How often do we hear that the most important thing in life is good health? That truth has been driven home by the coronavirus, a microscopic threat to health and life around the world.
Over the next few months, and possibly beyond, the No. 1 priority of governments at all levels must be to battle and defeat this public health enemy. That means focusing attention on all the ways to fight it.
First and foremost, the areas where the virus turns up must be identified, and it must be attacked aggressively and contained. That may impose some serious inconveniences on us all, in terms of travel restrictions and limits on public gatherings. It may require that some will have to “self-isolate” to prevent the virus from spreading.
The cost of fighting this scourge will not be light. It will call for major expenditures of public funds. In Washington, there’s little to be gained by fighting over the exact dollar amounts that will be needed to fight this battle. Congress should authorize and appropriate whatever sums are necessary to fund a major public health response. If more public money is needed as the situation develops, it should be ready and available.
Our state and local governments will be on the front lines of this fight, as will be our health care workers, hospitals and clinics. They, too, must be provided with whatever resources they need. Here on Long Island, our top-flight health care system deserves our wholehearted support as it prepares to deal with any coronavirus cases that may occur.
The media also has an important role to play in this fight. It does no good to sensationalize every new coronavirus case, or to second-guess the response of the federal government. President Trump has made it clear that his administration recognizes the seriousness of this challenge and will support all necessary measures to meet it. Political nitpicking and finger-pointing do little to advance the fight we face.
We are blessed in America with the best scientists in the world, and they should be given the resources and support to do their work. Scientists like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Anthony Fauci — who led the successful fight against AIDS — are now mobilizing the research and development for a vaccine and treatments for coronavirus. These new medicines may take months to bring to scale, but every effort should be made to give our scientists the support to shave as much time off this treatment response as possible.
Other nations’ scientists — including in Israel — are also pursuing promising research to find treatments. The U.N.’s World Health Organization should be promoting a truly collaborative global R&D effort encouraging scientists everywhere to work together on this international health risk.
The other priority of the international community must be to calm financial markets and offer assurances that the world financial system will also surmount the coronavirus challenge. In the U.S., that means aggressive action by the Federal Reserve to shore up the economy by further lowering interest rates, and if necessary, taking other strong measures to ensure market liquidity.
Remember the “quantitative easing” during the 2007-09 financial meltdown? Something like it may be needed again. Just as our scientists must pursue all ways to cure the virus, our financial leaders must pursue all ways to safeguard the health of our economy.
If this dark cloud has any silver lining, maybe it’s that the coronavirus is a common enemy that can help bring the world together in a common cause. The various ongoing conflicts around the globe pale in comparison to the coronavirus threat.
It’s sobering to remember that the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 may have killed as many or more people than were lost in World War I. A disease that recognizes no borders and respects no politics or armies may be the one foe that succeeds in bringing us together.
President Ronald Reagan often mused in his best speeches about what would happen if invaders from a distant world came to Earth and threatened mankind with annihilation. He hoped that the threat to all would be a call to all to work for the good of all. As Reagan might now say, if the invader is stalking us as an invisible enemy within, all the more reason to take up the battle against it. It may bring out the best in mankind.
Al D’Amato, a former U.S. senator from New York, is the founder of Park Strategies LLC, a public policy and business development firm. Comments about this column? ADAmato@liherald.com.