“This is unprecedented,” Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said in a hurried interview as the COVID-19 crisis gathered fearsome momentum last week. “We are making history even as we speak.”
Her point was that no one at the local, state or even global level is certain of how things will unfold in the days ahead. Local and state health and political officials don't doubt the virus is here, and all over the state. They are using their training, experience and the growing knowledge the world is gaining from countries that were hit first by the new coronavirus to learn how to best contain it.
For most of us, the best thing we can do is to try to stay out of harm's way, working from home, avoiding shopping, public events and personal interaction – in short, passing up all the extra things in life that could detract from your ability to keep yourself and those you love safe.
Just by doing so, we become part of the all-important effort to slow the virus' spread. Our medical facilities are preparing to handle an onslaught of cases; each of us must help by doing our best not to become infected, or to unknowingly become a carrier.
Do not underestimate the courage of those who must remain out there in the community – firefighters, truck drivers, grocery clerks, postal and utility workers and police who are working to make this strange interlude in the life of Fort Wayne more bearable and more survivable for all of us.
Thank them when you see them, and do what you can to make their jobs easier.
How we get through these next few weeks or months will depend, most of all, on this community's health care workers.
The biggest challenge at the moment, McMahan said, is the need for more testing capacity and critical safety supplies.
Health officials need testing information to help them direct treatment and warn others who might have been exposed by an infected person, McMahan said. Wider testing to reassure others will come later. The need for safety supplies, McMahan said, is about the need “to keep health care open. People don't want to go to work if they don't have a mask. You can't blame them. Even if they're being selfless, they're worried about taking it home, to their family.” Job One at every level of government, including our city and county, must be to see that medical personnel quickly receive the support and resources they need.
Even as we prepare for the uncertainty of coming days, it's important to keep a positive mental attitude. We must focus on helping everyone make it through – not just families, but the businesses and organizations we depend on and treasure.
We also must remember that Fort Wayne will be in some aspects a different place – and that all of us can help shape those changes. Necessity will have driven us to find new ways of getting jobs done, to discard some old habits forever and perhaps embrace new ways of working and interacting. We may not be able to control today's events, but we can have a say in how we respond to them, and how much we learn. Reimagining a better future will be a crucial part of healing.