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The challenge for a brighter, stronger future is right before us. How will we respond?

The number of cases continues to increase, although it seems slower these days, or maybe we are immune to the numbers today.

The number of deaths around the state continues to rise and thankfully we have not yet grown cold to those staggering figures.

But as the state and nation begins to inch forward to reopening our economy one business at a time, it is important we begin to look ahead, look to what is next.

Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves announced that restaurants will be allowed to reopen Thursday and outdoor recreation facilities and locations will be allowed to once again welcome visitors with strict guidelines.

Tuesday, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. followed suit, announcing city parks and recreation facilities will soon be reopened and that restaurants that have fought hard to survive during severe social distancing and business restrictions will again be allowed to welcome dine-in customers.

But what is next? That is a great question and it is one that Dr. Jeff Holland, president of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Wednesday gave to local business leaders during a virtual meeting of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.

“… no matter where we are in our lives right now and no matter how much of a new normal we are going to have, the time we have right now is an opportunity to plan for what comes next because there is a next,” Holland said. “That next in our community still has the opportunity to be just as bright and just as shiny as it did before. It will be a function of what we make of it and what we have an opportunity to make out of it is still as splendid as it was going to be. We may do it a different way. We may achieve it through different means. But the resources that are here, the people that are here, the opportunities that are here, are all still here.

“What might have taken us six months to do a year ago might take us two years. But the opportunities are all still there,” he continued. ” So one of the things that I want to lay at your feet today, especially to our business community, is that while we are struggling it is important to give as much opportunity and time as we can to how we break out and achieve a better tomorrow.”

How we as a community recover from the impacts of this pandemic — whenever it ends if it ever completely ends — will be a testament not to our government leaders, but to our business community and our workers. It will be a testament to our strength as a community and our faith as a people.

For many of our neighbors, today is tough and tomorrow will be just as tough.

As an economy that has tourism as one of its main pillars, our economic recovery may be slower than most, but it will happen. There will be a time when our hotels will again be full, our parks packed and our riverfront again running out of room because of the riverboats. That might not be tomorrow, but it will happen.

In the meantime, it is important, Holland said, for us to prepare for that moment, not just to return to normal but to be better than we were, smarter than we were and able to accomplish far more than we thought possible.

Our future is still amazingly bright and shiny because our people expect nothing less and have a history of achieving nothing less.