Jack Ryan: Workplace illness intrudes on the news

So the big news of late was word that the Mississippi Department of Transportation plans to build two roundabouts in Summit, one on each side of Highway 98 at Interstate 55.

There’s already some grumbling about it, and I suspect more is coming. MDOT wants to get rid of the cloverleaf interstate entrance design, the way it did a few years ago at the Presley Boulevard exit in McComb. Skeptics question whether the change is worth the expense.

I have limited experience with roundabouts, but I believe the key to a successful one is the width, or diameter, of the circle.

If the roundabout is too small, there’s not enough space for cars to change lanes as they move about the circle. This is sometimes a problem with the roundabouts in Hammond, La., at the I-12 exit.

It will be no surprise if any Summit opposition echoes the complaints from about 20 years ago, when MDOT expanded the Highway 51-Highway 98 intersection. Except for long waits when school is starting or ending, that intersection works.

For me, though, that was not the really big news. The drama was right here at the newspaper, where once again the delivery of our papers last week was delayed — for a most unexpected reason.

Usually when we have delivery problems, it involves printing equipment. Two weeks ago, for example, the machine that applies the images to the aluminum plates that are used on our press decided to take a vacation. This time, the problem was completely different.

You may be thinking, oh, so what? Get to the real news — like the retirement of quarterback Tom Brady, who said he meant it this time after announcing the same thing a year ago and then changing his mind.

I never liked Brady and the rest of the robots with the New England Patriots when they kept winning Super Bowls. But I gained an appreciation for him after his first season with Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers beat the Saints in the playoffs two years ago in Drew Brees’ final game. After the game, Brees was on the field in street clothes with his wife and four kids when Brady walked over on his way out of the Superdome.

Brady threw a touchdown pass to one of the three boys and, like a good dad, reminded them, “Have fun. And be nice to your sister.”

It finally put a human face on Brady, one that he had kept hidden for so long. So I hope Brady enjoys retirement — and that his sons are nice to their sister.

Yes, fine, but all four of our press workers got sick at the same time. It started on Jan. 26 when two guys were unable to work. One tested positive for covid-19 a couple of days later, and the other was negative but had a bad case of the stomach flu.

Over the weekend, another pressman was ill and confirmed with covid. And on Monday, the fourth guy had a bad reaction to medication that left him dizzy and nauseated. He had to go home.

OK, enough. Did you see the story Friday about the “chronic absenteeism” rates of public schools in the state?

McComb and Amite County had two of the 10 highest rates, with close to 50% of students missing enough class to meet the chronic absentee definition.

I’m not doubting the percentages, but it makes it sound like half the kids are out of school on any given day, and that’s not possible.

Meanwhile, Franklin County had the lowest absentee rate in all of Mississippi. Theirs was in the 9% range. So even the best district in the state at getting kids to school had nearly 1 in 10 of its students missing a lot of days? Come on, parents, step up.

Sorry, but this week has burned a hole in me. I even went through my once-a-year lose-my-temper moment on Wednesday morning and had to apologize to several people.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, and now this happens? I know that covid and flu are both going around, but to knock down my whole production team was a shock. It should have happened in 2020, not now.

We did a lot of printing out of town on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. The majority of the weekly newspapers we print got their editions a day late. It was not a fun week, let’s leave it at that.

And I also heard that Sean Payton will coach Denver! Good for him, and good for the Saints, who are getting a first-round draft choice from it.


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