EDITORIAL: We the people will persevere

York Dispatch Editorial Board
A temporary patient screening and testing area, for the COVID-19 Coronavirus, is shown outside the Emergency Department at WellSpan York Hospital in York City, Thursday, March 12, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

It’s impossible to predict, at this early juncture, the extent of the challenge the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak will present to York County, the state and the nation.

But it is safe to assume the situation will get worse before it gets better.

It is nothing short of the national emergency President Donald Trump declared on Friday, and it must be met not just with a more robust public health and government response but with vast reserves of the nation’s most precious resource: Its people.

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Yes, state and federal aid will be vital, but we will nonetheless need to dig deeply into our stores of ingenuity, generosity and humanity to find ways to help our neighbors and communities.

Local businesses and school leaders are already showing the way. Look at the response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s order to close the state’s public schools. 

While Wolf’s decision is an unavoidable necessity it comes with an unfortunate consequence: tens of thousands of young Pennsylvanians who rely on schools for nutritious meals could go hungry.

Enter officials from Lincoln Charter School in York City and school districts including Southern York County, West York Area, Red Lion Area, Dallastown and Hanover, to name just a few. Some are offering meals onsite. Others, aided by a federal waiver allowing eligible schools to serve meals “to go” offsite, have quickly organized strategies to serve “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches to local students and even preschoolers.

The drive-through concept is important, because it minimizes the type of density seen in, say, a school cafeteria, reducing the risk of exposure.

Local businesses are also stepping up. Fox’s Pizza in Dover Township will deliver two slices of pizza and a beverage for $4 during the lunch hour Mondays through Fridays, and Primo’s Pizza by Ryan in Windsor plans to offer free meals to students. Many other eateries and restaurants are likewise offering specially priced boxed lunches and free meals.

More:Pizza shops, other eateries join districts to feed students during school closings

More of this type of improvisational charity will be needed as we move forward into whatever our new normal turns out to be.

We will need to lean on one another not only for aid and assistance but for moral support. We will need to generate the type of confidence and reassurance that, in past times of uncertainty, has come from the White House. Unfortunately, the current occupant has provided neither.

While Friday’s emergency declaration was welcome, it came about only after President Trump delivered a gaffe-riddled, dispassionate national address Wednesday evening that sent spirits, to say nothing of financial markets, tumbling. The sullen, slapdash speech capped nearly two months of dismissing, downplaying and belittling the grave and growing threat of what is now a global pandemic.

Whether it was the tanking of his beloved stock market or the very real fear he himself had contracted the coronavirus (he was tested Friday but cleared a day later), the president seemed to finally acknowledge the extent of this potential public health tragedy in the making. 

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

It’s about time, but much damage has been done. The lack of urgency by the administration has left the nation behind the curve not only from a public health standpoint (when, oh when, will COVID-19 tests be widely available!?) but in terms of the economy.

It was a clear test of leadership, and the president and his team clearly failed.

They must do better.

In the meantime, as the residents of York County, Pennsylvania and the nation gird themselves for what will undoubtedly be a challenging spring and summer, they — make that we — must look to one another for support and assistance.

We are in this together, and we must be strong for one another.

And we will. The nation’s greatest strength has always been its people, and we, the people, will persevere.