Editorial: We will survive the COVID storm, and America will be prosperous again

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

When it comes to loosening our social-distance requirements and other measures designed to fight COVID-19, the country should take its guidance from health experts, not President Donald Trump.

That said, it is wise for public leaders — both Republicans and Democrats — to start talking about how America returns to normal again.

There are some people who will say that America will never “return to normal” again. If those folks are simply trying to say America will be changed by this virus, then fine. America changes all the time, virus or not. But what we must guard against is some belief that this virus will change the fundamental fortunes of America.

There is not a rational reason, at the moment, to believe that the fundamentals of America will change as a result of this virus. America still will have many of the advantages post-virus that it did pre-virus. Those include excellent geography and natural resources, a highly educated population, an advanced health care system and on and on. If you were a stock picker and were evaluating America as an investment, your long-term view wouldn’t change much. Yes, the short-term outlook is worse, but the “fundamentals” of the stock are still strong.

Another way to look at it is through the lens of, let’s say, a manufacturing plant. A power outage occurs and the manufacturing plant can no longer make its very popular widgets. That creates a serious short-term problem. Loss of revenue, loss of wages and so on. But assuming that the power will come back on, and assuming that power failures are not going to become the new norm, the manufacturing plant doesn’t have a fundamental problem. It has a temporary problem, although a serious one.

Based on the information we have right now, COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be a fundamental problem. It appears to be a serious short-term problem. The biggest frustration is we don’t know how short. An ice storm has knocked out the power, and we don’t know if it is three days or three weeks before the power comes back on. But we are going to have light again. Other parts of the world have already shown that.

But will power failures become a new normal? Will COVID-19 keep coming back and constantly disrupting our lives? Yes, there is still a lot of work to be done before we can answer that question. The lights won’t be back on, so to speak, until we learn more about the tools to fight COVID-19. We need to put some faith in science to find a vaccine. We need to put faith in the resiliency of the human body, as the human species is anything but frail. History also should provide some hope. There has never been a virus in the history of the world that has permanently shut down human activity. This one won’t either.

Right now, we are just in the most frustrating part of the storm — waiting for the crews to get to us and turn on the lights. They are working on it.

Now, there are things we should change. It would be helpful if the CEO of the manufacturing plant believed in the value of back-up generators. It would be helpful to have good emergency plans in place, with an actual national testing system and stockpiles. Those are not hard problems to fix. You just can’t wait until the last minute to do so.

But let’s not compound our problems by saying the virus requires a rewiring of the American way of life. If we undertake that project, we very well may accidentally short-circuit the economy and create years of needless hardship.

Is is very premature, for instance, to say the virus must forever change our attitudes about the dining, the entertainment, the sports or the travel industries. We’ve lived with viruses for as long as we’ve lived. Just because we’ve been hit by this one doesn’t mean we are constantly going to be hit by other new ones.

Yes, there are still important things we don’t know, but let’s vow this: Let’s vow to make as few decisions as possible while we are still in the dark. Our country, our economy and, perhaps most importantly, our mental health will be better for it.


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