By Frank Blechman
One month ago, on the eve of Super Tuesday, I wrote a column for this blog about fears that Bernie Sanders was the inevitable presidential nominee of the Democratic Party [https://voxfairfax.com/2020/03/02/on-the-eve-of-super-tuesday/]. I argued then that the nomination was neither inevitable nor fearful. One day later, the results of Super Tuesday affirmed both of my contentions. A week after that, Joe Biden was crowned the inevitable nominee. And a week after that, the novel coronavirus wiped politics off the news and the minds of most Americans.
Like most of us, I would like to believe that the events of the last five weeks have sobered us all, and given us a better perspective on priorities.
Like most of us, I would like to believe that the events of the last five weeks have sobered us all, and given us a better perspective on priorities. Although I have no evidence to support this, I like to think that the discussion of health care in the fall campaign will be better informed because of the experience we have all gone through (and may still be suffering).
As concerned citizens, I think we can help by asking more informed questions.
- What international mechanisms would you support to improve our ability to track and respond to future multi-national pandemics?
- Do we need new mechanisms to move resources to meet the demands of future evolving health emergencies?
- What additional knowledge and skills should be added to basic health education in our public schools?
- Should epidemiologists be included in all disaster preparedness planning?
- Can we reduce the economic damage caused by future pandemics?
- When should national policies and decision-making supersede state and local action?
These are questions about long-term changes to policy and practice; they are not post-mortems to the events of the last month. Debating what size our national stockpile of masks, respirators, or hand sanitizers should be is refighting the last war, not preparing for the next.
With our lives changing so rapidly, it is understandable that we and our leaders are focused on immediate demands and needs. A month from now, however, though the virus epidemic will still be raging, we must begin asking these harder, future-focused questions. Otherwise, we face a long campaign of finger-pointing, name-calling, and lost opportunity.