“We had a 100-year flood last night.”
I’ll never forget the call I received at 6 a.m. from the University Circle Police Department (UCPD) chief on the last Sunday in March. During a flu pandemic of a kind not seen since the Spanish Flu a century earlier, we had a 100-year flood in Northeast Ohio. Hours after I spoke to the UCPD chief, I learned of the bravery of Cleveland police and firefighters who risked their lives in the rushing water of the flood to pry a university student loose from a basement apartment in University Circle. Like a scene out of a movie, with water rushing into the submerged apartment, front-line first responders saved a life. This is one of my early memories of front-line service during the crisis of COVID-19 that shows how resilient we are in Ohio.
Courage. Compassion. Creativity. Connection. These are the words that have been brought to life during this global pandemic.
Albert Einstein’s commentary “a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” conjures the images of courageous nurses, doctors and first responding police, fire and emergency medical service workers going into work each day of the crisis on the front line with the sole purpose of saving lives. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was right when he said, “In this battle, the troops are our health care professionals.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has been one of the early leaders in this crisis and shown experience and compassion in public service. Relying on his cabinet for answers, Gov. DeWine has put the science of public health first and relied on Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton for her expertise. Both Gov. DeWine and Dr. Acton have focused on the facts, translated them into understandable human terms, and have done so with compassion. Dr. Acton has relayed hopeful messages in a real and relatable way to all of us when she says things like, “Life is not shutting down. It’s waking us up.” She and Gov. DeWine have teamed up to make public safety their foremost priority, rooted their policy directives in facts and forged a path toward safety that has provided a light of hope at the end of a dark tunnel.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and the number of companies and citizens responding to the call to action to curb COVID-19 has quickly risen to a level not witnessed since World War II. Take the hockey outfitter Bauer. When hockey season came to a halt this spring, the helmet maker pivoted and transformed the protective shields it makes for hockey players into protective shields for medical workers. In Columbus, the nonprofit science and technology organization Battelle received needed advocacy support from Gov. DeWine, who appealed to President Donald Trump and the FDA to un-gum the approval process for decontamination and reuse of protective masks. The effort worked, and Battelle has been able to bring a much-needed concept to market, enabling thousands of N95 protective masks to be sterilized and returned to protect health care workers serving patients. The company has lived up to its own motto “At Battelle, It can be done.”
One of the great stories of people supporting people comes from the Northeast Ohio Amish community, where thousands took to sewing medical masks, gowns and boot covers in conjunction with another local company that normally supplies Tyvek construction wrap to the construction community. We’re seeing over and over stories of communities coming together (while maintaining social distancing) to support one another, people using digital technology to remain in touch and neighborhoods and cities working together to support local small businesses. Even though the pandemic has forced us to remain apart, our connections to one another are now more important than ever.
Chris Ronayne is president of University Circle Inc. and chairman of the Canalway Partners board of directors. He is the former Cleveland planning director.