History painfully teaches us that tough times challenge and reveal the best versus worst nature of individuals and communities.
I learned a great deal about potentials for generous and compassionate behaviors through local, state, regional, and national responses to devastating effects of tropical storm Harvey in August of 2017.
That storm deluged the Houston area with more than 60 inches of rain, flooded hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.
Government agencies, public officials and employees, large and small businesses, religious and secular entities, and private citizens and groups, all spontaneously came together in real-time in a virtually seamless and remarkably effective manner.
Inspirational examples, while far too diverse and numerous to enumerate, include a few representative memories.
Strong leadership cooperation and coordination between Houston’s Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner and our Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott was an excellent model befitting all states and communities.
Police, fire, and other first-responders braved high flood waters to rescue stranded motorists and imperiled home residents; medical staff likewise tirelessly addressed additionally burdensome emergency demands.
A 34-year Houston Police Department veteran drowned in his patrol car while responding to a call for help. And despite overtaxed and depleted security personnel, there were few reported opportunistic abandoned store and residence looting occurrences.
The Cajun Navy, a grassroots volunteer group from Louisiana, mobilized wonderful water rescue efforts through social media. Its’ Facebook page became a sort of clearinghouse for other people to provide financial donations and other types of victim aid.
Red Cross volunteers drove in to help out from other more distant states, including Vermont, Michigan, Arizona, and Ohio.
Local religious and retail establishments such as a large furniture store provided places of refuge and essential supply distribution centers for those in need. Houstonians opened their homes to previously unknown displaced families and individuals.
Local media networks kept us constantly and objectively informed about unfolding developments and vital timely advice regarding best practices to protect public safety.
We came together, and we emerged stronger for having done so.
The same will be true with America’s response to the COVID-19 coronavirus emergency.
It’s already happening.
Washington is mobilizing a bi-partisan more than trillion dollar effort to rescue the country, distressed industries, and resulting unemployed small business employees.
On March 18, the Congress passed a Families First Corona Virus Response Act which offers financial aid to employers with fewer than 500 employees which will pay two weeks of sick leave to workers who are homebound due to COVID-19 based on their entire salaries up to $511 per day. The bill also provides for 12 weeks of paid family leave — up to two-thirds of an individual’s pay, capped at $200 per day — for workers with children whose schools are closed or are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation.
President Trump has also invoked a wartime Defense Production Act to significantly increase the production of critical equipment, including hospital beds and other medical supplies. In addition, top U.S. agency medical experts and administrators have expedited government-wide COVID-19 interventions, including rapid testing and approvals of promising treatments and preventative vaccines; accelerated manufacture and distribution of protective masks and respirators, and large-scale early-detection screening programs.
The private sector cavalry is riding in to provide vital rescue services as well.
Numerous corporations are voluntarily offering sick leave, pay for contractors and vendors, work-at-home flexibility, and donations to distressed communities.
U-Haul is affording free self-storage to college students.
More than 30 Big Pharma and small biotech firms are racing for COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.
Thanks to rapid FDA approval, Roche had already begun their own high-volume tests in January; Moderna turned around a vaccine for batch testing in just 42 days; Gilead Sciences is in Phase 3 trials for its remdesivir treatment; Bayer has announced it will donate three million potentially very promising and demonstrably safe chloroquine anti-malaria tablets; Walmart and CVS are converting parking lots for drive-through testing; and private labs are standing by to process the results.
Big Tech is stepping up as well. Comcast and Sprint are guaranteeing to keep America online for the next two months regardless of who can pay, and Adobe and Google are making remote-learning tools available to schools, universities and parents.
Google has also posted a website advising people on COVID-19 symptoms.
Always bear in mind that such powerful combinations of collaborative public-private initiatives are made possible by America’s prosperous, generously rewarding, and strongly spirited free enterprise-driven capitalistic system.
This is the same powerful "arsenal of democracy," after all, that decisively saved the world from fascism during World War II.
That same spirit of determination and cooperation will defeat this dangerous new coronavirus threat.
Also, have no doubt that while we will weather this very difficult time, achievement of that victory, will severely test each of us.
Meanwhile, let’s all think of this challenge as an important personal learning opportunity.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Cyberwarfare: Targeting America, Our Infrastructure, and Our Future" (2020), "The Weaponization of AI and the Internet: How Global Networks of Infotech Overlords are Expanding Their Control Over Our Lives" (2019), "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful" (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015) and "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax" (2011). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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