In Appalachia, people watch COVID-19, race issues from afar

The water, so cold that it nearly hurts, spills relentlessly into a concrete trough from three pipes driven into a hillside near the edge of town.

People have been coming to the trough for at least a century, since horses were watered here and coal miners stopped by to wash off the grime. People still come – because they think the water is healthier, or makes better coffee, or because their utilities were turned off when they couldn’t pay the bills. Or maybe just because it’s what they’ve always done.

For years, Tarah Nogrady has filled plastic jugs here and lugged them back to a town so small it rarely appears on maps. As she collects water for her four Pekinese dogs waiting in the car, she doesn’t wear a mask, like so many around here. Nogrady doubts that the coronavirus is a real threat – it’s “maybe a flu-type deal,” she says.