Walking a Tightrope

The streets and businesses of Jackson County are disturbing. Desolate. Deserted. Locked doors. I can’t even get a haircut. The most visible hub of human activity seems to be grocery stores which are courageously attempting to keep shelves stocked.     

We hear the media and some of our political leaders (local, state and federal) use phrases such as ‘shelter-in-place’, ‘stay-at-home’ and ‘lockdown.’ Uncertainty is the new certainty.     

But one thing is certain. Our city and county leaders in Jackson County are walking a tightrope that attempts to balance public health, economic prosperity and our Constitutional rights. And, so far, they’re doing a good job of it.     

The debate about the government’s response to the coronavirus is polarizing and seems to boil down to ‘public health’ versus ‘economy prosperity.’ But I don’t think it’s an ‘either-or’ question. We really need to prioritize both health and prosperity simultaneously. These are serious times…. our family members, our friends, and our neighbors are out of work. Businesses are closed, and the economy is suffering.     

My question is what is the exit strategy? If our goal is to protect the community from the coronavirus and we’re willing to shut down businesses throughout the state and potentially do irreparable harm to the economy, we should have established benchmarks that help us to determine when we have reached those goals so that we may allow Texans to get back to work.     

How are we measuring our success? Just as with any business plan, the established goals are just as vital to the success of the plan as is the implementation.     Is having no reported coronavirus cases in two weeks a success? Or is it three weeks? Do we have written goals which outline when it’s safe to lift restrictions? When do we know it’s over? Or are we simply in a perpetual State of Disaster without an end or even a means to an end?     

Jim DeMint, a former Republican representative and senator from South Carolina and now chairman of the Conservative Partnership Institute, recently wrote: “We need a fully functioning economy to survive the coronavirus. We also need a fully functioning economy to ensure the future of our nation. It is time to get Americans back to work.”     

I agree wholeheartedly. Even the most extreme measures enforced by government can never completely eradicate the coronavirus or create an environment with zero risks. In life, there are always risks. After writing this column, I could wear a N95 protective mask and gloves, step outside and get hit by a bus. Risks are a part of daily life. The key is balancing the risks to our health with the risks of an economic meltdown.   

Our city and county officials are doing an outstanding job in an unprecedented situation. If you ask me, I think most of them would prefer to have a hurricane swirling on top of us rather than an intangible virus. Balancing the Constitutional rights of residents with trying to prevent the spread of the virus, while simultaneously hoping the economy can survive a temporary stranglehold, is not an enviable job.     

But Jackson County has good people in high places.

By John Meng, Publisher/Editor

    Jackson County Herald Tribune

    306 N. Wells
    Edna, TX 77957