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Leadership

Justice, DeWine take proactive steps

Gov. Jim Justice had an ironclad answer Friday, in the form of a question, to those who wonder why he closed public schools in West Virginia despite the absence then of a single confirmed case of COVID-19 in our state:

“How would you answer the question, ‘Why did you wait?'”

No doubt the same thought was in Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s head when, also last week, he ordered Buckeye State public schools to be closed for three weeks. Justice’s order did not specify a time frame.

Both measures take effect Monday.

Of Justice’s order, state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Crouch said, “What the governor is trying to do is be proactive and what we’re trying to do is keep our citizens safe.”

Precisely. In the wake of natural disasters, government sometimes is accused of waiting too long to take decisive action, either to warn people about impending trouble or to help them once it strikes.

In a way, we are fortunate that this situation has been building for weeks. That has allowed public officials at all levels some time to think carefully about what to do.

Both Justice and DeWine have decided not to react but, instead, to strike preemptively against COVID-19. When DeWine issued his order, there were just five confirmed cases of the disease in Ohio. No one had died. Again, in West Virginia on Friday, there was not even a single person known to be suffering from COVID-19.

As Justice put it, however, “We know it’s here … we just haven’t found it yet, but it’s got to be here.”

Precisely. As many as 80% of those who contract the virus show only very minor symptoms or none at all. They do act as carriers for the disease, however, putting older people with underlying health conditions at risk.

In both our states, steps need to be taken to ensure that children and their families do not suffer from school closures. Government should do what it can in that regard but, as we have pointed out, the challenge is too big to cope with unless individuals and private organizations such as churches step up to help.

Justice and DeWine were right about schools. Now, they should be taking proactive steps to keep those most at risk — again, older people — safe. That may include offering nursing homes and hospitals assistance with tasks such as infection control.

Let us hope COVID-19 in the United States ends with the proverbial whimper, not with a bang. If so, it will be due to leadership such as that demonstrated by public officials such as DeWine and Justice.

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