The Journal Gazette
Sunday, April 05, 2020 1:00 am

Crisis — or media creation?

Each of us has obligation to assist in halting virus

Patrick Stelte

The rapid evolution of COVID-19 from a local scourge to a breathtaking pandemic in less than four months has scrambled governments' response into life-and-death decisions.

Government leaders and health experts are making hundreds of decisions that affect millions of lives in a short period of time.

No one saw this coming. In the most recent election cycles, no politician campaigned on the ability to lead in case of pandemic.

Yet, they are led by a strong human instinct: keep citizens safe and healthy. This connecting thread passes through all communities with the understanding that if we stay together and abide by the directives of public health experts and do our best to comply, we can survive a contagion not experienced in generations.

A harsh reality has set in.

Our way of life has been altered in such a severe fashion that we cannot see the end before the worst is yet to come.

The only way to combat fear and panic of the unknown is to put our trust in the greater good.

This compliance means self-isolating and limiting our contact with others to defy the very thing this deadly virus desires: a pathway to infect others.

In doing so, we assist those who are on the front lines providing the necessities of a modern and vibrant society: health care, food, utilities and public safety.

The strength of our fight is rooted in numbers. The greater the proportion of the population that accepts government directives, the better we will be at the end of this blight.

Recently, a tone of defiance splashed across the news.

Several local politicians took umbrage at the governor's directive for churches to suspend in-person services.

“Religious discrimination” and “infringement of constitutional rights” were the charges directed at the efforts to combat this deadly health care crisis. A request to the Indiana attorney general was made to right the perception of wrong.

To say this was arrogant pales to the consequences. At first blush, the thought of coming together to comfort our fears and pray for God's protection seems innocent and therapeutic for the soul.

However, the declaration of constitutional protection is a most dangerous vociferation.

Who is among the affected churchgoing congregation?

Health care providers, food service workers, public safely officials, vital government service employees who are doing their best to keep us safe and healthy.

Here is a scenario: 100 people attend a constitutionally protected church service. One or two are infected with COVID-19 but will not know for a couple of days.

Once they are diagnosed, all who attended the service will go into immediate quarantine for 14 days, potentially taking dozens of vital people away from protecting the rest of us.

Multiply that scenario over hundreds of communities in Indiana, every Saturday or Sunday, and the possibility of an out-of-control regional epidemic becomes a great probability.

Now is not the time for righteous indignation.

We are experiencing pain and suffering as loved ones, friends, acquaintances and fellow human beings suffer the ravages of illness.

If we don't collectively follow the lead set forth by leaders and experts, we will suffer far greater than we are prepared to accept or willing to sacrifice to avow our constitutional rights.

We ask so much of ourselves in times of crisis. Some will do more to assist the recovery and often they will suffer more. The rest of us need to do the best we can to protect these vital combatants. We are all in this together.

Patrick Stelte is a resident of Fort Wayne.

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