March 17, 2020 — New York
If America – and the world – needed a reminder of our interconnectedness, our interdependence, and our shared vulnerabilities, COVID-19 is it.
The virus respects no borders. It bows not to military might, religious edict, or government fiat. It is indifferent to ethnicity, nationality, faith, gender, and political orientation, if, alas, not to age.
As the coronavirus makes its way through our communities, straining health care systems and transforming the daily lives of millions, we grieve for those who have succumbed to the disease and express our sympathy and solidarity with affected families, as we call on governments at every level to affirm core principles:
- Informed leadership With authority comes the responsibility in a time of public health emergency to base policy on scientific expertise and pragmatism – not on superstition, prejudice, political expediency, or partisanship;
- Global cooperation Just as the disease disregards national and state boundaries, so must the efforts to combat it – with data on testing, transmission, morbidity and mortality, as well as current and contemplated containment strategies, treatment regimens and capacity, and progress on anti-viral medication disseminated widely;
- Openness Public trust in government – and individuals’ willingness to sacrifice comfort and convenience, and access to family, education, social amenities, and work, for the public good – depends on governmental transparency, the assurance of the public’s right to know;
- Civility Crises test the human spirit, and too often summon the basest responses: bigotry, scapegoating, xenophobia, selfishness, finger-pointing. Leaders must inspire the better nature in all of us, modeling compassion, mutual respect, unity, urgency, and self-sacrifice. Citizens must follow suit.
In our increasingly globalized world, the COVID-19 pandemic may be a harbinger of this century’s escalating and universal threats to public health and safety. As such, it should dispel false notions that global problems – from novel pathogens to terrorism to climate change – can be resolved by national action alone. Above all, they require urgent, thoughtful, fact-based leadership, and the maximum possible international cooperation.
As our leaders at the national, state, and local level, in concert with their counterparts around the world, confront this disease and the terrible losses it incurs, they will have – and they will need – the support of civil society, of the business community, of individuals of every faith. For, truly, we are all in this together.