Scott A. Menzel is superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District
COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the daily reality for nearly all Americans, although some are feeling the impact more significantly than others at this time. With all schools closed in Michigan and many other states, parents who work are wrestling with a number of challenges such as how to ensure adequate and safe child care. How we respond to this new reality in the coming weeks and months will determine whether COVID-19 is a defining moment when our nation comes together to face a serious threat or whether we perpetuate a mentality of denial and/or individualism that ignores the common threads that bind us all together.
In our nation’s history, we have had other such moments. However, unless you lived through the Great Depression or World War II, no one has experienced the kind of sacrifices that we will need to make in the coming weeks and months in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and give our health care systems a fighting chance to treat those who are infected. In Washtenaw County, we need look no further than the mobilization of women in the workforce during WWII, as captured most memorably in Rosie the Riveter. The “WE CAN DO IT” slogan reflects a defining attitude for our community and for many across the nation. Now is the time to summon our collective resolve to do something unfamiliar to us in this crisis. Instead of “coming together,” which Americans know how to do very well, we need to pledge to “stay apart.” Social distancing is the key to slowing the spread of this virus. Lives are at stake. This is not just the typical flu. The CDC now reports between 40 percent to 60 percent of Americans will become infected. For those who have compromised immune systems or are in a vulnerable category, contracting the virus could be fatal.
The greatest generation had its moment and millions of people at home and abroad stepped up to ensure freedom and liberty across the globe. The sacrifices they made were hard. Food was rationed and many gave their lives, but they knew what was required and rose to the challenge of the times. COVID-19 may very well represent our defining moment. Will we take the necessary measures to ensure lives are saved and this pandemic is a footnote in history, or will we be mourning the loss of loved ones because of willful disregard of all the warning signs we had as the virus spread throughout the world? Now is the time to act.