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OUR FIGHT AGAINST A GLOBAL PANDEMIC


OUR COVID-19 RESPONSE


The United States of America possesses a great resolve like no other nation. Our history demonstrates our ability to overcome challenges, domestic and abroad. Our nation overcame the global financial crisis, two world wars, 9/11, and many natural disasters. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is next on the list. To win this fight, steady leadership from our government and society uniting to take needed steps and adapt when necessary. 

The Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge not experienced in quite some time. Our government needed to not only learn about the virus on the fly, but also overcome numerous economic, societal, and systemic challenges along the way. Unlike responses to hurricanes, wildfires, and known infectious diseases, there was no blueprint and response protocol in place. The nature of our way of life and global connectedness contributed greatly to our approach and risk. Far from an easy challenge. 

There is an importance to understand where the pandemic originated from, which was in the Wuhan region of China with an initial outbreak occurring late 2019 to early 2020. A nation with a highly secretive government and little reliable insight on its ongoings. One can reason that early factors prevented or harmed a global response that could have restricted exposure to Wuhan. Trade tensions already hampered the Chinese economy. Reasonable to assume that the Chinese government had little incentive to add to their strife with bringing light to a potentially deadly global infection. 

Our initial steps are the focus of current political debates, as both sides of the spectrum argue the appropriateness of early responses. Democrats argue the Trump Administration did not do enough or take it seriously enough, despite prominent members of their party holding Chinatown lunches without masks or social distances to play down the risk. In contrast, President Donald Trump points out his travel restrictions for impacted nations, despite also seeking to calm the nation as well. Hindsight is somewhat 20/20, but not always accurate. There was a great deal of challenges the government needed to overcome. 

The response to the Covid-19 pandemic required numerous tenets. Attempt to minimize exposure from foreign and domestic sources. Develop effective treatment options at the same time as learning about how the virus works. Revamp our healthcare supply chains to allow for improved access to critical material over time. Finally, innovate a vaccine to eradicate or severely reduce risk. 

Believing Covid-19 would not arrive in the United States is a view based largely on naivety not reality. Given how immigration and travel patterns by Americans as well as people from other global industrialized nations, Covid-19 was avoidable if it left the points of origin. The focus early was to restrict travel in from nations with high transmission rates. Afterwards, government made the difficult choice to restrict travel within our borders to reduce transmissions. 

The pandemic shed a great deal of light on the need for domestic manufacturing, especially for critical medical goods. Healthcare systems and networks sourced most of the necessary items needed for care and testing from supply chains with manufacturing in China. Due to its own need, China did not allow critical products to leave its borders. Ramping up domestic production and allowing firms to secure equipment, also made in China, created a major delay. In any production, there is great lead times before critical mass is achieved. 

The great benefit of having a free market economy is the number of enterprises answering our nation’s need for supplies by altering manufacturing to produce ventilators, masks, and other critical material. Not an easy task as much of the equipment needed is produced in China. Also, the risk to the workers producing the goods added to the overall risks. The ability for private health care facilities to coordinate with public systems held expand capacity and bring to light innovative care options not available elsewhere. 

The government is doing all it can to fast track a vaccine, coordinating efforts with pharmaceutical companies and eliminating regulatory roadblocks while ensuring the cure is not worse than the virus. Despite the large population of infected people, scientists report that herd immunity is not achieved. As such, society will need to rely on a vaccine. Leading scientists both for government and in the private sectors are hard at work to bring it to fruition in the quickest possible fashion. 

A challenge facing our response is the fact that the United States of America is not integrated system of government. Rather our constitution calls for largely independent national and state governments, both empowered to protect the people. In any of our past crisis, our traditional response typically involves local control with federal government coordination. The principle of allowing decision makers closer to the impacted communities is longstanding. Governors typically will work with the federal government to attain needed resources and coordinate a national response. That also was the case with Covid-19, where the federal government worked to direct resources to the areas with the highest caseloads. 

Redundant efforts did create some challenges as federal agencies seeking to restock national stockpiles and state agencies pulling from those stockpiles while pursuing their own sourcing strategies conflicted. There is a benefit is having duplicative orders to drive up demand that increases production. The federal government did its best to ensure states were prioritized over the stockpile need as well as allocating supply to those in most need. Despite notable shortage claims, some states received excess materials, which they later passed onto other states during their time of need. 

