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The debates surrounding COVID-19 are vast and divisive, and there is a contrast behind this pandemic in rural and urban American approaches.

The current media perspective on the way many rural communities are tackling COVID-19 usually involves a narrative of uninformed country folk not taking this pandemic seriously.

On the contrary, these are educated folks; people with diverse backgrounds in education and life experience. Their evaluation of the national and worldwide response to this pandemic and the resulting effects on societal behavior and health has led them to formulate a critical view of the interventions that have been adopted as unequivocal truths by some of our society.

Additionally, the broad education and experience base necessary to run many rural communities engenders practical problem-solving approaches and accurate and timely risk assessment, which has proved lacking in this debate.

Right or wrong, a truly balanced journalistic approach would highlight the facts and give credit to the concept that alternate viewpoints exist.

If we are honest, we have not discovered absolute universal answers to all the questions brought on by this pandemic.

The spirit that settled the West was one of pure grit, perseverance, personal responsibility and prevailing above all odds. That spirit is still alive in rural America. Daily, rural Americans face challenges that can threaten lives and livelihoods. It is a part of life. They don’t stop living. They make a plan B, C and D and keep going.

Many instances of fraudulent or inaccurate reporting of cases and fatalities have created healthy skepticism for any that are willing to think critically.

Do rural communities understand that COVID can be dangerous and even deadly? Of course, but they have also seen people get sick with and without masks or social distancing, and the majority of those affected recover.

Some choose to wear a mask. Others do not. Each is respected for their choice. Individuals understand the risk and choose accordingly.

Rural Americans do not have the luxury of shutting down over COVID-19. They cannot take their work to a home office — animals still need to be fed, commodities still need to be harvested and hauled, and school still needs to go on.

Rural Americans struggle with basic internet connectivity — an issue urban folk cannot understand. To them, shutting down schools or even going virtual is the most destructive thing for the education of their children.

How rural Americans deal with COVID-19 is about choice and personal risk assessment.

Small towns and communities all over the United States are struggling with the same issues regarding COVID-19. Theirs is a story that also needs to be told.

Mandi Boren, a cattle rancher and rural Idaho resident, covers the Grand View-Bruneau-Oreana area for The Owyhee Avalanche. This originally appeared in the Jan. 6 issue of the Owyhee Avalanche.

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