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With cases of the novel coronavirus still escalating in Kansas, we all should take a moment to recognize the incredible work of our state’s health care professionals.
From doctors to nurses to receptionists to first-responders and everyone in between, these dedicated Kansans have been putting their lives on the line to confront an unknown and aggressive virus. In other cities across the United States, we have seen true acts of courage from these workers. In the days and weeks to come, we will likely see the same here.
But while we thank those on the front lines, that’s not nearly enough.
The response to COVID-19 has shown massive gaps in our national preparedness for a pandemic. From delays in rolling out sufficient testing to understand the scope of the problem to massive shortages of personal protective equipment, our country has put these medical workers at risk.
While we praise their dedication, the reality of the situation cannot be ignored.
We have seen multiple potential pandemics over the past 20 years. Most, thankfully, didn’t exact an overwhelming toll on the United States. But we didn’t learn the lessons that these dry runs should have taught us.
Now that a pandemic actually threatens, now that the coronavirus is spreading across the land, we are grappling with shortages of basics that could have — should have — been easily foreseen,
These shortcomings fall disproportionately on health care workers.
They are the ones forced to interact with sick people who cannot be tested. They are the ones forced to ration face masks. They are the ones forced to decide whether to potentially expose their family members to the virus, after almost certainly being exposed themselves.
The burden is real. The toll is immense, and it is only just beginning. We praise these workers, but we also understand that we can’t let a situation like this one happen again. We must be ready. We must protect those who save lives.
When the crisis has passed — and it will pass — we as a nation and state must truly celebrate our health care workers. That doesn’t just mean praising them. That means equipping them for future outbreaks.
And it means treating the mental health issues that will no doubt arise for many after serving on the front lines of a deadly crisis.
We aren’t worthy of their work now. But perhaps we will be.