By Don Keelan
On a recent beautiful spring afternoon, I had the opportunity of lunching on the porch deck of a close colleague, at his Dorset, Vermont, home. For both of us, it was the first time meeting someone for lunch since early March.
After commiserating over many of the COVID-19 issues, my friend stopped and asked, “Are there any positive elements that we can derive from what has been going on?” Before I had a chance to respond, he was well on his way in reciting a host of items that were quite positive and well-worth mentioning.
But before listing the positive, let it be said that there are few, if any, words that can lessen the loss that families, organizations, businesses, government entities, and our schools and colleges have endured and continue to do so. There is just no escaping the news that is presented on TV, social media, and the local and national newspapers, outlining the tragedy that the pandemic has caused — it runs deep.
Certainly, there is a segment of workers who have always been a key part of our lives, but who were not really given any attention — now they are being hailed as heroes. Does anyone not have a special appreciation for the grocery workers, the truckers, the cleaning staffs, the pharmacy workers? I am not sure we had a day, week or month set aside honoring them in the past. Maybe it is time we do so.
It is safe to say that since March, families have been in more contact with each other than they were prior to the pandemic. While the kids at home are becoming tired of only seeing their parents and not their friends, the former for many has to be a positive experience and not soon forgotten.
While telemedicine is not the way to treat all medical issues, it has developed into a significant benefit by allowing patients to avoid spending countless hours tripping off to the doctor’s office. The hours spent waiting used to far exceed the time spent in front of a medical provider. Telemedicine is here to stay.
If there is one significant issue that was revealed, and hopefully to be corrected, it is our country’s dependence on a select few foreign countries for critical items needed when America is confronted with an emergency. Prior to COVID-19, who amongst us gave a second thought to where PPE, medicines, and medical equipment were manufactured, and how the fact that they’re manufactured abroad might be an issue? The fact that 80% of our medical prescription ingredients are imported from China needs to be modified; globalization may well be the future, but not so when it comes to maintaining our independence.
Over the past quarter-century, there has been a great deal written about how technology is playing a larger role in our daily lives. What we have experienced these past few months is just how much of a role it has had. And here as well, we have learned many lessons. For starters, we know that many areas of our state (and country) are out-of-reach for much of the technology. Remote teaching and work-at-home sites for many are not at all possible. This shortcoming is up for massive changes with billions of dollars being set aside for the development of broadband services to these technology deserts.
Nevertheless, there are two areas that will definitely need attention once we get through the pandemic — our long-term care facilities and daycare. The former has had the highest percentage of casualties from the virus and we must find ways to avoid this in the future. Also, as we have learned, our first responders and our essential workers need help at home if we are going to call upon them. It has turned out that keeping a daycare center operating is as critical as some of the other institutions that were kept opened.
We have suffered greatly this year and will continue to do so for some time to come. But let us take full advantage of what we have learned — all that is positive.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.