Prudence and Responsibility During the Coronavirus Outbreak
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is causing a lot of insecurity: school closures, event cancellations, stock market reversals, runs on grocery store items, and more. There are many reasons to be concerned about this virus, now officially classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a Congressional hearing that this disease is “10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu,” and stated unequivocally that we need to do “really aggressive containment and mitigation” or else the numbers could go way up, even into the millions.
So, with this stark information, what can we, or should we, be doing?
First, the federal government needs to do a much better job of communicating CDC guidelines and updates. Reuters reported that White House officials have been ordered to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified. This prevents experts who have critical insights, but not security clearances, from participating. At moments such as this, the government needs to be open to hearing from all experts who can help solve the problem. They then need to share accurate information in a timely manner with the American public. Downplaying the issue, when the frightening nature of it is playing out in front of our eyes, only incites more panic.
Second, we need to make sure that all people have access to testing and treatment. This is a national health emergency and should be treated as such. Too many Americans have inadequate insurance to cover care for this virus. According to Vice President Mike Pence, the insurance industry, along with Medicare, have agreed to waive copays on tests and treatment. Insurance providers need to be held to this promise. This information needs to be rapidly disseminated so that people don’t needlessly worry about cost and will seek care early on. Additionally, the uninsured need to be assured that they, too, will receive testing and care, should it be necessary.
Third, in order for testing to happen, testing needs to be made available. Right now there is great confusion regarding what to do if a person has symptoms. Horror stories are popping up on the internet about people with symptoms seeking to be tested, but being met with fruitless bureaucratic red tape instead. We need a sufficient number of test kits and the commitment to use them liberally. In South Korea they instituted drive-thru testing centers, making testing quick and easy. Such centers are opening in Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington state, although all of these stateside testing drive-thrus currently severely restrict who qualifies for testing. Restrictions should be removed, and this drive-thru testing method should become standard. Quick, convenient testing protects medical professionals and the public from contamination.
Fourth, people should not have to worry about missing work if they’re sick (or even placed on quarantine). For those who work in large companies, the employers should provide paid leave. Large corporations presumably already have measures in place for such contingencies. For small businesses, however, that don’t have the ability to pay for lengthy sick leave, there needs to be a system, such as working through the Disability Insurance program, to ensure that COVID-19-related time off is covered.
Finally, we must all use common sense. We should take care to wash hands faithfully disinfect surroundings, avoid shaking hands, avoid large crowds, and stay home if sick. We should take time to run errands for and otherwise help the elderly and immunocompromised in our neighborhoods. We should donate to local charities and food banks, as able. Conservatism requires assuming a responsible role in our local communities.
This is a frightening virus, but with wisdom from state and federal governments and with common sense precautions, it will eventually be stopped. Together, we can beat this.