7 May 2021

NOTE FROM NORM: Never again. Until the next one.

From 1918 to about 1920, the Spanish Flu epidemic sickened nearly 500 million people worldwide, killing 675,000 Americans and roughly 50 million people on the planet.

The devastating killing power of that global epidemic was exacerbated by a world at war, with troop movements across continents and countries helping spread the disease.

Since that time America, and the world, have seen other global pandemics that have impacted the lives of human beings in ways that have caused people and leaders in many countries to save “Never again!”

It’s the nature of a crisis, big and small, on human beings.

A heavy smoker friend was once ordered by his doctor to undergo an angiogram after repeated visits to the emergency room for heart pains, shortness of breath, and any number of symptoms that might suggest a pending heart attack. Before the procedure, with his mortality staring at him, he declared he would never smoke again.

Five minutes after the angiogram was completed and the results showed no blockage of his blood vessels, he walked outside the hospital and promptly lit up a cigarette!

On a global scale, despite warnings, time and time again, from those who understand science the best, we have been warned to be prepared for the next global pandemic and have rarely responded with the same urgency after the panic as we do in the middle of it.

In 2002, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) became the first pandemic of the 21″ century. As the online publication MedicalNewsToday.com outlines, SARS, like COVID-19, was a coronavirus and originated in China that originated in bats and moved into an animal called a pangolin then entered humans.

I held a hearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations as news reports began to warn the world of the potential of SARS to become a full-blown global pandemic.  Many of those who testified before my subcommittee made it clear: This may not be the next big one, but the next big one is coming!”

In the end, SARS was not the next big one, infecting 8,000 people in 29 countries around the world and killing less than 1,000 people.

Little was done, in reality, anywhere in the world to prepare for the next big one.

We now know that COVID-19 was and is the next big one. Around the world, hundreds of millions have been infected, more than 3.2 million have died, including nearly 580,000 people in the United States.

While not on the scale in terms of absolute carnage as the Spanish Flu, the reality is that America, and the world, have taken a beating from this global pandemic.  Its impact on economies, governments, and societies will be felt for generations.

Until the next big one comes.

And it will. Since 1860 there have been ten instances where history has recorded what has been coined a “global pandemic.”

When the pandemic’s subsided, life went on, normality prevailed. Humanity emerged bruised, beaten, and battered but victorious.

This should be one of two points that all of us should learn from this global pandemic.

First, there will be another one. And, we have it within our power and capabilities as a species to plan and prepare for the next one. We have access to resources that human beings 1,000 years ago, 500 years ago, 100 years ago, 19 years ago never had at their disposal. In the lifetimes of those reading this post, it is unlikely we will possess the means to eradicate the threat of future pandemics forever.

Perhaps someday. But not today.  And not in the foreseeable future.  Yet, we can understand how to blunt the impact of the next one if we learn from this one and previous ones and the ones yet to come.

Second, life returns to normal. It always has, and it must again.  Many cottage industries, political and otherwise, have emerged around this most recent global pandemic. Some have been good, others not so good.

Those that are not so good are those who, despite the growing number of vaccinations in America and the decreasing number of infections and deaths from COVID-19, insisting we must keep schools closed, wear masks outside, continue to spend excessive amounts of tax dollars to prop up and economy that needs no further infusion of government capital.

A fascinating article in the May edition of The Atlantic, “The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown,” makes it clear that for partisan, ideological, or no reason at all, there is a wide swath of Americans who won’t stop wanting the nation to be in crisis mode even though the crisis is rapidly subsiding.

The global pandemic that brought us to our knees, bent us but did not beak us, is beginning to recede, and still, some will demand that the guardrails that were put in place to protect people should continue to remain.

From Governors insisting that they retain emergency powers to Presidents who insist on raising taxes to pay for his massive growth of the federal government, to teachers’ unions demanding schools remain closed despite the evidence that continued closures are wreaking a tremendous mental health toll on our children, there are far too many who make returning to normality difficult if not impossible.

The nation’s liberal media helps to amplify this delay to normal because with each passing day that the world gets back to normal is another day of fewer clicks to their websites, social media accounts, and views on cable and broadcast talks shows and news channels.

There is no legitimate dispute of the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 on America and the world.

Yet, there is no legitimate reason for American leaders in government, the media, health care, education, and elsewhere to further delay America’s return to normal.

To do so isn’t “following the science,” and, frankly, in far too many cases, it never was about following the science.

It was a virtue-signaling litmus test that manipulated the science for personal and political purposes despite its brutal impact on the lives of far too many Americans.

As we prepare for the next one, it should be incumbent upon all of us, regardless of our politics or our ideology, to make it clear to our elected officials and the ubiquitous number of “experts” who came to dominate nearly every aspect of our lives and to one another:  Never again.