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We can do better than go back to ‘normal’

I do not want to go back to “normal.” I want this pandemic to upset society to the point that things change for the better exponentially. Let it radicalize you.

US-HEALTH-VIRUS
People want to get back to normal, such as by reopening Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. But a Sun-Times letter writer says we should aim for a new and better “normal.”
Photo by DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus has upended everything, and people say they just want life to “go back to normal.” But consider what “normal” looks like for some people.

“Normal” is having your health insurance tied to your job and suddenly losing both, plus housing.

“Normal” is driving hours back and forth to a job that doesn’t pay you enough, doesn’t care if you drop dead or become ill, and doesn’t properly protect you from hazardous conditions.

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“Normal” is when politicians fail to warn you of an impending pandemic but dump their stocks after a closed-door meeting about the pandemic.

“Normal” is when billionaires, many of whom pay zero taxes, kick in laughably modest amounts of money during this pandemic just to say they helped.

“Normal” is a half million homeless people in the United States, half of whom suffer from serious mental illness.

“Normal” is having the largest prison population in the world.

And “normal” has gotten us more than 2 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide and more than 127,000 deaths.

So, no. I do not want to go back to “normal.” I want this pandemic to upset our society to the point that things change for the better exponentially. Let this radicalize you. We can bring about a new normal.

Enough is enough. The status quo is no longer an option.

Rosemary Callahan, Northbrook

For Trump, the buck stops everywhere else

When Harry Truman was president, he famously stated that “the buck stops here.” The current occupant of the White House vacillates and equivocates when asked where the responsibility for the spread of Covid-19 should lie. He sometimes blames the governors, sometimes blames China, and sometimes blames the World Health Organization. He even blames thieves for stealing medical equipment.

Never does he accept any blame.

When Paula Reid, a CBS reporter, asked him a very specific question about what actions he took in all of February to slow the virus, he called her disrespectful and fake and then called her whole network fake. CBS? Seriously? The station that gave us “60 Minutes”?

Trump brags that he closed down travel to and from China in late January. But tourists to Europe come from all over the world, including China. Why Trump did not ban travel to and from Europe in early February makes no sense. He should have looked to Italy as an example of what not to do.

Now Trump is blaming the World Health Organization for taking insufficient actions and issuing insufficient warnings about the virus in February. He is even cutting off American funding to WHO — the very organization that sponsored American doctors on a fact-finding trip to China in January.

WHO really bears responsibility for the spread of COVID-19 in the United States? Any mirror would give Trump an honest answer.

Jan Goldberg, Riverside

Two lessons of the pandemic

What are we learning from the pandemic about how to make our country stronger and the world a better place? Topping the list must be healthcare.

Before the pandemic, about 14% of working-age Americans had no health insurance. With joblessness rising, that number now is no doubt higher. Many Americans who do have insurance have high-deductible plans that provide a strong incentive to avoid a doctor or ER visit.

During the epidemic, we have been assured that no one will have to pay for COVID-19 testing or treatment. This decision was made so that authorities can better monitor or stop the spread of the virus. Large segments of the population might otherwise be excluded simply because they didn’t go to a doctor— because they couldn’t afford it. A health insurance system that ignores much of the population was and remains wholly inadequate in the face of an epidemic.

The lesson is that our nation should enact some form of universal healthcare. We would be better prepared for another pandemic. We would be a healthier country. And it would boost the economy by giving Americans more confidence to change jobs or start new businesses without having to worry about the affordability of health insurance.

The second big lesson of the pandemic is the importance of respect for science in a crisis. Meaningful action against the virus has not been possible without the work of expert scientists and doctors.

In the same way, experts are telling us to wake up to and address the dangers of climate change. The effects of our warming on our planet are becoming increasingly obvious — greater pollution, rising levels of heat, fires, floods and extreme weather.

It’s time we listened to the climate experts. Solutions to problems of climate change don’t require us to live through the kind of suffering and tragedy brought on by the coronavirus. In fact, addressing climate change could lead to better air quality, plentiful clean energy jobs and improved health for all. But continuing to ignore climate change could result in social, economic and human costs on the same scale as the pandemic.

Thomas Rausch, Glen Ellyn

Even now, Trump’s all about self-promotion

President Trump has taken the unprecedented step of having his own name printed on the pandemic-related stimulus checks that are to be issued by the U.S. Treasury. He’s trying to make it look like the money is coming from him, turning the stimulus into a campaign promotion.

At the same time, Trump has claimed he has total authority to reopen the economy, though he refused to accept any responsibility for shutting it down; he left that to the states. Ironically, much of the reason we even need those stimulus checks is because Trump failed to act, and took deadly missteps, in responding to the potential pandemic all through February.

If the reopening of the American economy proves successful, Trump will claim credit. If the economy is reopened too early and there is an even greater pandemic catastrophe, he will issue another round of stimulus checks to further promote himself and his presidential campaign.

David J. Roberts, the Loop