Amid all the disruptions and frightening statistics, there is good news: We are going to defeat COVID-19. And the most important part of that sentence is the word “we.”

The time is going to come for political debates — important and contentious debates — about the United States’ response to this coronavirus outbreak.

We will need to modernize our public health systems to answer the shocking speed with which pandemics spread in this era of globalization.

We will need serious economic policy answers to the disruptions this outbreak may have on employment, investment, trade and economic growth.

And this epidemic raises grave questions about America’s global strategy, given the Chinese regime’s role in its spread and America’s dangerous reliance on China for manufactured goods.

And of course, governments at all levels will do their part to arrest the immediate spread of COVID-19 and treat those already infected.

But in this epidemic, the “we” who will win this fight against the coronavirus is not “the political class” or “government agencies in Washington.” It’s us: you and me and our families and friends and neighbors.

Policy is important, but it is also slow. The president cannot sign an executive order to outlaw a virus or make our aging society suddenly younger and healthier. Congress cannot pass a law magically creating millions of surgical masks, testing kits or ICU beds.

It can appropriate money to buy these things, and it has already begun to do just that. But part of reason this pandemic has been so damaging is the disruption it has caused to global supply chains, specifically for things like medicine and medical devices.

As we all know from our dealings with the DMV, the IRS or a health insurance bureaucracy, it is simply the nature of government, especially the federal government, that it takes time. The federal response to COVID-19 will be absolutely crucial in the long run, but it’s the short run — the next few weeks — that really matter right now.

And in these critical few weeks, what you do in your community is going to be more important in the immediate fight against COVID-19 than anything either party tries to do in Washington.

Activists, pundits and especially politicians on both sides of the aisle need to get this. Today too many on the left are using the outbreak as a cudgel to attack President Trump, and too many on the right are downplaying the urgency of the epidemic to defend the president against those attacks. In a genuine emergency like this, mindless partisanship could literally cost lives. There will be plenty of time for political recriminations once the crisis passes.

In the meantime, we cannot passively sit by and look to government to save us. Nor can we view our political opponents as adversaries. Viruses don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Right now, we’re all in this together, and we all need to do what we can to be part of the solution and not the problem.

Wash your hands. Clean oft-touched surfaces. Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings, for yourself and your kids. Keep up on news from Utah’s Coronavirus Task Force. Thank you, Gov. Gary Herbert, for acting so quickly and decisively to set that task force up.

If you’re an employee, work from home if you can. If you’re an employer, do whatever you can to help your employees stay safe and healthy — ideally at home. The more we can avoid getting sick ourselves, the more our health care professionals can focus on those with the greatest need.

And perhaps most of all, don’t forget about the most vulnerable populations: seniors, those with health issues and especially elderly friends and family who live alone. They are going to need help, and they are going to need us. Get on the phone. Check in on them, ask them how you can help. Because you can.

The coronavirus threat is bigger than politics. But so are the American people. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to prove it. That’s how we’re going to beat this thing.


Op-ED originally published by Deseret News