As Americans head back to work in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, how much risk are we willing to accept?
How safe is safe enough?
With some states beginning to loosen restrictions and others refusing, “risk” and “safety” have become new buzzwords. Pundits, politicians, scientists and even medical doctors are warning that reopening too soon is a risky strategy.
They’re absolutely right. Yes, there is risk in the strategy. But there is risk in everything and there is risk everywhere – for everyone.
The Trump administration’s plan and its guidelines, which rightly defers ultimate discretion and decision to state officials, is the product of the collective wisdom of the Coronavirus Taskforce.
With over 55,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the United States thus far, reopening the country is no easy task. Until either a vaccine or successful treatment is found, the virus will inevitably take a ghastly toll on far too many people.
But state officials are weighing the risks of remaining closed with the risks of resuming in degrees business and everyday life.
There have been some who have called for extended closures. One iteration of the Imperial College of London’s analysis suggested 18 months might be necessary. Inherent to that recommendation is that reopening sooner just isn’t worth the chance.
Increasingly, risk seems like a dirty four-letter word to many people these days. Yet, risk is baked into the American spirit and character.
It’s part of our DNA.
From the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock to the patriots who waged the war for American independence, there have never been any guaranteed outcomes. When 56 men signed their names in 1776, they were signing their death warrants if the revolution went the wrong way.
America grew from its rugged and ragged start to be a nation of immigrants – because emigrates from across the oceans were willing to risk their life in order to improve it.
Subsequent migration and settlement in the untamed wilderness of the west was a wild gamble.
When Charles Lindbergh took off on a rainy morning from Roosevelt Field in 1927 to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, most people didn’t expect to ever see him alive again.
Skeptics gasped when President Kennedy pledged that America would send men to the moon. But when Mr. Kennedy asked the aerospace engineer, Werner Von Braun, what it would take to pull it off, the scientist simply replied, “The will to do it.”
From electricity to automobiles to airplanes and the advent of nuclear power and now, the reopening of America following the coronavirus shutdown, risk has always played a starring role.
“Risk is not something you can decide to live with or without,” says the management consultant, Dr. Price Pritchett. “Something is always at stake. You can only decide which risks to take.”
It’s going to be difficult to resume a degree of normalcy again, but doing nothing poses the greatest risk of all. Make no mistake – our most vulnerable are not cowardly for remaining in quarantine. In fact, the very best way we can protect them is by protecting the American way of life by rolling up our sleeves and getting back to work.
Where is our spirit of courage? Where is the tenacity that has made America the great nation it is?
I believe it’s right where it’s always been – in the brave men and women who plant the crops, drive the trucks, patrol the streets, negotiate the deals and teach the children – every race, religion, creed and color – Americans, one and all, who will assume this risk and rise to this challenge.
Let them go – and watch them soar again.
The coming days, weeks and months won’t be easy. There will be inevitable setbacks, too, maybe even times when confidence is shaken when some will even question whether or not it would be safer to remain under quarantine.
It’s my hope and prayer that we’ll embrace the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, who was always game to take risks – because he knew passivity would bring even more pain.
“A soft, easy life is not worth living, if it impairs the fibre of brain and heart and muscle,” he wrote. “We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage… For us is the life of action, of strenuous performance of duty; let us live in the harness, striving mightily; let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.”