Kopy’s Kolumn: Welcome to the New Pandemic World Order

Gary Kopycinski, Kopy's Kolumn, here's looking at you
The publisher courtesy the Village Manager. (Feb. 20, 2019)

“If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today.”
– President George W. Bush in 2005

Commentary
By Gary Kopycinski

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Everything is changed. Welcome to the Pandemic World Order, Park Forest. Things will never be the same.

Never.

Remember when we said things like, “Change is the only constant?” Remember how easy it was to say that, to preach that, to act like we understood that?

And here we are, with record unemployment, facing a disease that knows no détente, no armistice, no concept of parley. We are at the mercy of a virus we barely understand with a resolution we can’t even imagine right now.

This is not the first time humanity faced a pandemic. Historian John M. Barry reflects on the scourge the world faced over a century ago, the Great Influenza:

Man might be defined as “modern” largely to the extent that he attempts to control, as opposed to adjust himself to, nature. In this relationship with nature, modern humanity has generally been the aggressor, and a daring one at that, altering the flow of rivers, building upon geological faults, and, today, even engineering the genes of existing species. Nature has generally been languid in its response, although contentious once aroused and occasionally displaying a flair for violence.

By 1918 humankind was fully modern, and fully scientific, but too busy fighting itself to aggress against nature. Nature, however, chooses its own moments. It chose this moment to aggress against man, and it did not do so prodding languidly. For the first time, modern humanity, a humanity practicing the modern scientific method, would confront nature in its fullest rage.

Barry, John M.. The Great Influenza (p. 166). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Once again, we confront nature “in its fullest rage,” and the greatest minds in science are working to understand the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it unleashes, COVID-19.

George W. Bush the Visionary

I’m making my way through Barry’s The Great Influenza on Audible. Also have the Kindle edition and sprung for the paperback.

My inspiration for buying it? George W. Bush, of all people, who, it turns out, did read books besides those he spoke about during campaigns, like the Bible. Much as he drove me crazy years ago with his policies, much as I took the line that he couldn’t read. Remember this from Will Ferrell?

Turns out George W. Bush forgave Will Ferrell for his impressions, and I learned recently that “W” read real books. He read The Great Influenza and in 2005 began efforts for the United States to prepare for pandemics.

ABC News reported on his efforts in April of this year:

In the summer of 2005, President George W. Bush was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he began flipping through an advance reading copy of a new book about the 1918 flu pandemic. He couldn’t put it down.

When he returned to Washington, he called his top homeland security adviser into the Oval Office and gave her the galley of historian John M. Barry’s “The Great Influenza,” which told the chilling tale of the mysterious plague that “would kill more people than the outbreak of any other disease in human history.”

“You’ve got to read this,” Fran Townsend remembers the president telling her. “He said, ‘Look, this happens every 100 years. We need a national strategy.'”

Thus was born the nation’s most comprehensive pandemic plan — a playbook that included diagrams for a global early warning system, funding to develop new, rapid vaccine technology, and a robust national stockpile of critical supplies, such as face masks and ventilators, Townsend said.

ABC News: George W. Bush in 2005: ‘If we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare’

President Barack Obama built on this work begun by his immediate predecessor. On December 2, 2014, President Obama said the following while visiting the National Institutes of Health:

There may and likely will come a time in which we have both an airborne disease that is deadly. And in order for us to deal with that effectively, we have to put in place an infrastructure — not just here at home, but globally — that allows us to see it quickly, isolate it quickly, respond to it quickly. And it also requires us to continue the same path of basic research that is being done here at NIH that [Dr.] Nancy [Sullivan] is a great example of. So that if and when a new strain of flu, like the Spanish flu, crops up five years from now or a decade from now, we’ve made the investment and we’re further along to be able to catch it. It is a smart investment for us to make. It’s not just insurance; it is knowing that down the road we’re going to continue to have problems like this — particularly in a globalized world where you move from one side of the world to the other in a day.

So this is important now …

Remarks by the President on Research for Potential Ebola Vaccines

The Current Occupant

In 2018, President Donald J. Trump disbanded the pandemic response team that had been established by his immediate predecessors. In what appears to be the fairest assessment of what he did, Reuters concluded, “There is disagreement over how to describe the changes at the NSC’s Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense in 2018. The departure of some members due to ‘streamlining’ efforts under John Bolton is documented. The ‘pandemic response team’ as a unit was largely disbanded.” This is in response to claims that Trump fired the entire pandemic response team. So, it appears he did not “fire” the team, per se, but certainly disbanded them.

Reuters delivers their verdict: “Partly false: The Trump administration disbanded the ‘pandemic response’ team, but some of the team members were reassigned to roles that included pandemic response”

We can conclude, however, that President Trumps handling of the COVID-19 crisis has been far from “really, really well,” as the President told Fox & Friends this past Friday:

“I think we’re doing really, really well. We have a ventilator system of production. That’s been incredible. Now we’re giving ventilators to other countries. We have many, many countries that are asking us for ventilators. And when I started, we had no — essentially we had no ventilators.”

