The coronavirus does not favor one political party over another, and so it shouldn’t be used as a political football in the midst of election season.
Democrats blame Republicans, Republicans blame Democrats, and the jabs are flying in all directions as each side warns that the leaders from the other are not equipped with the leadership skills necessary to tackle a pandemic.
At the state government level, however, the response has been more controlled. With a coronavirus case detected in Illinois, leaders in Jefferson City scrambled to action in the executive and legislative branches of state government.
On Feb. 27, Missouri Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, announced the creation of the Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention.
The leader of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) shared immediately what the state’s health authority is doing to respond to the apparent spread of the Coronavirus, and the fears it is causing many to experience.
“Dr. Randall Williams has briefed my office on the state’s preventive measures and response plan to protect Missourians’ health,” Haahr said. “I believe Missourians deserve to know the steps that have been taken and the proactive approach Dr. Williams and DHSS are utilizing to combat the coronavirus in our state.”
Recently, a top federal official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. appears to be inevitable. The official’s comment comes as the pandemic continues to spread to more countries.
The Coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, according to the CDC. It can spread from persons who come into close contact with each other (within about six feet) through respiratory droplets produced when a person infected with the virus coughs or sneezes. Persons are thought to be the most contagious when they are the most symptomatic, meaning showing the most signs of sickness.
The latest CDC data, as of March 1, showed that the virus was present in six U.S. states, and internationally in China, Iran, Italy, France, the United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea. The two American deaths linked to the Coronavirus occurred in the state of Washington. In China, the death toll has exceeded 3,000 according to multiple news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the BBC and U.S. News and World Report.
Haahr appointed Dr. Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, to chair the committee. Patterson is a graduate of the University of Missouri – Columbia, where he earned both his bachelors and medical degrees. He is currently a private practice general surgeon.
Haahr added, and this is really the crux of the matter, “I believe the more information Missourians have, the better equipped the state will be to mitigate the spread of the virus and also monitor for symptoms so a prompt response is possible. With Dr. Patterson as the chair, this panel is designed to ask the questions on Missourians’ minds regarding coronavirus and for the department to assure the public that Missouri is taking preventive measures and is ready to respond if needed.”
Information is the most powerful tool available to stop a pandemic, but it needs to be good scientific, evidence-based information. This is a time to seek out information from the experts in the medical community, including those at government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Propaganda, snake oil, underhanded jabs and teeth gnashing will not save any lives in a pandemic event.
When it comes to saving lives, this is the time to listen, to learn, and to act, and to do it all in that order.