WOODY BASSETT: The fight goes on

It’s not a choice between safety, economy

After a lengthy yet necessary holding pattern, many of us are ready to attack the day instead of feeling like it will attack us.

Coronavirus will continue to toy with our hearts and minds. The shadow of this pandemic won't be fully cast aside until we have effective vaccines for use. We reflect on the way we were before our lives were upended but now we must accept where we are today and deal with our circumstances.

Though the virus still lurks, it's essential to get on with life as best we can. Doing so will lift spirits and be therapeutic for body and soul.

In a May 14 column in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan captured our shared reality: "There's a growing sense that we have to find a way to live with this thing, manage it the best we can, and muddle through. Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon ... but keeping things closed up tight until there are enough tests isn't a viable plan. There will never be enough tests, it was botched from the beginning ... We should go forward with a new national commitment to masks, social distancing, hand washing. These simple things have proved the most valuable tools in the tool chest ... At the same time we can't allow alertness to become exhaustion. We can't let an appropriate sense of caution turn into an anxiety formation. We'll just have to live, carefully."

We don't have to choose between public health and the economy. It's a dual crisis -- we have to do both.

With 36 million people currently unemployed, the country is experiencing a horrific crash of the economy, the worst since the Great Depression. To restore jobs necessitates a strong commitment to safe practices. Making people feel safe is crucial to reviving the economy because consumer demand is what will bring back businesses and safety precautions are what will bring back the consumers. As we reopen our towns and businesses, surely we owe it to each other and to our community to do so as responsibly as possible. Being asked to endure inconveniences for the common good and to minimize illnesses and deaths is not asking too much.

Ramping up testing is critical. To blunt further spread of the virus and keep people safe requires tests that are accessible, dependable and affordable. Given the absence of a coordinated national testing regime, it falls to the states to get it done. Testing, contact tracing and isolation of those infected or exposed are paramount to managing covid-19 and give us the best chance of avoiding another paralyzing resurgence of the virus.

Despite the loosening of governmental restrictions, it remains vital to be protective of others. That means wearing a mask when appropriate and social distancing. None of us like it but these are effective ways to mitigate the unknowing spread of the virus by asymptomatic people.

Be mindful of history and learn from it. In 1918 it was the second wave of the Spanish flu that year that made it one of the deadliest viruses in human history. Stay vigilant because we can't afford a devastating repeat of what occurred 102 years ago.

What has happened to the country should have united Americans in a common cause, and at first it did. But with the mounting loss of life and the escalating economic damage, opinions and attitudes of how to grapple with the challenges confronting us have predictably broken down along familiar partisan, class and cultural battle lines. But this isn't a "red" or "blue" virus -- it's a deadly virus that can target anyone, regardless of who they are, what they believe or who they intend to vote for. This shouldn't be a political war. It's a war against a virus and we should all be fighting it together.

Whether the federal government's response to the pandemic failed our nation when it really counted and whether presidential leadership has been big or small will be addressed at the polls in November. But what matters at present is whether American citizens decide to be big by rising to the occasion to meet the difficult challenges ahead. The more who do, the better our country will do.

A pandemic "ain't over 'til it's over." But fortified by hope and belief in ourselves, we carefully return to productive life determined to make the most of it.

Commentary on 05/21/2020

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