There is no doubt in my mind that few living Americans have ever experienced anything like the Coronavirus.
The scale and nature of the attack from the virus – unseen and bewildering to most – has not been seen in the U.S. since the Spanish flu pandemic from 1918-1920. That virus killed over 600,000 Americans and claimed between 20-30 million worldwide.
The most critical concern is to stop the spread of the virus. Governments across the nation, are implementing extreme but necessary measures to fight contagion. Closures of schools, sports and entertainment venues, restaurants and bars, gyms and other places where people would congregate in close quarters are being implemented.
After an initial slow response, the Trump Administration and Congress have acted with measures to mobilize public health efforts, while assisting the economy and those thrown out of work.
Every business and family in America are affected.
The key for all of us now is to keep our heads clear, follow the public health instructions and stay in touch with relatives and neighbors who are most susceptible to the virus, particularly the elderly.
It is important to remember that while our public health and medical systems are strong, all of us play a role in containing this virus. Social distancing, now an everyday part of our lives, is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has emerged as the most credible national spokesman in his role as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His words have been clear, frank and level-headed.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has acted quickly to mobilize state resources and clearly reinforcing the public health requirements which all citizens should follow.
It is very likely that the rate of infection will rise steeply in coming weeks. The focus of government at all levels should be to slow the spread of the virus and assist those in economic need as a result of the crisis. In this way, the duration of this emergency can be lessened, and the human toll minimized.
In the meantime, the federal government is pushing greatly increased capacity for testing. The earlier bureaucratic obstacles for mass testing due to statutory and regulatory rules at the FDA and CDC have been cleared. Many more private and public labs will be able to test those who are showing symptoms of the virus. Congress and the Administration should continue to work on a bipartisan basis to assist the economy.
Here in New York, except for funding to fight the virus, the governor and legislature should adopt a budget which freezes budgets for state agencies, local governments and schools. The state was already facing a $6 billion deficit prior the Coronavirus. State and local finances will be decimated by the economic downturn on both Wall Street and Main Street. Income tax and sales tax collections will be dropping precipitously. Now is not the time to make funding commitments which won’t be able to be kept. Just as we must be realistic with the public regarding public health, we must be equally realistic about revenue projections in the state budget.
In addition, unrelated budget issues, such as marijuana legalization and criminal justice should be deferred until later. None of these issues can be adequately considered prior to the April 1 deadline for adopting a new state budget.
The Coronavirus and its impact on our nation and world should remind us we are all in this fight together. It is time to put down the partisan squabbles of the past few years, which in comparison to the virus, seem of little import.
The fundamentals of our system – rule of law, free speech and free enterprise – remain strong. We will beat the virus so long as we work together, keep our heads and confront this challenge in a way which is mindful and respectful of the generations who built this nation, while remaining confident in the future.
Former Representative John Faso of Kinderhook represented New York's 19th House district in the 115th Congress.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.