Other view: We Survive This Crisis by Putting Others First
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Other view: We Survive This Crisis by Putting Others First

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The American people are the government. They elect it and fund it. That means we cannot simply look to state, federal and local governments as a solution to the coronavirus. We must also look directly at ourselves, our families, our friends, our colleagues, our churches, our neighborhoods and our social circles as the solution to surviving the pandemic intact.

To help guide and inspire us, nothing seems more fitting than the observation written by The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1963 book “Strength to Love.”

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others,” King wrote.

Able-bodied neighbors will contact people in their communities who have lost their jobs, shuttered their businesses, have limited mobility, have infants, are in poor health or elderly, disabled, or otherwise challenged in ways that exacerbate the hardships of the pandemic. They will offer comfort and assistance, and ask what they can do while avoiding direct contact and maintaining a safe social distance. The strong will help the weak; the rich will help the poor.

We are seeing such action all over the country. Instead of witnessing widespread panic, looting, and marauding, we hear about people giving of themselves.

The San Diego Union-Tribune tells of a commercial landlord forgiving a restaurant operator’s rent through April. A rental complex owner offered tenants two weeks of free rent.

We suspect temporary rental abatement will be common among landlords who have the financial means. Leasing property is typically more than just a bottom-line endeavor. It is about providing homes for people who need them.

We know of dine-in restaurants, shut down by the orders of governors, distributing their food inventories to homeless shelters and families of limited financial means.

During this crisis, all will see how a great majority of business owners care deeply about employees and customers. They are in business to improve their communities, not the greed motive they are so often accused of.

People are leaving gift certificates and baskets full of food and household supplies on the doorsteps of neighbors. In the parking lot of a Colorado Springs Costco, a couple reached into the trunk of their car this week and tossed dozens of rolls of bath tissue to strangers walking by. They could have sold them, knowing shelves are cleared of bathroom supplies at stores throughout the country. Instead, they gave it all away.

The Denver Broncos on Wednesday gave a half-million dollars to the Colorado Covid Relief Fund. Professional athletes are donating tens of thousands of dollars to help stadium and arena employees who are out of work.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis sees private philanthropy as a force more helpful than anything government can do.

“Nonprofit resources will always be more flexible in their use than public resources, state or federal, and (we need) to have those resources to meet that very real need and very real pain that people are feeling who have lost their jobs, who are trapped at home, who don’t know what to do for their kids,” Polis said Wednesday while announcing the establishment of the privately funded Covid Relief Fund.

In so many ways, the pandemic feels like the early scenes of an apocalypse thriller or the culmination of everything emergency preppers have warned of for years. But unlike TV and movie portrayals of a worldwide crisis, we aren’t seeing the worst in people. Yes, consumers are hoarding household goods. The hoarding begets hoarding. But we are also seeing a great amount of sharing, charity and selfless care.

How well we survive this crisis has everything to do with how well we treat each other throughout the ordeal. We think King would agree. The ultimate measure of a community or nation is not where it stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where it stands at times of challenge.

Reprinted from the Colorado Springs Gazette distributed by creators.com

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Idaho’s structure of electing governors and LG’s completely separately — different from many states which bind them together — allows for the office holders to come from different points of view.

For future historians and artists who'll chronicle today's health and economic crisis, one humble item will stand out as the chief cultural emblem of the times: wearing a mask. Or not.

A small outbreak of coronavirus at a Fry Foods plant in Weiser gives a prime example of the importance of testing for COVID-19. More than that, it represents a warning shot across the bow of potential pitfalls if we don’t reopen our economy the right way.

As we tiptoe through Stage 2 of Gov. Brad Little’s phased reopening plan and approach a more robust Stage 3, it’s going to become even more important that we take the necessary steps to prevent future outbreaks.

And there will be future outbreaks.

The fact remains that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still out there. It’s ready to strike again, and without a vaccine, it remains a potentially destructive and fatal disease.

