tell us what you heard.
Josh Sweigart: So, we spent some time out talking to people in the community, talking to leaders across multiple sectors and most importantly, perhaps, people in their homes.... the first time I ever interviewed somebody through their second-floor window. And, the biggest concern repeatedly had to do with just that uncertainty, how long it was going to last. People just want to know what they're in for, especially business leaders and education leaders and people who were trying to help organize large organizations.
And the residents we spoke to, a lot of them, were just concerned about knowing how big of a problem this was, where the testing was and making sure that people were getting test. One refrain that we probably heard more than anything was, you know, if anyone is prepared for adversity like this, it's the Dayton area. 2019 was a hell of a year. We had the KKK rally, we had obviously the Oregon District shooting, we had the tornadoes come through, and we were tested, and we stood up to that test. And, I think a lot of people feel that we learned things from that, both organizationally, in terms of how to respond and how to rally together with our neighbors, and also sort of spiritually or psychologically that we can overcome adversity.
JK: You also spoke to Oregon District patrons in the final minutes before Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's order that all bars and restaurants in the state shut down operations. What was that night like for you and for the people you were with?
JS: There was a range of emotions. I mean, this was part of our town that dealt with some serious tragedy last year and man, here's another blow, right? There was a lot of somber feelings, some strong bitterness and lots of sadness. I mean, the Dublin pub obviously is one place we wanted to visit because this was days before St. Patrick's Day, which if you've been to St. Patrick's Day at Dublin Pub, it is a massive event. They built this giant tent next door and thousands of people there. By contrast, there was maybe a hundred people in the bar at the time. A band that was supposed to play St. Patty's Day night, Jameson’s Folly showed up and said, you know what, we're to perform a free tonight. It was a celebratory, almost defiant tone.
And then you'd walk down the street and talk to some of the employees at Toxic Brew Company and they were angry, and I don’t blame them. I mean, they, their livelihoods just got upended. They're being told, as of tonight, you can't work anymore, you can't get tips if you're a bartender or you're a server and we don't know what the future holds.
JK: And what is your sense going forward how the Miami Valley will fare if this crisis goes on indefinitely and how its residents may come out on the other side of it?
JS: Oh, that's up to us. Right? So, we all need to figure out a way to help each other through this time. We need to support local businesses, that's something that I heard from a lot of people, making sure that money stays in the local economy whenever possible. And, we are going to have neighbors that are going to have some serious needs right now. We have lines around the block that we've covered the local food pantries that are seeing unprecedented numbers. I've talked to the United Way 2-1-1 help line people who are seeing tons of calls from people that they have never heard from before.
There's food scarcity issues from people either A who lost their job or elderly people who were afraid or can't leave home and are trying to figure out how to get food to their house. So, we're smart, we're resourceful, were the birthplace of innovation and we can figure out a way to get through this working together, but we just need to remember that as when our houses all over the Miami Valley individually were were facing a big issue together as a community. And so, I think the people I spoke to all said that that's that's what we have to keep in mind.
JK: Josh Sweigert, investigative reporter with the Dayton Daily News, thanks for your reporting and thanks for your time with us today.
JS: Thanks, Jerry. I appreciate it.