Responding to the pandemic required leaders at all levels from all political backgrounds required rethinking of past dogmas or temporary suspension of known effective principles to rise to the challenge of these extenuating circumstances. The decision to bring the world’s premier economy, which was growing stronger each period, was a difficult decision that brought a great deal of repercussions. As people listened to their leaders by switching to remote work environments or suffering what they hoped to be temporary layoffs, there was a need to ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain. The federal government had to spend vast sums of money to not only respond to the virus but keep millions of Americans afloat. While government spending is a legitimate concern, extenuating circumstances require unusual actions. 

The extenuating circumstances provided a challenge to government, as society saw many progressive leaders use the pandemic to flex control over society with an iron fist. Federal and state courts are adjudicating cases related to policies put in place during the pandemic with some being determine as unconstitutional even where rational is clear. Some leaders exploited the pandemic to enact radical political agendas, seeking to restrict constitutional rights. What to keep open become less about science and more about politics and personal gripes. 

There are some policies clearly ineffective and inappropriate. But, there is clear need to continue to social distance and wear a mask among other people until there is a vaccine available. Covid-19 does not seem to take a break for social justice efforts or personal freedom movements. The more researchers learn, the better our approach has been. Patience and flexibility is critical in this moment. 

Our society should listen to our scientists, the economists as well. Society should be able to progress forward without the need to completely shut down the economy. More is known about high risk groups and who needs to be protected. Society can responsibly move forward in a safe manner. Americans never hide from a challenge. 

Our society and leaders made great sacrifices and bold decisions to meet the challenge no one wanted or wished for. Americans must continue to move forward towards normalcy to the degree and manner which is safe. 

Desperate times can call for desperate measures. Even in our toughest times, our shared values, principles, and aspirations can provide a needed roadmap. However, rigid ideology must be set aside to answer the call of the moment. Our leaders must make the best decisions possible, given the information in the moment, not privy to the benefit of hindsight. Navigate society through challenging times, setting aside politics in favor of the needs of all.

There are few times in our history when our nation completely shut down. Especially without a military conflict or national tragedy present. Our nation is at a complete standstill in order to protect society from the rapid spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Our economy is not operating anywhere near full capacity to ensure there is an economy in the future. A major sacrifice and burden asked of our people.

A difficult request to ask of a society embodying hard work, ambition, and freedom. Prior to the pandemic, the economy operated near or at its best across many important economic metrics. Jobs creation, wage growth, and market expansion was robust. Trade deals reached at the beginning of the year cleared a great level of global uncertainty weighing on markets. Then the pandemic began in the world manufacturing leader, eventually bringing the global economy and world to a complete standstill.

The decision to implement social distancing policies was not an easy one, but a necessary one. For some, social distancing simply meant remote working and schooling. For others, it meant a complete loss of income and the need for unemployment. Our global way of life may be on pause, but many costs, both personal and economics, still need to be paid without the offsetting income.

Whether one is a fiscal conservative or anti-bailout liberal, there is a legitimate need to provide funds to the people and businesses most impacted by this pandemic. Government made the request for many to make this sacrifice, without any guarantee it would work. As a result, policymakers needed to help soften the blow and bridge the gap. The cost is not insignificant by any means. But our leaders needed to ensure our economy was able to survive for the future.

One area of opportunity policymakers should consider in future plans is to help only those truly in need. Funds should be directed towards those actually losing income and small business owners not able to access capital elsewhere. Many remote workers still receive full paychecks, which makes additional stimulus assistance unnecessary.  Those funds could go to bolster the state pools for unemployment benefits as claims are skyrocketing with people unable to work. Hindsight is always 20/20 and the people actually making the decision made the best ones given the moment.

In a moment of crisis, there is a need for collaboration between public and private providers, as well as entities that normally compete against one another. The ability for our society to leverage public and private partnership was a tool that undoubtedly benefitted our response. Private health facilities helped expand care capacity and provide innovative approaches beyond the scope of just public providers. Collaboration at times is appropriate in the midst of responding to a national emergency. While there were some needs to cajole certain organizations, our private sector provided great support to our society, at no additional cost in many cases.

Moments of crisis can lead government officials to take actions that conflict with strongly held principles of freedom, civil liberty, and self-reliance. Social distancing policies was an appropriate ask, although it should not set a precedent for government to exploit. Some officials went too far in using it to suppress constitutional rights or encourage citizens to turn on fellow citizens. Our leaders must ensure that our solutions are not crueler than the problem at hand. Must protect free society even when government power grabs are staring them in the face.

Our society and our leaders made bold choices in the face of a new challenge. No response is ever perfect, but the goal is for it to be effective. So far, this one has been just that. States will need to decide for themselves how best to reopen and keep their constituents safe. America cannot hide from our challenges, but find solutions leveraging our innovative people across all areas of society.