Aggressive and quick testing remains one of the key elements — perhaps the most important element — of controlling outbreaks at this point.

Fry Foods offers an early case study.

The Weiser food processing plant employs 260 people to make onion rings and other food products. It shut down earlier this month when at least seven employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Fry Foods initially didn’t test all 260 employees at the Weiser facility — only the 50 or 60 who likely came in contact with the employees who tested positive. Other employees were able to get tested on their own.

The Idaho Bureau of Laboratories (state run-laboratories) tested all that they had the capacity to do in one day, according to Kelly Petroff, director of communications for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The state lab can do about has a testing capacity of approximately 200 tests per day.

“We are not prepared to handle this,” Doug Wold, human resources manager for Fry Foods, told the Idaho Statesman, referring to the lack of coordinated response. “If you don’t have an employer who’s willing to be proactive, we’re just going to fail.”

Fortunately, Crush the Curve Idaho, a private, business-led initiative established during the outbreak to increase testing, stepped in and tested every employee at Fry Foods.

By Tuesday of this week, 20 employees — about 8% of the plant’s workforce — had tested positive for the coronavirus, along with at least two of their family members. Nearly all were asymptomatic.

RAPID-RESPONSE TESTING

That’s what needs to happen: rapid-response testing. If you have an outbreak at your workplace, get everyone tested. For those who test positive, keep them home and isolated. For those who test negative, they can keep on working and you’re back in business.

When the outbreak hit Fry Foods, company officials made the decision to shut the plant down.

Without adequate testing, that’s unfortunately the right thing to do. Without testing, you have no idea whether you have seven infected employees, 70 or 270.

We applaud Fry Foods company officials for making the tough call to shut down, even though they were given the green light by the Southwest District Health Department to resume operations.

Coronavirus is stealthy. A person can carry coronavirus longer without symptoms, potentially spreading to others unwittingly. Some people who carry coronavirus have no symptoms at all.

We are encouraged that Crush the Curve Idaho stepped up and stepped in here.

But Idaho needs a more concerted and organized plan to do rapid-response testing.

We are a fragmented health system. Health providers include Saint Alphonsus, St. Luke’s, Primary Health, Saltzer, among others. Then think about all the entities who pay for health care: Blue Cross of Idaho, Regence BlueShield, PacificSource, SelectHealth, etc. Throw in Medicare, Medicaid and those who are uninsured.

Even our own government health management system is fragmented, with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and seven independent health districts not operated by the state.

And, in the case of Fry Foods, situated in a city bordering Oregon, workers were from two states.

NO COORIDINATED EFFORTS

No wonder Fry Foods officials were at a loss for where to turn for help. Without some sort of coordinated effort to test all employees and somehow pay for those tests, shutting down the plant was the best option.

It’s worth noting that the Fry Foods employee who initially had coronavirus was at a family gathering of a larger number than outlined in the governor’s reopening plan and was with visitors from out of state, two violations of the governor’s guidelines. That’s why we have the guidelines, and that’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines. Otherwise, this is what you get: an outbreak that shuts down an entire food manufacturing plant.

Unfortunately, shutting down operations every time there’s an outbreak is not going to get the job done.

And there will be more outbreaks as we reopen our economy, reopen factories and workplaces.

Idaho has a lot to be optimistic about, and we have a golden opportunity to lead the nation in reopening our economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. We have had relatively few cases (around 2,300) and few deaths (77). Our early efforts to shut down parts of our social interactions and Little’s quick call to issue a statewide stay-home order clearly have paid off. Idahoans’ adherence to the stay-home order has helped to flatten the curve and control the number of new cases. Residents and businesses, alike, have done their part to make this happen.

Our hope is that Idaho can chug along through the stages of reopening. Our fear is that if we don’t do this the right way, we’ll have a surge and we’ll be back to a statewide stay-home order. Nobody wants that.

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