We ask local leaders how COVID-19 may change us ... for the better?

Posted: 5:00 AM, Apr 01, 2020
Updated: 2020-04-01 19:56:39-04

CINCINNATI — In the face of a pandemic, when living generations are at their most anxious and vulnerable, it is only natural to search for wisdom in the words of others.

When we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 outbreak, how will these difficult times have changed us? And could those changes be for the better?

WCPO posed these questions to a range of well-known regional figures. Their responses were careful observations of life and how it may be forever different.

Manuel Iris
Cincinnati Poet Laureate

I have the perfect certainty that getting over this crisis will not be easy, but it will pass. We will grow, we will learn from this as a city, as a society, as humans in general.

In a few weeks or months, we will be able to come out of our houses and hug each other. We will want to hug each other: we will reconsider the importance of a hug. We will talk more to our neighbors, and every human will be less of a stranger to all others: We will all have something in common.

After being forced to talk to each other through our phones and computers we will, hopefully, never forget again the value of face-to-face conversations. We will value more the time we spend with others, especially with our elders. Our grandparents will again be the center of our collective memory … we will value wisdom again.

And I hope that we won’t quickly forget everything we will have learned from this experience.

Candace McGraw
CEO, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is as strong and resilient as the community we serve. We have weathered many ups and downs together and will do it again.

In the last two decades at CVG, our team has dealt with the Comair strike, the terror attacks of 9/11, Delta’s dehubbing, and many years of rebuilding the airport business—all of which strengthened our resolve and allowed us to improve all aspects of our business.

No one expected a pandemic in early 2020 to so disrupt our lives, our region, or our world. While the number of passengers at CVG has dwindled in recent weeks, our cargo carriers are busier than ever ensuring our supply chains are running smoothly.

This is what our community and people are all about—determination in the face of adversity and a resolve to emerge with a renewed focus on success. We have been battle-tested; we will meet the challenge head-on; and this community … will figure out a way to be stronger for it.

Louis Langree
Music Director, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

When this difficult situation will be finally over, people will crave the opportunity to be together again.

Music lives in every human being. It is part of us, around us, within us, because it is the expression of life. Of our life. It has the incredible power to heal and the ability to elevate our humanity.

After weeks of isolation we at the Cincinnati Symphony are eager to share the power and the beauty of music together again.

In the meantime, be well, be safe and be strong.

Shakila Ahmad
Emeritus Board Chair, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati

The reflection we are forced to face will lead many to be more mindful of the power of faith, family and community, whether together physically or in spirit.

Those of us in healthcare are already being compelled to leverage telemedicine for everyone’s safety. This must and will be strengthened and grow … to serve more people with less resources, including those in remote, desolate areas of our country to get them the healthcare they deserve.

I see that many, including me, will find a renewed value of family time … and also learn to enjoy the simple things in life together. Just about everyone I am in close touch with feels we will be more self-resilient and better cooks when we come out on the other side.

We must start now by leading with empathy towards our constituents, our sick, our elderly and our own families as we have all experienced something life changing together.

Ryan Mooney-Bullock
Executive Director, Green Umbrella

We are connecting to nature as … a source of respite from the stress of isolation and bad news. I’m hopeful that people are really looking around while they are outside … getting to know the plants and animals around them as spring unfolds. I’m hopeful the connections we are building now to the natural world will get baked into our values as a society.

Farmers are reporting increased sales and some are scaling up to meet the demand. Entrepreneurs are finding ways to get products directly to consumers even when typical farmers markets are not an option. I think this new appreciation for purchasing local will stick with us. We are recognizing that diversified supply chains, whether for medical equipment or food, are necessary to get us through uncertain times.

We are learning what it takes to slow down a global crisis. Slowing climate change also requires sustained effort. I’m thankful that the decline in emissions we are seeing now will help us edge closer to being able to meet the necessary carbon reductions needed to avoid the worst impacts. We can all row together if the consequences are grave enough.

Lewis Kamrass
Senior Rabbi, Isaac M. Wise Temple

Prior to COVID19, ours was an age of deepening individualism when people mistrusted institutions, leaders, science, and religion.

In this sudden and stark reality now faced, isolated and alone, we find ourselves hungering for connectedness and missing all that we took for granted in a life lived with others. I would like to believe that our present hunger for connectedness will not suddenly diminish when we are again permitted to safely return to a life with others.

I would like to believe in a post-COVID 19 world, we will not only venture out of our homes, but also turn from our cocoon of self-interest to celebrate community rather than self, interdependence rather than independence.

And when we do, we will find our hunger for meaning and purpose suddenly nourished, because we will more easily turn to one another. We will be changed. And so perhaps, will we then change our world.

Sister Sally Duffy
Co-Chair, Child Poverty Collaborative

Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. Thankfully we are witnessing leaders in every sector who are revealing character by their integrity, moral courage, self-sacrifice, taking accountability, resilience, their hope and realism, calling us to be our best self through unifying behaviors.

We are witnessing the power of nature and possibly a foretaste of the effects of climate change unless we treat our global home with love, justice and mutual respect.

Right now we are totally dependent on a number of workers who continue to work in the fields, serve as first responders, local reporters, workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, certified nurse assistants … and laundry workers in hospitals. Forty percent of the people in the United States have less than $400 dollars in reserve.

I fill up with tears every time I hear and sing “I am Proud To Be An American” and the National Anthem. We will get through this because the character of our nation will be revealed.

John Morris Russell
Conductor, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra

I’m looking forward to that time in the very near future - a time when we gather together for an event that we might have otherwise taken for granted.

A ballgame. A concert. A performance.

And there we all are, friends and neighbors, as brothers and sisters.

And that special magic that happens when we are all together in one place celebrating our shared humanity.

Karen Bankston
Adjunct Professor, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing

The arrival of COVID19 has changed the very fabric of how we live our daily lives and how we are thinking about our future. I believe that we have an opportunity to re-envision our “next.”

Specifically, do we really need to work 60 hours a week and ignore our families? We have discovered that we can be productive within a “normal” workweek, allowing time for recreation and relaxation. Due to physical distancing, we have reintroduced ourselves to our family, friends and neighbors. These newfound relationships can add to a sense of inclusiveness perhaps, that has been eluding us as a society.

I believe we have learned through the unemployment that was caused through social distancing … that we have created a society that has been designed for a middle class that no longer exists. Our largest industry is the service industry, vital industries such as healthcare along with hospitality, travel and social services.

Given that, we must acknowledge that there is a need to redefine the prioritization of central resources, as well as seriously look at the educational systems (specifically how they are funded) to match the workforce needs going into the future.

David Mann
Cincinnati City Councilman

The pandemic reminds us all just how vulnerable we are as human beings. In this age of virtual reality, modern medicine and the conceit of our species that we are in control, the power of a lowly virus requires us to pay more attention to our planet and how we treat it.

Because we are being reminded afresh just how fragile human life really is, I think we are all looking inward more to our faith and our family. When the current crisis is over, I expect we will continue to think differently about our relatives and about the spiritual side of life.

In Cincinnati, I see tremendous unity with a strong commitment to join together to maintain the fabric of our community. As the virus threat passes, we will take great local pride in the shared commitment we showed among ourselves. We have lived up to our city’s motto – juncta juvant – which means “strength in unity.”

Maybe for the first time I truly understand the impact which the Great Depression and World War II had on my grandparents and parents. They were always very attentive to saving and being careful about spending money. They understood that our world was not necessarily as stable as we might assume.