Guest Columnist

A time to reflect on resiliency and community strength

The Cedar River Trail near Czech Village in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
The Cedar River Trail near Czech Village in Cedar Rapids on Monday, Dec. 23, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

As a relatively new citizen of this community, and as a former emergency preparedness educator, I think it is important for us to be community strong and to, once again, show our resiliency of strength and determination together.

We in Cedar Rapids have experienced serious natural disasters in the past, most recently the 2008 flood. COVID-19 is a medical disaster; one that affects the entire world. Our global society has not experienced a disaster of this scope since 1918. Even then, the Spanish Flu was the most devastating pandemic ever recorded, killing an estimated 50 to 100 million people globally, including 675,000 people in the United States.

We can draw many similarities to the pandemic of 1918, but I would like to focus on the dissimilarities and remind everyone that modern medicine and research from around the world has come a long way in the last 100 years.

The 1918 flu killed very quickly following onset. Research shows that people woke up feeling sick and died on their way to work. Another important factor is that the historical timing of the flu of 1918 was very different. The flu coincided with World War I, which helped the disease quickly spread among with mobilized troops from place to place.

There was no social media to disseminate information about the spread and impact, so travel restrictions were late in coming. The early and ongoing travel warnings enacted because of COVID-19 are good and must be enforced and respected by everyone.

With advances in society, travel, socialization and frequent gatherings for sports and cultural events are a significant part of our lives in the 21st century. Now, we are asked to stay in our homes and protect ourselves from the spread of a virus mutation we are not completely knowledgeable of.

Viruses and their mutated descendants have been around for centuries and always will be. We must turn our worry and concern into compliance and prevention, not panic.

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I know it is a difficult time for everyone. We must support each other through our compliance, which will result in early results so that we can go back to a new state of normalcy for our families, our communities, our global society and ourselves. We are determined to beat this together.

We are “Cedar Rapids Strong” in our support of each other. Our incredible community and region are shining spots on the Iowa map. We will return to a new community in one or two months, and I hope and pray that our prevention, patience, compliance, resilience, determination and community teamwork will again result in a stronger, perhaps even better, community for the future.

Dr. Cecilia Rokusek is the President and CEO of the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Prior to joining the museum in 2018, Rokusek was the program manager for Nova Southeastern University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Institute for Disaster and Emergency Preparedness in Florida, and a professor in the college’s disaster and emergency preparedness master of science degree program, which she helped establish.

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