Al Knable-1.jpg (copy)

Al Knable

Today, as I write, the sun shines brightly through my office blinds. The whir of the landscaping crew draws my attention outward just in time to glimpse the finale of a laden robin’s errant flight, taking to her nest. Below my window I spy the leafy emergence of a rose bush I dug out seasons ago, its persistence in spite of my efforts a not unwelcome reminder of life’s resilience on this day.

There is no denying it. Spring has sprung, bringing with it renewed optimism — at least as far as I’m concerned.

Statistical and political trends at all levels indicate that at least a gradual re-opening of our community is near at hand. Exactly how such a re-engagement of varied societal activities will be allowed to transpire is being decided “above my pay grade” as they say.

I rather believe that in spite of whatever metrics government puts in place, the people — we common folks — will rightfully determine the pace of normalization. Drops of rain fall from the sky — whether gentle and continuous or in torrential bursts — given enough volume, dams eventually break. Potential energy is expended. Entropy always wins.

As such, I am looking forward to a day in the not so distant future when we can speak of this pandemic in the past tense. Whether that day is weeks, months or years away I do not know. But whenever that time arrives I think it’s important that we carry the experience forward in some practical, meaningful way.

We did not bring this scourge upon ourselves but we must learn from it, change some of our future behaviors. To not do so would dishonor the loss of life and livelihood we are enduring in the present.

Here, then, is a working list of improvements we might consider at various levels of organization. (Please note, I have intentionally focused on practical, obtainable goals rather than nebulous ideas such as “non-partisanship cooperation.” There is a time and place to discuss the latter, not today.)

Medically:

Nationally we need a centralized strategic medical reserve responsible for warehousing medication, personal protective equipment, ventilators, mobile hospitals, etc. Nominally such organization already exists under several different entities such as FEMA, the CDC and our military, to name but a few. We need coordination among these disparate groups to speed up response time and eliminate redundancy of effort and wasteful spending. Each state and local authority should have meaningful representation and involvement to assure that supplies go where they’re needed, when they are needed.

Our nation must bring the production of and supply chains for medications and medical equipment back to the soil of either the USA or our trusted allies. We have been “caught with our pants down” on these issues during this COVID-19 outbreak and we’re lucky it hasn’t hurt us more than it has. This must never happen again! State and local governments can lead in this regard by always prioritizing the purchase of American made goods.

Nationally, catastrophic medical insurance coverage should be provided to all. This is not the same as “universal health care.” I’ll save in depth discussion for a later date.

In my personal medical practice I and my partners have rapidly ramped up our use of telehealth visits. Though not as good as an in-person visit, and impractical for performing procedures, there is a place for this platform and with provider, state and federal cooperation these visits will be here to stay — a good thing!

On a personal fitness level, look at the COVID-19 data. Who is more likely to require a ventilator? Who is most likely to die? We can’t change our age but we can reduce other comorbidities. Quit smoking. Get closer to your ideal body weight. Eat better and exercise regularly. No one lives forever, but taking these steps will add to quality of life and reduce your chances of needing hospitalization if stricken.

Economically:

Our Federal deficit is approaching America’s annual gross domestic product (GDP). I am not an economist but this seems unsustainable to me. It took us over 240 years to reach this dubious milestone and I do not lament the most recent stimulus spending, but when the dust settles from this crisis we need to address this albatross. It will not be fixed in one Presidential administration. It will not be corrected in our lifetime. Let’s put a 100 to 150 year plan in place and get on the right track for future generations’ sake.

States, municipalities, businesses, families and individuals with rainy day funds might find them somewhat depleted after this challenge has passed. On all levels let’s prioritize rebuilding and augmenting these bulwarks against financial ruin.

Business and Academia:

We have learned that much work can be done from home. “E-commuting” and “e-learning” suffice on many levels. “Zoom” and other teleconferencing platforms have expanded our repertoire of communication. Let us commit to continued use of these modalities.

Think of the savings in fuel costs, the reduction in carbon emissions if just 10% of our workforce continued to e-commute on a rotating basis, if our schools scheduled e-learning two days a month — and no more snow days! If teleconferencing can eliminate 10% of business travel by air and auto how much cleaner would the air we breathe be in 2021 and beyond?

Co-workers and students — watch out for one another. If you’re sick, stay home. (In the past I’ve been guilty of going into work feeling ill, I pledge to do so no more.) Let’s keep washing our hands more frequently, give each other a modicum of space.

If you’ve helped support local businesses throughout this ordeal, please continue to do so once we can get out and about. The rest of 2020 is going to make or break many of our small businesses. State and local governments need to do what they can as well — for one, let’s allow curbside service to continue at least through 2020 before re-evaluating its pros and cons.

If you have found a way to help a loved one or someone less fortunate than you during these anxious times, then please consider continuing to do so during better days.

If you join me in desiring a better, stronger, more caring America after this ordeal has passed, then it is incumbent upon us as individuals to put in now and sustain the hard work and the love (the two so often indistinguishable) beyond to make it happen.

Spring is upon us. Life is returning. Let us embrace it and give thanks that we have survived another winter.

Al Knable is a physician and a member of the New Albany City Council.

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