So much has changed since March 13, just over a week ago we lived in what seems a different world. On that day, Gov. Doug Burgum, Supt. of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler, and State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte held a press conference that was calm, thoughtful, factual and positive. Though circumstances changed quickly, the press conference showed leadership based on facts, confidence based on thoughtful analysis, and clear policy.
The governor stressed that we must act on facts, not fear. And, many governors, both Democrat and Republican, were taking positive steps, such as isolating people at risk from COVID-19 and temporarily waiving regulations to help keep stores stocked.
During the press conference, Burgum was asked why (at the time) he did not recommend the closing of schools. While that was an option, he said there could be unintended consequences. He was right.
Way back on March 13, no one thought that within a week elected officials would enforce the closing of private businesses, and in Philadelphia crimes like theft are ignored, while elsewhere jails are releasing inmates early. Yet, here we are.
Within days fear was winning. Panic and fear became the driver in surrounding states and at the federal level. Groups of 50, now 10, are to be avoided and strings are being pulled with federal funding. The common sense of last week has been replaced.
Today, our economy across the country is shutting down. But it is more than that. People are out of work, businesses are closing. People are hurting as a direct result of the decision that “aggressive social distancing” is the only choice we have.
We are asked to make significant sacrifices based on very little, often conflicting, information. For many, the math does not add up, are we allowed to ask questions? John P.A. Ioannidis, professor of medicine, epidemiology, and biomedical data science at Stanford University, is asking questions.
The social distancing policy is based on assumptions because the data is not reliable. As more known in coming days and weeks those assumptions should be tested by facts, not fear.
Across the country our society has been turned upside down putting millions of people, and entire sectors of our economy, out of work. We should be able to have a discussion; we should be able to ask for facts. “It’s for the public good” or "trust me, I am an expert" are not good enough this time. We face real consequences, unintended or not.
Isolation and social distancing may accomplish the goal of slowing the spread of coronavirus and we must be concerned with the vulnerable population. The spring, and especially April, sees an increase in suicide. We should all be mindful of family members, friends and neighbors that could face depression or suicidal thoughts during this forced time of isolation, lack of physical affection, loss of long-time dreams, and jobs. Offer support, at least a virtual shoulder to lean on.
The president called for a day of prayer and we need to continue praying. God wants to hear our repentance, requests, and praise for him. Pray the Psalms, read your Bibles. He is listening, are we?