At the moment, Americans are trying to deal with a pandemic that purportedly has the potential to kill millions of people. Death from disease has always been lamented by Americans. Life is not cheap in this country. So, the response to this situation has expectedly overwhelmed our lives for a few months, with much more to come.
I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss what America has done well and not so well in the face of a killer virus. Let me begin with non-medical issues.
Do you appreciate that world leaders have virtually shut down the entire global business community on very short notice? The theory is that everyone should stay home, isolate and distance themselves from others. The devastation that this self-imposed economic paralysis could have on the world economy is something that we should all be very concerned with. But, the effort to keep people from interfacing with each other at work, in school, at play and in familial settings has been astounding. The results are promising.
In a related regard, a great deal of business is still being done over the Internet. Americans can buy food and supplies (most importantly toilet paper) online. And although our access to food is somewhat limited, it’s still possible to find it, even from restaurants on a take-out basis.
Many companies are concluding that it may not be necessary for workers to congregate at their facilities. Work can often be done with a phone and a computer remotely. It will be interesting to see whether the trillions of dollars of real estate owned by corporations to provide services will be divested in the future in favor of a stay at home strategy.
And just as mind-blowing is that every elementary school, high school, college and graduate school is conducting classes from afar. The Internet has enabled teachers to communicate with students that are safely at home. This is a great development, but also, it has been heaven-sent for parents who are trying to keep their children busy. Just imagine what homes would be like if the kids did not need to spend a few hours each day doing schoolwork.
Changing direction, I want to give another shout-out to our first responders, doctors nurses, soldiers and everyone that has given money and time (and risked their lives) to help those who have been crippled by this menace. As far as I can remember, first responders have always stepped up and did their jobs at great peril. They deserve our eternal thanks for once again helping us survive in a dire situation.
And finally, there are those in the medical profession who are striving to develop treatments and vaccines and manage the process of keeping Americans healthy. Limiting their advice to staying home, washing hands regularly, distancing, and not touching one’s face has been brilliant.
Keep in mind that medical researchers were surprised by this new disease and neither the world nor the US knew exactly how to respond at first. Doctors had to retool, study the disease and figure out how to treat those who became sick. You can’t effectively combat an epidemic much less a pandemic without data. In just a few short weeks, data amassed has enabled these people to make wise, conservative recommendations to our leaders.
Regarding leadership in America, there are many unfortunate criticisms that must be noted. First and foremost, our leaders in previous catastrophes have performed far better than our current president, congress, governors, mayors, and local organizers. When you think about Lincoln, F.D.R., John Kennedy and even George Bush you can appreciate the importance of leadership during difficult moments. Politicians all want to be great and have their own chapter in the history books. The only thing that will be read 100 years from now is that our leaders were too political and more concerned about their own reputation than saving America.