March 16, 2020
We rely on public health experts to provide the intelligent guidance we need to weather this health crisis. Yes, they are still learning and our lag in testing and test results hampers those efforts, the efforts to prevent community spread of this disease where we cannot determine where a victim got it. As we learn more about the virus each day, we will continue to communicate with our residents and businesses with the most professional advice from medical providers, public health professionals, the CDC, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Bucks County Department of Health. While every member of the community has reason to be concerned, we live in a State where over 18% of the population is over the age of sixty-five. We live in a community with a number of nursing facilities and senior communities, housing the most vulnerable of our residents. We need to recognize the special vulnerability we face as a community, within a nation that is vulnerable, and protect our residents.
Voluntary actions on the part of residents and businesses provide the opportunity for creative solutions toward keeping us all safe and closing businesses is not an action easily done but health considerations and the possibility of more deaths if we fail to act clearly and decisively is primary to our efforts. When there is a health crisis vs. an economic crisis, health has to dominate. However, even mandatory closures depend on cooperative efforts, and failing that, we can expect more stringent mandatory requirements as we go forward. Announced closures are accompanied by expected durations. However, they are only expectations and estimates. Some may turn out to be overly optimistic. We should expect those durations to change and lengthen. Serious economic hardships are being experienced by individuals, cultural institutions, and by businesses. We should expect that they will continue and worsen. As a community, we will need to address them and need to start planning to do so now, while still facing a health crisis that requires our primary focus. Local communities, like ours lack authority in a number of ways but we do not escape responsibility. As a community, we will need to begin planning our recovery toward the vibrancy we recently had. I say that, not to divert our attention from the crisis but to be ready to focus on recovery as soon as the crisis ends. The impact on our residents and businesses and cultural institutions will be substantial and it is one of our responsibilities to identify ways to rebuild community and bring vitality back to our business and cultural community. Historically, we find resources for infrastructure recovery, after significant adverse events. This crisis will require similar focus and our ability to identify resources that may not be budgeted.
More than a year ago, I was asked to deliver a talk about the historic pandemic on 1918, known by the misnomer, "the Spanish Flu". Millions and millions of people died throughout the world. Here in Central Bucks relatively few died. We can pinpoint many reasons for better results here and they center on better community health as well as a stronger engaged and cooperative population. Those same qualities exist today and, of course, to a much greater degree. Social distancing, a term we hardly used a couple weeks ago, challenges us to engage in extraordinary measures to continue to connect and relate to our friends and neighbors. Social distancing is not the same as isolation but it carries with it the possibility of greater isolation. While engaging in this new and uncomfortable practice it is particularly important for us to frequently reach out to neighbors and friends to see that they are alright; to see that they have whatever keeps them safe, fed, and healthy. It is important to reach out to older people that could feel particularly vulnerable at this time, but reach out in ways that are safe for you as well as them. It is important to remember that for 80% who contract COVID-19, symptoms will be mild but we need to take precautions to protect our older friends, family, and neighbors for whom this can be a deadly disease.
We need to get together and behave in a way that helps us toward the common goal of a community that is healthy and prosperous. It all depends on how we act during the next very few weeks and our ability to flatten the curve of this crisis and come out whole on the other side.