Op-Ed: Coronavirus

Nineteen years ago this September, I was a young Army Officer serving at Fort Carson coming to terms with the impact the terrorist attacks on our homeland were likely to have on my life and that of my soldiers.  I recall sitting in the turret of my Bradley Fighting Vehicle with my gunner thinking about how strange it was to know with clarity that this would likely be the defining moment of not just our time as soldiers, but perhaps our lives. 

I don’t know if this generation will look back on this time in a similar manner, but this is quite clearly a consequential moment in the life of our nation and our Commonwealth.

As I write, I am responding to phone calls, email messages, text messages, and social media inquiries.  Our friends and neighbors are anxious, angry, fearful, and confused.  How leaders respond – family leaders, school leaders, community leaders, business leaders, faith leaders, elected leaders – will have far reaching consequences.  We have a responsibility to respond appropriately and exercise our best judgment, with the information we have, to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect human life. Government has no higher responsibility than this. 

I am committed to doing all that I can to pass along accurate information as I receive it. Now is not the time for partisanship, nor is it the time for careless speculation, as this only serves to spread unnecessary panic. Now is the time for patience, understanding, compassion – and most importantly, cooperation.

How we engage with one another, how we respond to the fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion around us, is of critical importance.  While it is appropriate to challenge assumptions and to question decisions being made, I think it is much more important that we do so in a positive, respectful, and civil manner.  We must seek understanding and engage with one another in love, because anything less is counterproductive.

Many are calling on the General Assembly to take swift action against Governor Wolf and his recent efforts to prevent further spread of the virus. While questioning the governor’s decisions and his authority to implement the strict orders he’s imposed on Pennsylvania is certainly valuable and necessary, my priority remains to ensure all Pennsylvanians remain healthy, safe, and positioned to experience economic opportunity and upward mobility after this moment of crisis has passed. Make no mistake, we are in the midst of a public health emergency which will require the cooperation and patience of every Pennsylvanian.

Rest assured that when we emerge from this crisis, the appropriate checks and balances on the authority of the governor from both the legislative and judicial branch will occur. Rest assured that when we emerge from this crisis, we will do everything in our power to rebuild our communities, our schools, and our businesses in the aftermath of COVID-19. And most importantly, rest assured that we will emerge from this crisis.

Until then, there are resources that are available to help Pennsylvanians during this difficult time. Sharing accurate, useful, and timely information about these resources is the most critical and productive way that we can all help each other – anything else right now is merely a distraction from this mission. So to that end, here are some key resources that we can all use to weather this storm together:

  • Help for businesses and employees affected by the Governor’s mandated closures is available in the form of loans, unemployment compensation, an appeals process to ensure all businesses that are essential remain open, and more.
  • Help for senior citizens is available in the form of relaxed prescription medication guidelines through the PACE program, an extended deadline for the Property Tax Rent Rebate program, and more.
  • Help for individuals and families dealing with food insecurity is available through the PA Department of Agriculture, local school districts, food banks, and other non-profits.
  • Help for homeowners and renters is available in the form of a temporary prohibition on utility termination due to failure to pay, as well as a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that no landlord or bank is permitted to evict a tenant due to failing to pay rent or a mortgage for at least the next two weeks.

These resources are being updated constantly and I will share more information on my website and through my e-newsletter as it becomes available.

In April of 2003, during operations north of Baghdad, my company commander was wounded while our battalion was working to seize and secure an airfield.  At the age of 26, I learned a valuable lesson in the importance of being clear and decisive, yet calm in the midst of a storm. As I write, I know there are parents, employers, teachers, healthcare workers, and public officials who are doing just that.  May God grant all of us wisdom during this unprecedented time.

During this crisis, I continue to be inspired by the acts of love and compassion spreading throughout our communities – from our younger generations checking in on seniors to ensure they have enough food and medication, to businesses offering free meals and hand sanitizer to those in need, to healthcare employees sacrificing so much to care for others – it is this aspect of the human spirit that gives me confidence in our ability to adapt and overcome this pandemic.

We need each other now more than ever.

Please continue to be patient and take care of one another as we all confront this challenge together. Thank you and God bless.