As the coronavirus pandemic made its way toward the United States, some said it was much ado about nothing. Others said we should take it very seriously.
Some statements in this column became quickly out of date, not surprisingly. Clarifications and updates are in italics below.
There’s nothing like a crisis to test a leader’s character and ability to bring people together—or divide them. As the coronavirus pandemic made its way toward the United States, some people thought there was a lot of overreacting going on, including our president, who dangerously and irresponsibly spent weeks mischaracterizing the virus as much ado about nothing, following that up with racist comments regarding its origin.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from President Trump, a demonstration of strong, calm, reasonable leadership has put Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and state health director Dr. Amy Acton in the national spotlight for their response to the crisis.
Maybe the early resistance to social distancing is backlash of a sort. American society, in general, is more fearful, restrictive and locked down than it was when I was growing up, and for many good reasons. Back then, there weren’t jetliners flying into skyscrapers with terrorists at the helm. There weren’t first-grade classrooms and nightclubs being stormed by gunmen. We didn’t know quite so much about the lead in the water (did we?).
But we have become accustomed to taking additional precautions.
We are resilient.
Recently in the office of Ologie founder Bev Ryan, who will be featured in an upcoming issue, one of the pieces on her lively thoughtstream wall really landed with me: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change,” which may or may not have been said by renowned and beloved cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who lived with a slow-progressing form of ALS (he died in 2018).We're here to help you stay in touch with what's going on out there. Read our latest reporting on the coronavirus response here.
As I write this column from the study in my home, our team is producing the magazine you hold in your hands (or the content you’re reading online) remotely, a setup we had to fashion quickly and with little warning to make deadline. I’m proud of the way my colleagues and fellow journalists at local outlets snapped into action, like offices across the country have done in the past week (this column was written March 19). I’m proud of their resilience and stamina—it was a long weekend and a long week, to be sure. Yet they are undaunted.
Those qualities are evident, too, in the way many in our community have acted quickly in the interest of public health. The Columbus Metropolitan Club, the city’s well-regarded civic forum that’s been a Wednesday lunch mainstay for decades, began livestreaming its community conversations March 18. No grilled chicken, but plenty of thought leadership. (That, too, ended the week of March 23, when the club decided to shut down the forums completely following DeWin'e stay-at-home order.)Stay up to date with the region’s business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.
Likewise, the city’s technology community enthusiastically came together via Twitter and Slack to form Can’t Stop CBUS soon after public establishments began shutting down, planning ways to use their skills to help others. At last report, they were engaged in helping the Mid-Ohio Foodbank manage distribution and had launched SupportColumbusEats.com to track restaurant carry-out and delivery options.
And at MedVet, which has grown since 2008 from one emergency veterinary hospital in Columbus to 27 in 14 states, leaders formed a coronavirus task force late in February. Its new CEO, Dr. Linda Lehmkuhl, and Executive Chairman Dr. Eric Schertel are featured in this month’s cover story.
“They’ve just been so proactive. I mean, amazingly proactive,” Lehmkuhl says, praising her team as the company moved to curbside service for sick pets and pondered how to address delivery of care in Santa Clara County, California, where shelter-in-place orders took effect.
That hasn’t happened here yet (it did, on March 23). But whatever comes, stay safe. Stay resilient. Sway with the winds of change.