Who knew? When President Donald Trump appointed his vice president, Mike Pence, to head the federal government's response to the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, the initial response was stunned silence. Then, the laughter in some quarters began.
Mike Pence? What does he know about combatting a rampant virus then beginning to bloom in parts of America. A medical doctor should head the response, Trump's critics said.
How wrong those critics were. It may well be Trump's best appointment of his presidency.
Pence has done a magnificent job. He is a voice of reason and calm in an administration not known for either. As Trump continued to worry Americans while trying to calm them, it was Pence we all turned to for information and reassurance.
Every time he appeared on camera, Vice President Pence reassured all of us by his quiet, determined demeanor and by referring to the medical experts assembled with him for information on the spread of the virus and ongoing efforts to fight its spread.
Before his appointment, the vice president was almost an unknown, virtually invisible in the shadow of the blustery Trump. No more. As the president continues to struggle to find the right words to say -- and he is getting better, but isn't there yet -- Vice President Pence very ably has stepped into the role of national assurer.
That's a good thing as many Americans panic at the increasingly concerning news of the spread of the virus in the United States. Hand sanitizer is all but impossible to find. Toilet paper, bleach and bottled water are at a premium. Some stores report they are out of hand soap, which is the best preventative to the coronavirus. Food staples such as soup and meat are going fast. Sports and entertainment events such as March Madness and Chilifest have been cancelled. Some businesses are shutting down completely and others are urging employees to work from home if possible.
It's only natural to be concerned, but there is no need to panic. We all must follow the guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control: wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds; cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue; wipe door knobs, desk and counter tops and other frequently touched surfaces with disinfecting wipes; maintain at least three to six feet distance from others when out in public.
For several reasons, America got a late start in halting the spread of COVID-19, but finally we appear to be catching up. Now is not the time to slack off, to reduce our personal and governmental response to the virus.
President Trump must get his message straight, He has taken a coronavirus test and, thankfully, tested negative. He must be reassuring, must deal in facts as presented by the medical community and not flights of unreality based on things he has "heard" or what his unnamed advisers say. He must be as calm, as reassuring as Vice President Pence. And he must give only facts, not personal speculation.
The American people are counting on him.
America will get through this and, as we do, we must begin preparations for the next virus that sweeps the world. Somehow, we suspect, new and unusual viruses may come more frequently in the future.