Published online by the Lansing State Journal April 13, 2020
Speaking on the “CBS Evening News” recently, Surgeon General Jerome Adams made a point that deserves repeating:
“You’re not going to treat your way out of this problem; you’re not going to supply or ventilate your way out of this problem,” he said. “The way we get out of this problem is by lowering demand. It’s by good, old-fashioned public health. I don’t want people to take their eyes off the fact that the most important thing right now is mitigation and social distancing and good hygiene.”
The surgeon general is absolutely right, as are many other experts providing similar advice. Because even with our society’s vast capacity to respond medically and technologically — capabilities possessed in depth by leading research universities such as Michigan State — sometimes human behavior changes are a critically important part of the cure.
As an M.D. who specialized in infectious disease research and an administrator responsible for tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff, I can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining social distancing. By that we mean physical distancing, keeping at least 6 feet away from other people. This basic action and sheltering in place, maintaining strict hand-washing and wearing cloth masks when going out — particularly if there is a possibility of closer contact with people — are all key components of what we all must do in this phase of the epidemic.
Michigan is among the nation’s hardest-pressed states, and I fully support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension last week of her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order through the end of the month. The novel coronavirus is insidious and indiscriminate, yet we see especially severe consequences, here as elsewhere, among urban communities and among persons with health conditions or inadequate access to health care. It is for ourselves and our families — but also for our most vulnerable residents and our front-line health care and other essential workers — that we must maintain our distance and good hygiene practices.
I’m proud of how MSU is responding to the crisis, including how students, faculty and staff are working together in virtual environments and the dedication of employees maintaining the safety and essential operations of our campus.
Michigan State is also fully engaged in supporting our Michigan communities. Spartans are donating, manufacturing and devising ingenious ways to reuse disposable personal protective equipment for community health care workers. Our clinicians are offering free testing; graduating doctors and nurses are rushing into the health care workforce; and researchers are turning their skills toward decoding the virus and developing treatments we hope can finally end its menace. I encourage you to learn the scope of Michigan State’s ongoing response by exploring msu.edu/coronavirus.
Thanks to timely decisions by leaders and compassionate actions by our residents, this state appears to be responding well to the challenge, perhaps the greatest of our lifetimes. So please keep it up, Michigan. In a struggle against an unseen, imperfectly understood and too-often deadly pathogen, we need to press that advantage with every bit of discipline we can muster for as long as it takes. The Spartans I know will.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., is president of Michigan State University