Fools Rush In

By Joe Sweeney

Being the youngest of four, I learned from the wisdom of my older brothers and sister. I laugh every time I hear “We’ll see.” Mom used that line often and my sibs reminded me early and often that it always meant NO. We must be related to lots of folks across ethnic and religious lines, because I hear this phrase all the time and I’ll usually respond with a smart-ass comment. The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to resuscitate a severely battered economy remind me of “We’ll see.”

This situation, though, appears much different than when our team stepped out of our vehicles to help the morning after the Joplin tornado, nine years ago this month. The devastation was apparent and relatively easy to assess. This one is different. A lot different.

While there are many obvious things that need to be done on all fronts to rebound from the effects of the coronavirus, there are many unknowns and terrible repercussions in the event we don’t safely phase in the reopening of the economy. The biggest thing I see is that this recovery is absolutely a team sport and we have to rely on the safety, responsibility and judicious decision-making of fellow beings.

We know that Republicans and Democrats argue over about everything—my biggest concern is that these two interest groups have to play well together to avoid an outbreak likely much larger than any living person has ever seen. I understand that rushing in too soon and without being very cautious, we could trigger an outbreak that we may not be able to control. A second wave in the fall, perhaps sooner anywhere in the world, will inevitably return to America—this will cost more lives, including some of our own.

The Spanish Flu had three primary waves, I believe each becoming more deadly. Can you imagine the repercussions if we were to repeat March and April again? It is important to understand here that inordinately more people will lose their livelihood and go broke than will be infected or pass away from coronavirus.

I’m particularly impressed with Dr. Anthony Fauci and his medical data and statistical analytics, including his comment this morning: “If you think we have it entirely under control, we don’t!” He’s served a critically important role over recent months and he should, in my opinion, be honored with the Nobel Prize. There comes a time, however, when his advice will not mix well with a interests of a battled economy and especially in an election year.

We have a unique teaching opportunity and I share this with our team often. We are living in and have the privilege to serve as journalists in the most interesting era of the past century. None of us had been trained on the science and safety of COVID-19, but journalists serve a critical role in analyzing the facts and reporting as we should. So after months of enjoying a front-row seat to this pandemic, I can honestly I have little clue as to the best plan and how to phase it in.

Now, it goes without saying folks on the front lines in health care as well as law enforcement and especially government leaders do have a plan. Good, bad and indifferent. The problem is these plans are all over the board and it’s as difficult to be in the know regarding such jurisdictional polarity. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti sanctioned stay-at-home orders until September, ironically concurrent with Elon Musk’s move to unilaterally reopen the central California TESLA plant and assembly line without the least regard. I believe they’re both right.

There isn’t an easy answer to this dilemma. I do believe it’s critically important, however, to dramatically increase testing. To date, I understand there have only been 9 million COVID-19 tests administered in the U.S. I hear by this fall that we should be able to test 50 million people per month. Will this be enough with 328 million Americans, including a large number of seniors and folks with medical conditions? Real control of this situation is in the hands of all of us, including some who may be Super Spreaders.

What bothers me the most are folks all around who put everyone at risk. My bride of many years has earned the appropriate nickname of Safety Shelly. Truthfully, she drives me nuts much of the time, but we’re both still here. Michelle comes into the office occasionally and I tell folks we’re enjoying our 6,000-square-foot private office.

Operating most businesses with staff working remotely has its challenges, but I believe ours has more. We’ve adapted, but speaking on behalf of our staff, and probably yours too, it sucks. We can have some fun with social distancing. I was in line at the pharmacy and pointed to the 6’ away sticker and the little old lady quickly jumped on it and giggled. I may have made a mistake going to one of the clinics at Saint Luke’s back in March for a routine checkup. They screened me and others at a makeshift entry into the doctor’s buildings and issue stickers to wear that showed our temps had been checked. Upon departing and seeing a longer line waiting to have temperatures checked, I made a comment to the nurses. “They’re dropping like flies up there!” Everyone dropped their jaws and I quickly realized that was an insensitive thing to say. “I was talking about the stickers, not the patients!” Everyone exploded in laughter.

I think everyone is interested in doing the right thing to remain safe and we’re all feeling the pressures of this economy as it further grips our nation. I concur with the need to open up the economy. As to when we can safely return to work? I’m afraid that like TESLA, companies will return as they’re comfortable to do so. As to the KC region?

We’ll see.

About the author


Joe Sweeney

Editor-In-Chief & Publisher

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