Margaret Munson: Hopes for a different approach the next time this happens
Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times of April 25 wrote: “It is hard not to feel sorry for Americans. Most of them did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Yet they’re locked down with a malignant narcissist who, instead of protecting his people from COVID-19, has amplified its lethality. The U.S. went into the coronavirus crisis with … precious weeks of warning about what was coming … yet it managed to make itself the global epicenter of the pandemic.”
It would take reams of paper to detail all the ignorant and fatal mistakes made by this administration. We cannot undo the horrific devastation that has occurred because of bigoted, unintelligent and politically motived decisions.
We can grieve for those unnecessarily dead but we should not have needed to do so in the numbers that we are. We have survived wars, depressions, epidemics and natural disasters. Because we came across the country in covered wagons and on ships from many nations, we are resilient, intelligent and courageous. We can work for income equity and some type of universal health insurance. Now we have painfully learned that if you do not have a job, you do not have insurance.
What else can we do to prevent such emotional, physical and financial devastation again? What about a bipartisan council of the Congress, the uninsured, the homeless, those in service industries who would work with the president, the CDC, NIH and the WHO? When any of these prestigious organizations warn of information suggesting an epidemic, the council would decide on a course of action and would have the authority to implement it. Perhaps they would decide on a national quarantine, which would have saved many lives. I know the financial impact such an action would take, but look at what has already happened.
There is now less of a work force than there would have been with a quarantine. And we all know that this spreads exponentially. A permanent council would provide transparency, avoid egotism and take the pressure off of one person having to make such a momentous decision. When a decision has to be made about war, the president has the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a vast network of intelligence agencies to provide advice. And a pandemic is a war. We need to be better prepared because it will happen again.
For the vast majority of Americans, life has been permanently affected. Relationships have been altered and priorities upended. There are people who have shown no consideration for others by refusing to wear masks in public and there are people sewing masks for medical staff not just in their immediate areas but across the country.
I am a Yankees fan but high five the Boston Red Sox for donating lifetime tickets to Beth Israel medical staff. Those who have done the right things can be proud. Those who did not can live with the results.
For those people who have erred in medical decision making because of political/financial considerations the legislative process and history will hold them responsible.
There are not enough “thank yous” to the medical personnel, firefighters, police officers, Post Office personnel, truck drivers, gas station attendants, truck drivers, sanitation workers, sales clerks, newspapers deliverers and the media who keep us safe and make our lives work.
Margaret Munson, MSW lives in Penn Valley.
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