President Obama delivered a scathing assessment of the Trump Administration’s response to the current crisis, calling it an “absolute chaotic disaster,” first reported by Yahoo News (emphasis added):

“This election that’s coming up on every level is so important because what we’re going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party. What we’re fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy — that has become a stronger impulse in American life. And by the way, we’re seeing that internationally as well. It’s part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments. It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset — of ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘to heck with everybody else’ — when that mindset is operationalized in our government.

“That’s why, I, by the way, am going to be spending as much time as necessary and campaigning as hard as I can for Joe Biden,” he added.

Exclusive: Obama says in private call that ‘rule of law is at risk’ in Michael Flynn case

Our Pandemic Coverage and Response

Our coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been exhausting, exhaustive, and comprehensive. You can see a history of our articles here following the tag COVID-19. I will continue to crunch the numbers every few days. Keeping watch on 30 South Suburban towns, paying special attention to Park Forest, of course. But we will also dedicate more time to our local coverage, including catching up on Village Board meetings, which have happened a few times by phone since Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order first went into effect.

Virtual Community Fundraiser

eNews Park Forest also wants to do something also to aid those who are struggling at this time. Toward that, I am putting together a Zoom town fundraiser that will benefit the Elizabeth Ludeman Center and the St. Irenaeus Food Pantry. Donations will be made to both of those organizations respectively. eNews Park Forest will not receive or touch any cash nor deal with any transactions. I’ve reached out to Father Terry Johnson at St. Irenaeus and have been in touch with John Haley, Vice-President of the Parents & Friends of the Ludeman Center. Also reached out to some local musicians, especially Dave Rudolf, who agreed to perform and gave the names of some others who might do the same.

Look for the fundraiser to finally happen on Wednesday, May 20. If you wish to help with it, if you can help moderate the Zoom meeting, for example, please email me at [email protected] If you are Father Terry, John Haley, or Dave Rudolf, surprise! I finally decided on a date that will work for me. We have “virtual office hours” on Wednesdays now at Marian Catholic, so Wednesday afternoon is wide open for this event.

Blood Drive

I am also working on organizing a blood drive at St. Irenaeus Church through the American Red Cross. No, Father Terry, I have not forgotten about that. eNews Park Forest will sponsor both of these events, but, really, I’m thinking the main contribution here will be time.

If anyone wants to help with either of these events, again, please email me at [email protected] or call me at 708-808-0204. Thank you.

Every Student, Every Day at Marian Catholic – Still

These were my big ideas a few weeks ago, then teaching online came back. At Marian Catholic, our students have been in session, “in class,” every day since Governor Pritzker first put the state on lock-down. Our faculty, staff, administration, and students have adapted wonderfully. We use a boatload of applications and methods in all our classes — way beyond Zoom. Thanks to our Director of Instructional Technology Sean Scanlon, faculty and administrators have learned many different ways to engage our young scholars.

Our students especially have been awesome. Attendance has been incredible.

Every student, every day, is in class. We take attendance at the beginning of each class period like we did in the classroom. Students who don’t show or are late get a call from Ms. Linda Fleming in attendance. Additionally, our Guidance Department is working to reach out to students who are especially stressed with the social distancing we must all endure.

I have one student who attends every day from Russia, another from South Korea. They returned home to be with their families.

Here is one of my classes praying the Our Father together:

Marian Catholic Juniors pray the Our Father after class on Zoom
Marian Catholic Juniors pray the Our Father virtually in early May. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Finally, Welcome Spring to Park Forest … and the Farmers Market?

Victor Blackful says he is planning on a June 6 open date for the Park Forest Main Street Market, aka the Farmers Market.

“We are working very hard during this pandemic to bring you the 2020 Park Forest Main Street Market,” Victor wrote in a social media post. “Because of new ‘State Rules,’ the market will be a little different. Some vendors will be back this year, others next year, but I have attached some of the new consumer ‘State Rules’ for the 2020 Market.

“We are looking to open JUNE 6TH.”

Here are the State Rules Victor mentions, courtesy the Illinois Farmers Market Association (ILFMA):

Illinois Farmers Market Association 2020 rules
Illinois Farmers Market Association 2020 rules

If the print is a bit tiny for your eyes, here’s what it says. And, don’t feel bad if it was too small for your eyes. The text was also too small for the image to text converter I usually use.

So, typing what I read:

Customer Guidelines for the 2020 Farmers Market Season

  • Maintain a 6′ distance between yourself, vendor employees, and other customers.
  • If you are sick, stay home.
  • This is not a family event.
  • Limit attendance to one member of the household.
  • Pre-order products where possible to speed up transaction process.
  • Do not pick up any products or produce at vendor stands. Ask staff to help you if you prefer a reusable bag. You will need to place purchases in your bag yourself. It will not be filled by vendors. At home, regularly wash your reusable bags.
  • If you sneeze or cough, do so only into a tissue and immediately dispose of it or into the crease of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds according to the CDC Guidelines.
  • If hand washing is not available, use a CDC-approved hand sanitizer, either 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol.
  • At home, wash all products thoroughly before using.

That publication was updated April 8, 2020. Right now, we might assume one more point will be added:

  • Always wear a facemask.

The ILFMA concludes with this gentle piece of advice, “Be patient and kind — we’re all in this together.”

Amen to that.

And, if you’re read this far, you deserve an extra treat. Here are some spring shots from my walk this afternoon along Ash Street. Everything looked so nice.

Peace to all.