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BILL CRAWFORD — Virus deaths should weigh heavily on political leaders

BILL CRAWFORD

The notion that Mississippians can return to normal life and work by Easter Sunday is poppycock.

What the coronavirus has brought is a new and challenging normal, at least until a cure or vaccine can be developed.

While Mississippi has few cases compared to many states, the spread has been exponential. Over an eight day period, the number of cases went from 10 to 370. By the time you read this numbers will have escalated and deaths will be accumulating.

Because too many, both leaders and people, are not taking this seriously.

Health experts like Tom Inglesby, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, warn that irresponsibly ignoring restrictions “could kill potentially millions in the year ahead.”

Philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates called it “very irresponsible” to suggest America can avoid a shutdown of less than six to eight weeks. We need to shutdown to avoid what has happened in China and Italy, he said, painting a grim paradigm if we don’t – “Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner.”

Former Congressman David Bowen recalled stories of a family member hauling bodies on carts out of Old Main at Mississippi State during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

Is this the new normal politicians want for us? It will be if we don’t stick with top health officials’ restrictive guidelines.

Indeed, the new normal we need to safely return to work will adapt these guidelines to the workplace and the schoolhouse. That’s what South Korea has done effectively. That’s what safe nursing homes, retirement homes, and hospitals are doing. That’s what innovative stores and restaurants are doing.

That’s what a major part of the $2 trillion dollar stimulus package should target – providing financial resources for organizations to adapt their functions to the new normal to protect workers and customers.

Much of America can function safely if we adapt. But they need gear, technology, and proven protective methods to do so, particularly for those who produce and deliver goods and services.

Fear and uncertainty over this virus are causing and will cause much fear and pain. I am a case in point.

I write this column early on a Wednesday night, facing serious surgery Thursday morning. The normal fear of invasive surgery with potential blood transfusion is surpassed by fears of contracting the virus as a 72-year-old with an impaired immune system. My wife worries if I should take these risks or hope I could avoid serious complications by deferring surgery for weeks or months. (The doctors say do it.) My children, burdened by their own virus related health and economic issues, wonder when they can count on our help again since we are hunkered down for the duration.

Many must deal with far worse – job losses, financial collapse, despair, but most significantly, the deaths of loved ones.

Deaths are what should weigh heavily on political leaders’ minds. As Bill Gates said, we can bring an economy back but we can’t bring people back to life.

PS – Thumbs up to Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney for prodding insurance companies to adapt to the new normal of telehealth.

“Do not fear for I am with you” – Isaiah 41-10.

» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.

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