Iowa's strength during coronavirus: Neighbors helping neighbors
In recent weeks, the news has been grim. Mandatory shutdowns have closed off vast swaths of the nation’s economy, leaving many people at home to worry about their next paycheck and whether they will be able to pay their bills. People are being encouraged to wear masks in public because of the threat of infection that even routine tasks like going to the local grocery store may carry. Agricultural producers are seeing their livelihoods threatened as market disruptions exacerbated by this global pandemic increasingly threaten their ability to successfully run their operations.
But there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. Not all of the news has been bad. On the national level, President Trump and Vice President Pence have been earning terrific reviews for their handling of this crisis, with the president’s daily briefings becoming “must see TV.” The openness and transparency of the Trump administration’s actions has been a refreshing display of leadership, and it has restored public confidence. Even the financial markets, once bloodied and battered, appear to have steadied and are now reclaiming some of their earlier losses.
I mention this because it is important that we focus on the good as well as the bad, that we take stock of the silver linings that accompany each dark cloud. We must not succumb to pessimism and despair as our strength lies in the hope that accompanies renewal. Certainly, that is a lesson that is appropriate for the Easter season.
To that end, I want to talk with you about some of the things I have been paying attention to throughout the 4th District. We have many “good news” stories of everyday Iowans making major contributions to the national effort to defeat the “invisible enemy” of COVID-19. These stories deserve your attention, and I encourage you to share them. They are a vivid reminder that adversity often reveals our greatest strengths.
For example, in Ames, the students at Iowa State University displayed an incredible amount of ingenuity. They realized that there was a shortage in Iowa hospitals of important protective equipment, and they resolved to do something to help. To this end, they began to utilize the university’s 3D printers in the Computation and Construction Lab to manufacture face shields that they could provide to our health care workers on the front lines. In all, they hope to produce 2,000 such shields. Three cheers for the innovative students at Iowa State.
In Hartley, we saw an example of an ethanol plant retooling its operations so that it could use its resources to produce hand sanitizer. The plant, owned by Valero, was granted approval from the Food and Drug Administration to do this, and they are making the hand sanitizer available to hospitals and to first responders. There are additional ethanol plants in the district on the cusp of receiving FDA approval to do this as well. In Wall Lake, a local biodiesel plant is supplying glycerin for hand sanitizer production, too. These are exemplary examples of civic-minded Iowans working together to fill the nation’s most pressing needs.
And in Sioux City, The Sioux City Journal recently featured an article profiling a local dress maker named Joi Mahon who is using her resources to make handmade masks. Mahon, a graduate of Iowa State, is making these masks in partnership with UnityPoint Health, and members of the community are stopping by her storefront to drop off necessary materials like fabric and elastic bands. Thank you, Joi, and thank you to all who are supporting her efforts.
There are many more of these kinds of uplifting stories I could cite. The constant theme is that each story reveals a fundamental truth: a core Iowa strength is that our people have never forgotten the importance of neighbors coming together to lend our unique talents to help neighbors get through hard times. Often, we can take this responsibility for granted. But in times like these, it always comes to the forefront, and Iowans are all the better for it.
As long as we remember to do this, we will come through this public health crisis and emerge from it stronger than we were before. I salute all the good work that is being done in our local communities and I thank everyone who is doing their part to contribute to our nation’s recovery.
Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King represents Iowa's 4th Congressional District.
This op-ed originally appeared in The Sioux City Journal on 4/14/2020. Linked: here.