Marking 9-11 Amid a Pandemic

With a complicated present, we are at the vortex of history and the future, figuring out lessons of the past and the present, and the need to recharge our imaginations toward a better, healthier country in years to come, with public health very much a key centerpiece for our direction.

The COVID-19 pandemic is our current harsh lesson. We have more than 6.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the U.S, that have resulted in nearly 200,000 deaths, testimony in part to a failure of our own thinking in evaluating the scope of the disease, trying to get over an initial slow-start response, and the nagging untruths continuing to haunt us from the top.

Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, was the latest President Trump not-so-funny sideshow. In a Feb. 7 taped call with Woodward, Trump told what he knew about the emerging coronavirus. Much much more than he told the American people.  “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said. “This is deadly stuff.”

Really. Americans were thinking, ok, this will be a flu, just go away, as Trump hinted many times. Left in the dark, many Americans died. Trump said he wanted to play it down. Play it down? At what point do we not tell Americans what we need to know, to survive? Do we not tell them about an impending attack from an enemy?

As we combat this virus, and the headlines rage, we will pause and mark the solemn anniversary on Sept. 11, 2011 when terrorists hatched a plot to bomb the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a passenger airliner, resulting in more than 2,000 deaths.

The repercussions of the attacks still devastate us, and called into question our thinking of protecting our nation from outside extremists and how naïve we were that the airliner hijackings were of a distant world causing trouble  that couldn’t happen to us.

There are similarities between the COVID-19 pandemic and the 9-11 attacks, notably the immense contributions of those in public health, risking their lives every day.

Public health workers, emergency crews, first responders, physicians and nurses were front and center after the Sept. 11 attacks, working tirelessly amid the chaos of that brutal day, often at the cost of their lives after environmental exposures resulted in adverse effects on their health.

During this pandemic, public health workers are again at the forefront of responding to the relentless outbreaks, working tirelessly, jeopardizing their health and safety, risking their lives.

Since the terrorist attacks, we have taken strides to ensure more safeguards to protect the country from such threats, and some of the ways we have done so – the wealth of security checks at airports, public buildings, for example – are now second nature in our lives.

With that same mindset, we can protect ourselves against COVID-19 until a vaccine is available. We need to improve contact tracing and testing, continue to follow the known techniques to protect ourselves, like wearing a mask or practice physical distancing, and not being around large crowds.

As a country and government, however, we were  misguided in our thinking when we first confronted the COVID-19 virus. We were misguided in our thinking about how safe we were before the terror attacks.

We can change that.  – Joe Cantlupe, Health Data Buzz

Photo by Lars Mulder from Pexels

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