Is normal — however, “new” — in sight?

It may just be wishful thinking spawned by a month of home confinement, but it seems we’re taking those first baby steps we’ve hoped for over the last six weeks or so.

We might just be ready to turn the corner on this leg of our COVID 19 forced march.  The news about the coronavirus crisis is beginning to trend “good” rather than dire as media reports dribble in that current and former disease hot spots report reduced positive testing and fewer hospital admissions while TV and newspaper stories about recoveries and reunited families increase.

Make no mistake, we’re still in no man’s land when it comes to COVID 19 given how much we still don’t know about the virus’s behavior.  There will be fits and starts, flare ups and burnouts. However, there’s encouraging news on the treatment and prevention fronts, and trusted medicos are beginning to see a very, very dim light at the end of the tunnel.

Science and medical data be damned, the most solid evidence we’re beginning to come up for air is that major media are now running the inevitable “who-knew-what-when” stories, each seeking to place culpability – warranted or not – for the pandemic.   I knew times were a’changin’ this week when Sen. Bernie Sander’s (I, VT) decision to end his run for the White House, that move replacing COVID 19 as the banner headline in the Washington Post.

Congress is socially distancing until after Easter, no doubt feeling good about what it’s accomplished so far.  While I’d like to think it was all about bipartisanship, I can’t escape the pall of the upcoming election. Whatever the motive, Congress quickly cobbled together and enacted – and President Trump just as quickly signed – three major spending packages totaling about $2.5 trillion to aid financially battered individuals and small businesses and foundering major industries, along with much needed economic aid for local and state public and private hospitals and medical services.

It’s guaranteed a fourth round of federal financial aid is on its way later this spring as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) called the first round just “a down payment” on economic repairs. Both parties on Capitol Hill, along with the White House, are arguing not so much over how more should be spent – federal deficits and debt are not much on anyone’s mind these days – but which chunk of the voting public will most greatly benefit from the newest round of federal largesse.

Carve away the pettier carping about federal assistance, the efficiency of applications and how fast that check shows up, and its safe to say agriculture has been generally well taken care of.  After a bumpy start, the feds clarified operations producing livestock, dairy and poultry, along with major/minor and specialty crops — along with their suppliers and customers — are eligible small businesses for generous new federal loan, “payroll protection” and disaster programs, along with reconstructed tax obligations.  The Farm Credit System is wholly engaged.

In addition to routine Farm Bill programs, the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) is still operational and a congressional infusion of cash topping off the Commodity Credit Corp.’s (CCC) emergency borrowing authority guarantees the MFP check-writing tariff war assistance can continue.  There’s a new nearly $10-billion aid program at USDA just for livestock and specialty crop producers.

We’ll now shift into the economic rejuvenation mode and can expect Trump will announce soon a new White House task force charged with creating and implementing a grand plan for getting people back into their offices, restaurants and bars reopened, sports and entertainment back on line, all the steps to get the economy booming, returning a current 10% unemployment rate back below 4% again and allowing the stock and futures markets to crank higher.  Expect fits and starts, fouls and home runs.

Ultimately, it’s not just about the numbers on a government check.  If there’s a silver lining to COVID 19 insanity, it is the bright and bold emergence of our global need and ability to care for each other.  Socially distanced high rise residents joining in balcony choruses, just to feel better; a neighborhood pulling together to celebrate the 100th birthday of someone’s grandmother; children showing adults how simple compassion should be; crowds spontaneously cheering on first-line defenders and care givers; folks traveling across the country to volunteer to help COVID 19 hot spots, or just one neighbor asking another – many for the first time – if there’s something one can do to help the other.

In the mean time, wash your hands, mask up, and go hug your family — then go wash your hands again.

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This story originally appeared on the Voice of Muscatine. Read More local stories here.

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