WOODY BASSETT: A slow walk back

Key to normalcy is testing everyone

It's surreal. Yet it's all too real. The daily rhythms of life have been dramatically altered in ways we never imagined.

We've retreated to our homes, embraced the practice of social distancing and willingly sacrificed some of our freedom, all for the greater good. Self-imposed isolation and necessary restrictions have taken a toll. We hunger for face-to-face contact, the kind of human connection that nourishes our lives.

There is no script for this, so we write our own. When the nation emerges from the shadows of this dreadful virus, everyone will have his own story to tell about what it was like to have lived through a global pandemic that threatened our health, profoundly disrupted our way of life and suddenly brought our economy to its knees. But for now, we are all still living that story, one with chapters still to be written.

We are beset by a menacing disease that cuts across every demographic and recognizes none of the ways we tend to separate or divide ourselves. This contagious virus doesn't care who you are, what you believe, what you do or where you live.

Americans are in the same boat but not all in the same storm. For some, it's the equivalent of a gentle rain, a chance to slow down and enjoy the solitude. For others, it's like being buffeted by a thunderstorm, strong enough to keep you concerned about the damage it might cause. And for way too many, it's like a hurricane, the kind of ominous storm that can be life-changing.

Then there are those in the eye of the storm, people in a myriad of occupations deemed critical. They have unflinchingly answered the call. We owe the people on the front lines of this pandemic a debt of gratitude for their willingness to risk their own health to take care of the sick, to protect the public and to keep the essential parts of our economy running.

As the days have passed, we have absorbed the devastation to our national and local economy. We reflect on what it means to our own bottom lines, mindful many others are hurting far worse, especially those who have lost jobs when they were already living paycheck to paycheck.

When will this end? Let's borrow words from Winston Churchill in the midst of World War II: "This is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." The end of this crisis won't come until a vaccine is ready for use. But we can't wait until then to reopen the country and get people back to their jobs. People need to make a living and provide for themselves and their families. The only smart, responsible way to move forward is for everyone to be tested for covid-19. That should be the nation's highest priority. If we can't test, we can't safely reopen the country and put people back to work. To avoid a second wave of the pandemic that would cause more to die and likely shut us down again, it's imperative we know who has the virus and who they may have exposed.

When we are past this, we will remember the countless acts of kindness and generosity, and the many examples of people practicing a sort of freelance decency. We will marvel at the way people looked out for each other. We will cite this episode as more evidence we are a nation of optimists and home of a resilient people. And now that we have proof that our collective health, many of our jobs, our financial security and some of our cherished freedoms can vanish in a heartbeat, we will surely have learned never again to take them for granted.

It will likely be a slow walk back to normalcy, but we will get there. Find comfort and hope in the glory of this beautiful spring, the time of year which symbolizes new life and bestows a sense of renewal. Better days are ahead.

Commentary on 04/16/2020

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