Woody Bassett: Do right by others

Limits of divisive populism laid bare

We can't just wish covid-19 away or pretend it's not there. Turning a blind eye to facts and reliable evidence or simply hoping coronavirus will soon disappear is not a viable plan for ridding ourselves of this scourge. The scope and ramifications of this highly transmissible virus continue to escalate, adversely affecting everyone and reshaping most aspects of life right now.

The pandemic will end one day and we'll get back to whatever normal looks like then. For now, in the face of restrictions we plow ahead with our lives and livelihoods, knowing we can't let coronavirus bring us to our knees. But to defeat this virus that threatens our collective health and financial security, it will require everyone fully commit to limiting its spread. Surely by now most people understand that society can't function safely in the midst of a public health crisis if it's every man for himself.

With massive numbers of Americans now testing positive each day, the limits of divisive populism have been laid bare. The dire consequences of denying basic truths and the shameful politicizing of science and masks have come home to roost. No nation can successfully fight a pandemic with lies or disinformation. Until a proven vaccine is available, the only effective way to protect the health of others, particularly the most vulnerable among us, and to mitigate further damage to our economy is for everyone to take personal responsibility for the common good.

Northwest Arkansas is experiencing an alarming growth of people testing positive for coronavirus. The virus is rapidly spreading in our communities, especially in Washington County. Due to the rising number of infected and very sick people being hospitalized locally, intensive care units in this area are approaching the edge of their bed capacity for covid-19 patients, with caseloads certain to relentlessly grow in the weeks and months ahead.

Early on in the pandemic, Washington Regional Medical System established two covid-19 dedicated inpatient critical care units in its hospital to care for patients afflicted with the virus. At Washington Regional and at other area hospitals, front-line health care workers are dutifully and courageously meeting the moment when we need them the most. These skilled and dedicated women and men are working under enormous stress around the clock to care for patients.

Larry Shackelford, president and CEO of Washington Regional, recently "rounded" with nursing leadership on Washington Regional's two covid-19 units to interact with the dedicated doctors, critical care nurses and other hospital team members who are taking care of those stricken with the virus. After doing so, he wrote a letter that went to every team member at Washington Regional. Here are some snippets of what Shackelford wrote:

"Our ongoing battle against covid-19 intensified this week. Nearly every component of our health system saw a meaningful surge in covid-19 related activity. Our two inpatient critical care units experienced a dramatic increase in both the number and acuity of patients ... [T]he care of a typical covid-19 patient required three times the amount of time required for a normal critical care patient. There were no visitors, no guests, just our teammates providing professional and compassionate care through grit and determination, all in the face of a virus about which much remains unknown. Our staff truly are heroes."

To prevent local hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, it's imperative area citizens follow safety guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings, quarantine if necessary. Do it for front-line health care workers and other medical providers. Do it for your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Do it for the benefit of businesses and your local economy. Do it for the community where you live and work.

Rogers lawyer David Matthews recently posted a compelling message on social media. It reads in part:

"To my Christian friends who do not want to wear a mask ... remember the words of our Lord. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' All of us who are Christians live by this standard. The science informs us that wearing a mask in public places is essential to stopping the spread of covid-19. ... Going without a mask sends the message that we care more about our own comfort or personal views than we do about the health of others. I don't like the discomfort of the mask either. ... But it would absolutely crush my soul if I found out that my refusal to wear a mask caused YOU to get a disease that could kill you or your loved ones. ... Please wear a mask. Jesus would."

Don't live in fear but do right by others. Be safe and be a part of the solution. Embrace hope. Keep on going.

Remember that we always do our best when we do something together.

Woody Bassett is a lifelong Fayetteville resident and a local attorney. Email him at [email protected].

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