Say ‘thank you’ to the he­roes of this cri­sis

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - OPINIONS - Mar­sha Mar­sha Mercer writes from Wash­ing­ton. Con­tact her at: mar­sha.mercer@ya­ ©2020 Mar­sha Mercer. All rights re­served.

In a pres­i­den­tial de­bate be­fore the 1988 elec­tion, Vice Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, was asked about he­roes who could in­spire young peo­ple.

Dr. An­thony Fauci, he said. “You’ve prob­a­bly never heard of him. He’s a very fine re­searcher, top doc­tor at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Health, work­ing hard do­ing some­thing, re­search on this disease of AIDS,” Bush said. C-SPAN found and posted the clip this week.

To­day, nearly ev­ery­body has heard of Fauci. The di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Diseases is a hero of the novel coro­n­avirus cri­sis.

Fauci, 79, stands be­hind Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at news con­fer­ences and, with grace and courage, sets the record straight when Trump errs about the virus.

The coro­n­avirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, have up­ended daily life, caus­ing sick­ness, fi­nan­cial hard­ship, fear, grief and more than 1,000 deaths na­tion­wide.

The cri­sis is also show­ing us the best in Amer­ica. It has brought us to­gether as we stay apart to stop the spread of the disease. And there are many other new he­roes.

Of­ten stand­ing near Fauci at news con­fer­ences is Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx, 63, who was U.S. global AIDS co­or­di­na­tor in the State Depart­ment un­til the White House picked her to be the coro­n­avirus re­sponse co­or­di­na­tor.

Her calm pre­sen­ta­tions are pro­fes­sional, re­as­sur­ing and per­sonal. Urg­ing young peo­ple to prac­tice so­cial dis­tanc­ing, she told of her grand­mother’s life­long guilt after as a child she brought home the Span­ish flu that killed her mother.

“My grand­mother lived with that for 88 years ... this is not a the­o­ret­i­cal. This is a re­al­ity,” Birx said.

An­other hero to many is New

York Demo­cratic Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo, who has shown ex­tra­or­di­nary lead­er­ship and em­pa­thy.

Cuomo calmly and clearly ex­plains in daily news con­fer­ences how New York be­came the epi­cen­ter of the out­break and how the state and the coun­try can get through the cri­sis.

He re­minds New York­ers and all of us to thank those who put their lives on the line when they go to work.

“Our health care work­ers, who are do­ing God’s work ... Can you imag­ine the nurses who leave their homes in the morn­ing, who kiss their chil­dren good­bye, go to a hos­pi­tal, put on gowns, deal with peo­ple who have the coro­n­avirus?” Cuomo said at Tues­day’s brief­ing.

“You want to talk about ex­tra­or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als. And it’s the nurses and the doc­tors and the health care work­ers. It’s the po­lice of­fi­cers who show up ev­ery day ... And it’s the fire­fight­ers and it’s the trans­porta­tion work­ers, and it’s the peo­ple who are run­ning the gro­cery stores and the phar­ma­cies and pro­vid­ing all those es­sen­tial ser­vices.”

Many are find­ing ways to help. When Gov. Ralph Northam asked for vol­un­teers for the Vir­ginia Med­i­cal Re­serve Corps, more than 1,500 health pro­fes­sion­als signed up in a month. On Wed­nes­day, Northam asked for more vol­un­teers.

At least half a dozen Vir­ginia dis­til­leries have shifted from pro­duc­ing whiskey and other li­ba­tions to hand san­i­tizer. Bak­eries have do­nated fresh bread to food banks.

Amy and Jeremy Filko of Vi­enna,

Va., are us­ing 3-D print­ing to make plas­tic shields to pro­tect N95 masks, Wash­ing­to­nian magazine re­ported.

The Filkos send four free masks to doc­tors, nurses and health care work­ers who re­quest them through their Face­book page and cover the ship­ping costs them­selves. They also are shar­ing the tech­nol­ogy with oth­ers who want to make shields, as long as they agree to pro­vide the shields for free.

To this group of ev­ery­day he­roes, I would add blood donors, neigh­bors who shop for oth­ers, de­liv­ery peo­ple, san­i­ta­tion work­ers, mail car­ri­ers, cashiers — and the peo­ple who cover the news day in, day out.

In this time of ram­pant mis­in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia and mostly un­founded crit­i­cism of re­porters by the pres­i­dent and his fans, we need solid, fact-based re­port­ing more than ever.

News or­ga­ni­za­tions face grave fi­nan­cial chal­lenges, and with con­tin­ued lay­offs and cut­backs, they work harder to do more with less. There’s never been a bet­ter time to sub­scribe to a lo­cal news­pa­per in print or on­line.

And, as we keep our dis­tance, we can still smile and say, “Thank you,” to all the un­sung he­roes of this cri­sis.


Dr. An­thony Fauci (left), di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Diseases, and Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx (right), White House coro­n­avirus re­sponse co­or­di­na­tor, briefed the me­dia ear­lier this month.


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