By PAUL “MAC” MCNAMARA
Mayor of Escondido
The Editor of The Times-Advocate has graciously offered me the opportunity to write a column regarding the current crisis we are facing, namely, the Covid 19 virus. So I would like to share a few thoughts on what we are doing and how we might proceed.
First, I want to say that our city staff has been out in front of the Federal government in its response to this challenge. You can be assured that the staff has been working 24/7 on this crisis in a calm and deliberate manner. You can follow all of the updates on the city website. I’ve personally watched our staff at work on a daily basis, and so the city residents should feel secure knowing that they have a team of solid and capable professionals working this issue. Additionally, they have established strong communication with all of the levels of government and appropriate agencies, and have even put into place innovative concepts to keep our ship afloat. I’m very confident, and you should be too, that we could not have a better team working for us.
In my “past life” as a Marine, I had the opportunity work in disaster areas ranging from active volcano eruptions, to tsunami relief, to hurricanes and earthquakes. I’ve seen a lot of physical devastation and disruption of the norm. In all of that experience, the one lesson I learned was that we should not over react, and that we should remain calm. We need to have faith that we can overcome whatever challenge we are given. That is sometimes easier said, and harder to do. Why, because there is the underlying fear of the unknown. Let’s face it, we are all born with an instinct for survival, and that instinct is very strong during a time of crisis. We only have to look at the current lines at the store to understand how it can change our behavior.
The Covid 19 crisis adds another element to our challenge. Normally, in a disaster there is in a relatively short time, a known quantity of the damage. We can then assess it, and begin our relief and rebuild plans. A virus doesn’t necessarily work like that. There is more of the factor of the unknown. Our experts have pandemic examples to look at, so they are not totally in the dark, but this is a new one. There is still a lot of uncertainty. We know, like other diseases, it can be deadly for some. But we don’t know how long it will last or even if you can catch it more than once. We also know that there is a part of the population that is more vulnerable than another. All of this adds up to a lack of control in our lives, and with it comes fear and possibly panic. So what can we do?
I would suggest that we need to accept that we are on a journey, and we don’t have much control over its direction or length. That’s not to say we don’t have things we can do, like social distancing, washing our hands, etc. But this journey is serous and has serious consequences. We need to accept that overreaction, panic or fear will not help. We need to be cautious in our words both written and spoken, and our actions. We all know that people want to be helpful, but we should exercise caution and make sure we distinguish between opinion and fact when we give advice. We should stay engaged with the experts and be informed. Follow guidelines. And most importantly, we should remember we are not the first generation to face a crisis like this. And like generations before, we will survive this challenge, and life will return to normal.
Aside from the physical challenges of fighting the spread of the virus, I would offer we have another challenge, and that is how we want to remember our actions when this passes. We know that many people will suffer whether they get the disease or not as a result of this pandemic. Families and individuals will be facing financial hardship due to the impact the virus is having on the economy and the closing of institutions. We should expect that times will be tough before we return to normal.
I am of the opinion that our community, our city, is a city of faith and values. And so now is the time for us to remember those values that made our city. Those values of community, of helping our neighbor, of working together for the common good are needed now more than ever. By working together, having empathy for those less fortunate than ourselves, we can remember this time as one that brought change to our lives. Not just the disruption and suffering for some, but also it gave us a chance to demonstrate our better selves and be glad we chose this community to live in.
Be informed, Stay safe, Be kind, Remember your neighbor. God bless you all.