As the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on America and the world, there seems to be a growing divide among two sides of this debate.
On one side, we have those who believe the government must have full control and be able to shut down the economy and lock up citizens for as long as it takes to find a cure or a vaccination to the virus. Those on this side claim saving lives and keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed must be the only factor in this issue.
On the other side, we have a growing number of people who says it’s time to throw caution to the wind and re-open the economy full bore. These people claim the economic devastation will ultimately be more devastating than the virus itself.
Personally, I don’t know the answer, but I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle.
While this political debate has gotten more intense — see our columnists Gene Chapman and Luis Rosas as examples — I think we should start looking for common ground. There are some important lessons we can learn from this that should be easy to agree on.
I’ll start with these.
• It’s time to bring much of our manufacturing, and especially our medicine and medical supplies back from China. For years, China has been able to make medicine, vaccinations and medical supplies cheaper than we can in the United States because they pay virtually nothing to their workers.
As a result, most nations worldwide rely on China for everything in the medical field. It’s time for that to change and change quickly.
As this pandemic has proven, we can’t trust China for even basic information much less a safe and secure medical system. We need to make our own medicines in the United States and we need to make our medical supplies here, too. If we insist on putting cost over safety, we need to find a better partner. May I suggest Mexico.
• People need human contact. This has been a key lesson here. For years, people have become more and more withdrawn as they use smartphones, websites and video games to become more and more internalized. But now that large numbers of our population have been forced into isolation, we are realizing simple human contact is vital.
I’m not saying we need hundreds of friends, but the ability to talk to someone at church, laugh with a stranger at the store, see a waitress while eating lunch and say hi to someone you pass while out walking has been missed a lot.
• What is essential and not essential has certainly been altered. I think we always knew of the value of doctors, nurses, police, firefighters and paramedics. But one good thing about this pandemic has been seeing the value of cashiers, stockers, truck drivers, cooks and everyday people who work hard for little economic gain. I hope we can remember that when this passes.
• Real leaders don’t need to toot their horns and can trust their people. Locally, County Judge Lewis Owens has led the way during this pandemic. He has made some strong decisions like requiring face masks, without going overboard. Unlike some states and municipalities — even in Texas — where people are being arrested for going to the park, Owens and Mayor Bruno Lozano, chose to set basic rules and trust people not be stupid. I like that we can still go to the park and I like that some earlier rules have been lightened. We can take strong steps without going so far it becomes a nanny state.
And in my opinion, that should be the goal. Let’s look for solutions that are smart and trust most people not to be stupid. Sure, if we ease up some people will go too far.
That’s always the case. But if we begin to open businesses, limit the number of people inside, require face masks and social distancing, this can begin to turn around.
We can’t shut down the economy for six months or longer and expect to be OK. And frankly we can’t have the federal government spending more and more money it has no way of paying.
So maybe it’s time to compromise and maybe it’s time to trust Americans to make wise decisions. It’s not a perfect plan, but I feel it’s reasonable.