This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to your local newspaper.
Compared with other states, Kansas has thus far been fortunate in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to early, decisive leadership Gov. Laura Kelly, the state essentially shut down in mid-March. As of April 27, we’ve seen about 500 hospitalizations and 120 deaths due to the respiratory illness — both unfortunate, to be sure, but far from the worst.
Thus, while most of the rest of the country bitterly debates the process of opening back up, in Kansas, the process seems relatively straightforward. Yes, we need increased testing. Yes, we want to make sure that workers in the meatpacking sector are not put at risk on the job. But a gradual process beginning next month seems to make sense.
That being said, no one should see this shift as a triumph. Indeed, it’s only the end of a prelude to this story. Whether we continue to see positive outcomes in the future depends on large part how we use these next few months.
Because, make no mistake, there will likely be a fall flare-up. A combination of flu season and escalating coronavirus cases will challenge the health care system once again, and will likely induce another round of public concern.
Will we be ready?
During May, June, July, August and September, we need to see this country move wholesale into preparedness. Masks and other personal protective equipment must be manufactured in huge quantities. Governments at all levels must invest in public health infrastructure to allow tracking and tracing of those with the virus.
Testing capacity, through the private and public sector, must be at least doubled and then increased even further.
On a broader scale, our institutions must also prepare. How will schools provide education for the next school year? How will city and state government provide essential services? How will these things be paid for? What kind of support will the federal government need to provide?
We will have an island of time to do these things. We could all lose focus over this time, as the summer temperatures rise and our desire to see normalcy return increases.
But that would risk the warning we’ve experienced over the past two months. We must rededicate ourselves to battling the risk of this disease, so we aren’t caught unprepared again. We can then avoid such draconian measures as shutting down the better part of the state economy and the accompanying social disruptions.
We can continue to keep the wheels of our society and economy moving.
But only if we act quickly and decisively now, and only if we don’t waste a single moment.