JACKSON — Call with doctor’s office last week: “The doctor is not taking new patients at this time. Call back in two weeks when this pandemic is over.”
Gov. Tate Reeves: Friday Reeves extended his shelter-in-place order for a week until April 27, saying the state is not ready yet to reopen its economy. He did allow more small businesses to provide curb service.
Latest stats: Mississippi coronavirus cases and deaths have not yet peaked. Reeves said he believes we’re near that key turning point, which will allow him to phase in more economic activity.
President Donald Trump: Ready to reopen the national economy, Trump announced new guidelines states can choose to follow to phase in economic activity as certain criteria are met. He did not include widespread testing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “We’re not there yet,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and key public health adviser to the president. He added that the U.S. does not yet have in place the critical procedures needed to reopen the economy.
Hmmm, which way is up?
Perhaps some facts would be useful. First, the new coronavirus is not going away. Shelter-in-place, school and business closures, and social distancing have slowed its spread but are not stamping out the highly contagious virus.
Second, clusters of contagion continue to pop up, particularly in elderly care facilities. The Mississippi Department of Health reported 66 outbreaks in nursing homes in 36 counties last Wednesday. Meanwhile, a Smithfield pork-processing facility in South Dakota became the nation’s biggest single source of infections with 644 cases reported. The CDC was called in to determine what safety procedures must be put in place for the plant to reopen. Other major clusters identified so far include the U.S.S. Roosevelt aircraft carrier (585), Cook County Jail in Chicago (524) and Soldier’s Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts (194).
Third, Reeves wisely canceled in-school classes for the remainder of the school year, acknowledging that school closures have been a key reason Mississippi cases have not escalated. How to reopen schools safely has not yet been determined. Issues include sanitation, teacher protection, class sizes, and how to handle sports, food service, assemblies and busing.
Fourth, the testing capacity, protective equipment and sanitation supplies needed to reopen much of the economy, as Dr. Fauci said, are not in place. While companies are developing new and faster tests, the materials and equipment needed to provide the tests across the nation are not yet in place or fully available. For example, guidelines in the works for food processors (including Mississippi’s poultry plants), truckers and other food transport personnel, and food handlers at grocery stores and restaurants will likely require extensive testing, aggressive sanitation measures and daily supplies of protective gear. Kroger has called on public officials to make access to protective masks and gloves for grocery workers a national priority.
Fifth, respirator masks, sanitizers and virus tests for the general public remain scarce.
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic will not end in two weeks. Instead, it may rebound if prudent steps are not taken as states reopen economies. But even the most prudent steps will fail without rapid production and distribution of testing materials, sanitation supplies and protective gear.
“Do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion.” – Proverbs 3:21
• Bill Crawford is a Republican former state lawmaker. Previously from Meridian, he now lives in Jackson.