The crisis upon our nation is a severe one. How severe is unknown, as we do not have the right information. Whether infection rates will be severe or whether we can flatten the curve of infection; whether we can find a cure fast enough to avoid major deaths; whether the death toll will be catastrophic, all are unknowns. But here’s something we do know: America is stepping up to the plate in a major way.
Several days ago, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted out:
“NY has a critical need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including gloves, gowns and masks — as well as ventilators. If you have or can make any of these supplies, New York is buying. Please email COVID19supplies@esd.ny.gov.”
A brief look at the responses show a solid response from people across New York State and beyond. A response which carries the promise of help from private citizens, manufacturers and business owners. Not everyone in this crisis is just an angry ideologue. There are many who are willing to retool factories, create new processes and rush contracts to provide medical essentials like masks and ventilators.
America is also showing a fair amount of decency in this crisis. No one, outside the media class, has panicked. In my part of the states, at least one person has taken on the responsibility to help shop for those who aren’t able to leave their homes. Stores are having special shopping times for older citizens. No one is setting out to consciously shaft their fellows, everyone is keeping their head. Coworkers and family have personally promised aid should things take a turn for the worst.
Peter Navarro, an economist and Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing policy, has recently published an article showing the depth of American cooperation across lines. He remarks how in his single role he has been seeing the military, the Department of Health and Human Services and businesses like FedEx work together in concert to ensure that Americans are receiving aid as quickly as possible. Among the most remarkable things he had to say was this:
Last Monday I got an email from Tara Engel at the alcoholic beverage producer Pernod Ricard. The company was willing to repurpose part of its production lines to make hand sanitizer but it needed some red tape cut.
Within the hour, and after calls to the Treasury Department, the Food and Drug Administration and HHS, Pernod was on its way to producing its first batch of hand sanitizer. The company will be donating as much as 4,000 gallons a week to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for distribution across the country. And it’s all made in the U.S. at factories in Arkansas, Kentucky and elsewhere.
And Pernod Ricard isn’t alone, Anheuser-Busch and more are busy turning production over to producing disinfecting alcohol and hand sanitizer.
A coalition of textile and clothing manufacturers are working together to produce greater numbers of medical masks. Fruit of the Lomb, American Giant, American Knits, and other members of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCOT) are stepping up to the plate in a major way. The NCOT recently sent out a press release stating, “The companies expect to begin production on Monday and will make the first deliveries by mid-week.”
They are dedicating their assets, resources and manufacturing capacities to create a high output of face masks. Once fully ramped up in four to five weeks, the companies expect to produce up to 10 million face masks per week in the United States and in Central America.
It will take a few weeks to fully swing the factories and supply chains to a new purpose, producing medical masks, but this is remarkable. It took these companies a short time to reach an agreement with the Federal government to provide supplies, and then swing their facilities into action. This is redolent of the way American businesses provided the ‘arsenal of democracy’ during WWII, though we must be skeptical of war language in the current crisis.
Despite the media howling at the President, the President doing the best he can in crisis, and the overall tenor of fear and worry around us, all is not yet lost. It may be that the worst is yet to come, it seems likely that it is. But we have weathered hard things before and we can weather this too. American decency is still around and as long as we’re willing to let our differences sink in this crisis, we will make it to the far side of this.