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THOMPSON: If you're looking for a hero in the COVID-19 pandemic, look in the mirror

March 23, 2020 - 12:04 PM

OPINION


Recently, I heard someone lament that “we need an Einstein to solve this coronavirus thing.” Well, we have some geniuses on the case. Dr. David Ho - Time Magazine’s 1996 Person of the Year - who lifted a death sentence for tens of thousands of people with AIDS a generation ago is working on coronavirus today at Columbia University in New York.

Indeed, he is one of hundreds of research scientists and doctors around the world working - some for five years or more - on vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus. It’s coming… just not as soon as we would like.

But if you’re looking for a hero in this story…go to the nearest mirror. Yes, we have met those who can do more than anyone short term….and it is us. We - as individuals - are the single most important determining factor in how hard this pandemic hits us.

These are extraordinarily challenging times…unprecedented in terms of public health. Scientists and doctors from day one spoke a truth beyond debate…if we want to blunt the severity of this pandemic…we must stay away from each other.

The other truth is governments everywhere - locally, nationally worldwide - need real plans and the courage of leadership to implement them in emergencies. Enough said…a lesson I hope our governments learn.

So, short term we are left to deal with this in almost guerrilla fashion…relying on each other…the best army we have to fight both the spread of this virus…how long it lasts…and how many lives we save rather than lose.

Hey, there’s nothing easy about the months ahead. We have to learn how to live with this thing…it’s not a cold that will leave us in a couple weeks. It will strain our ingenuity…our creativity…our resources. But make no mistake…however bad it gets…we can get through this.

I hope governments will provide necessary economic stimuli…consider forbearance of some debts…mortgages and rents. Smarter minds than mine must work on the economic side of this equation. Clearly, we all need to think about how we conduct business in this new environment. There will be changes…but that brings opportunities, as well.

Meanwhile, we need to stay at home as much as we can...limit contact with everyone just like doctors and scientists said early on. Can we ever leave home? Of course. We have to get food…run essential errands…work if we can. We might be ordering online and picking up groceries in the parking lot. Just think before we get in our vehicles…“Is what I’m about to do really necessary?”

We must continue to wash our hands…all the time…make it such a habit that we feel like surgeons going directly to an operating room. Use hand sanitizer if we can find it…make our own if not. And again, use soap and water until supply chains adjust.

As much as anything, we need to think about others…what we are doing or not doing that might impact our families, our neighbours, our friends, our relatives…strangers. We are all in this together. It’s going to take empathy, compassion…being there for everyone.

Emotionally and psychologically, we have to really fight…and this might be the toughest battle.

Everyone is worried…really worried…about jobs and businesses, money, school, mortgages and rents…and let’s not forget…the health and welfare of loved ones. We should not imagine the darkest possibilities but how we can persevere…that’s what defines the human spirit.

Meanwhile, stay well informed…communication and knowledge are important in any situation…they are critical in emergencies.

We’re going to have to pull together to get through this. We need to cooperate…care enough about others not to infect them. No one likes change…but pretending COVID 19 is simply going to fade away without changing how we live at work and at home…is unrealistic.

The ultimate lesson - weeks or months away - in all of this might be a better understanding of how connected we are as people. We’ve long known poverty kills people in so-called under-developed countries. But this pandemic is proof of the link between diseases in poor, overcrowded nations whose people have poor public health and our lives here.

Writer John Donne said it best more than 500 years ago…and we are recognizing that truth once again …“No man is an island.” This is true…despite the absolute necessity of social distancing and isolation.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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