KEVIN LEININGER: COVID-19 could have a silver lining, in more ways than one

Like many of the people he represents, U.S. Sen. Todd Young is spending a lot of time working by phone these days. (Courtesy photo)
Jay Fawver
Kevin Leininger

Are politicians in Washington, D.C., out of touch with the daily lives of the people they represent? If so, for all its damage to America’s health, economy and psyche, COVID-19 is egalitarian in at least one respect.

“I’m like most Hoosiers: I’m surrounded by my family, working from the kitchen and using the phone non-stop. I had no idea what Zoom was a week ago,” said U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who like most of his constituents is mostly hunkered down at home these days — a solitude that has given him time to reflect not only on the human and economic damage the virus has caused but also on the good that has followed.

“The silver lining is that, as the pandemic permeates the state, we have grown increasingly close,” Young said by phone from his home in Center Grove just south of Indianapolis. “It’s ironic that it takes some disaster to recognize how much we need each other. I see very few people who aren’t taking this seriously. Each one of us needs to take account of our neighbor.”

Zoom is an on-line video conferencing service that allows multiple people to “meet” simultaneously from a safe distance. But even though many individuals and local governments have taken advantage of the technology to maintain their sanity and conduct business, members of Congress are still not allowed to vote remotely — a prohibition Young said has the potential to influence outcomes or prevent quorums and should be reconsidered during extraordinary times such as this. Several members of Congress have isolated themselves because of exposure to COVID-19.

Congress was in Washington long enough to pass a $2 trillion relief package, and although the bill will add to a national debt that already exceeds $23 trillion, Young offered no apologies. Just as President Ronald Reagan did while winning the Cold War, he said, “You decide what’s necessary then spend it.” For now, helping Americans whose livelihoods are threatened by the virus and minimizing economic collapse takes priority. And although there has been talk of yet another stimulus bill, Young prefers a wait-and-see approach.

Young defended the federal government’s response to the crisis and said that, just as it did during the Civil War, World War II and following 9-11, officials have done their best to adapt to a fast-changing challenge. “(President) Trump as shown flexibility, as FDR did, and that can be an advantage,” he said. “And he’s left much of the response to governors and local officials. The response should be fact-based and tempered with a large dose of humility. This is an unfamiliar crisis.”

As local health and medical professionals noted this week, isolation can exacerbate the natural anxieties created by the virus. Young said his staff is working seven days a week to do what it can and offered his web site (www.young.senate.gov) as a source of helpful COVID-19 information.

But, mostly, it’s up to us — not the government. In times like this, we really are our brothers’ keepers.

Providential timing

It’s probably coincidental but appropriate nevertheless: Americans’ deferral of many forms of enjoyment coincides with Lent, the season during which many Christians traditionally have fasted or abstained from certain things in the spirit of repentance.

But the religious symbolism doesn’t end there. When local officials briefed reporters on March 24 about the community’s response to COVID-19, Dr. Jay Fawver of the Parkview Behavioral Health Institute said he hoped and prayed proper prevention would prove to be the community’s Passover — the Jewish holiday that, in the book of Exodus, coincided with God sparing the Israelites from death and captivity in Egypt before leading them into the promised land.

And the Passover season begins April 8 — just four days before Christians celebrate Easter, with its promise of resurrection. Let’s hope it’s an omen.

Good for business

I’ve previously noted that liquor stores are deemed “essential services” under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, but it seems some people prefer a different prescription to avoid going stir crazy.

According to Kryptoszene.de, cannabis sales on some days have almost doubled since the COVID-19 crisis paralyzed much of the U.S. Cannabis companies reported sales increase on 22 out of 26 days in March, including sales almost doubling on March 16 (the day before St. Patrick’s Day). Online retailers recorded a 66 percent increase in demand in the second week of March, compared to the previous week. The proportion of marijuana purchases among baby boomers actually decreased by 2.1 percent, but Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, has seen the biggest increase of all generations at 42.1 percent.

Read the report for yourself at https://kryptoszene.de/rising-cannabis-demand-in-eye-of-the-coronavirus-sales-up-to-90/ — with a drink if you like.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)