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Wissot: Pin a medal on mom

At a time when burglars have to be confused by all the masked lookalikes they see on the streets, emergency room doctors and nurses are valiantly treating the sick and dying in medical settings that resemble MASH units.

The combatants in this war are holding thermometers, not guns. Women make up 76% of health care workers and 85% of nurses in this country.

As of a month ago, 9,000 health care workers tested positive for the coronavirus. “They were mostly white, female and in their 40s,” according to the Washington Post. Twenty-seven of them had died.

Women have traditionally been assigned the domestic roles of caretaker and homemaker.

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To that list, a new role needs to be added: pandemic fighter.

Medical readiness has eclipsed military readiness in this battle against an enemy that can’t be subdued with bullets and bombs.

Average citizens like you and I have an active part to play. Social distancing, sheltering in place, wearing masks, is substantially more significant than tying a ribbon around a big oak tree as we did during the Vietnam War, or buying war bonds as we did in World War II.

We are navigating uncharted waters as a nation bonded by a common cause without any sense of how damaged the ship of state will be when it returns to port. We have to rely upon our ingenuity, courage, will, fortitude and stamina to weather this storm.

When will we return to a semblance of normalcy? How many of us are infected? Who has developed immunity? When will a vaccine be available to the general public? When will treatments become available so we can reduce hospitalization and mortality rates?

All good questions, which deserve good answers that we currently don’t have. Here’s what we do know: More American civilians have been killed by this virus than the 58,220 men and women in uniform killed in Vietnam. That war lasted eleven years. As of right now, this war has filled morgues and funeral homes with almost 80,00 bodies in two months’ time.

Here’s what else we know: The only hope we have against a disease of this much destructive magnitude will come from science. The coronavirus is classified as a pandemic because its reach is global. We can’t defeat it by building walls or closing borders. The disease arrived months ago from abroad and we are now spreading the infection via community transmission. There are no alternative facts we can use in place of scientific facts. The same scientific facts used to curb the virus in South Korea are the ones we will be employing here.

When we are safely able to open most of our society again, I will look back on this time with humility and sadness; humbled by the devastation nature unleashed and saddened by the suffering of so many.

I will most vividly remember the many who died alone in hospitals and nursing homes deprived of the comfort of loved ones. I will also not forget the thousands of health care workers and first responders who, when their shifts ended, spent the nights sleeping in hotels, fire stations, and in some cases, their cars, because they couldn’t chance going back to their homes and infecting family members.

I hope when the time comes to honor these heroes of the hour the Congressional Medals of Honor will be pinned on the garments of people who received their training in emergency medicine. They were the infantry, the foot soldiers, the battle-tested troops, who protected us from a much worse fate.

We also need, when all is said and done, to strengthen our national defense by seriously budgeting for what we lacked in fighting this pandemic. We learned the hard way how woefully unprepared we were when it came to having adequate testing and contact tracing programs in place.

Having a robust federal stockpile of medical quality masks, gowns and gloves is as much a part of national security as are our supply of drones, rockets and missiles.

Mother’s Day is Sunday. We will be honoring our mothers this year from virtual and socially safe distances. Please don’t forget in the mood of the moment to think about all the moms who will be spending the day caring for other people’s moms in hospitals and nursing homes across the country.


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