Don Walton: There are heroes in this war against the virus

Don Walton: There are heroes in this war against the virus

What will it be like a month from now?

Better? Worse? Or much worse?

It's manageable in Nebraska now, but we're just entering this dark tunnel, unable to see what lies ahead or how far we have to go.

We feel safer out here in the middle of the country, and we are. But we still are not safe. It won't be like New York City here, but it is coming and there's no reason to believe that we will be spared.

It's a time for heroes.

Like the doctor who cares for me and told me that his kids are safe at home now that school has been canceled and the only real challenge to their safety is when he comes home after a day in his workplace and in the hospital.

But he wasn't complaining; he was just answering a question I asked in expressing concern for doctors and health care workers at this time. And I hope he won't mind me repeating what he said anonymously.

There are a lot of heroes in the medical profession — doctors, nurses, physician assistants and more.

My sister was a critical care nurse, and I can't imagine how many people she attended to and comforted, how many lives she may have saved or helped save.

If, or probably more accurately when, things get worse here, most of us will withdraw deeper into safety. They won't.

It's hard to imagine what it's like in an overcrowded New York City hospital that's besieged now by the virus and its accompanying toll of death and suffering and separation.

Or even to live in the big city, avoiding people and viewing them as threats, aware that the virus could be lurking anywhere and that every human encounter could be dangerous.

It's much, much better here, but this wave is going to lap at our shores, too.

And the medical and health care heroes will be there on the front lines.

What can we say but thank you?

* * *

Gov. Pete Ricketts' appearance on Sunday morning's "State of the Union" telecast on CNN provided a dramatic reminder of how fortunate Nebraska is at this stage of the coronavirus epidemic.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee directly preceded him. They are at the center of the storm, under fire, taking casualties now. 

The toll in New York City is going to be devastating.

In Nebraska, at that moment, it was two coronavirus deaths.

And so, Jake Tapper asked, would Nebraska be willing to send ventilators to New York City?

Nebraska is still trying to plan ahead to meet its own needs, the governor said, not only in terms of acquiring ventilators and personal protective equipment, but also in making sure there are sufficient beds.

In the meantime, Ricketts said, the state will continue to rely on its plan for social distancing to slow the spread of the virus through his directive to limit crowd size to 10 people while building up increased testing.  

"Not one size fits all," he said.

* * *

The Legislature has come and gone, appropriating $83.6 million in emergency funding to battle the virus and then heading out of Dodge to wait out the approaching storm.

It's hard to know when senators will be back, perhaps toward the end of spring or the beginning of summer at the earliest, perhaps for the first Husker football game. If there is one.

There's still some big legislative work to do, but suddenly none of it looks quite as important as it once did now that priorities have changed.

Funding support for a proposed new $2.6 billion center at the University of Nebraska Medical Center that would respond to national health threats and crises might be an obvious exception. An aspiration has met its moment.

Substantial additional property tax relief is not dead, but it's hard to accomplish under any conditions and will be even more difficult now.

* * *

Finishing up:

* I am told that an author named Emily St. John Mandel wrote a 2014 novel about a pandemic titled "Station Eleven." I'll skip it.

* It's remarkable how much Americans view the president's performance in response to the coronavirus through a partisan lens as reflected by polling results. Everything is partisan now.

* Please, let Dr. Anthony Fauci make the decisions.

* A big thumbs-up to the Husker basketball decision to schedule K-State again. Let's do it every year.

* Opening Day came and went last week — and summer changed.

* Ah, but I see green grass and the calendar says April is just days away.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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