Coronavirus: A Time To Give Thanks

By on March 20th, 2020

We are all in this together. Here in the Mitten State and across America, the times they are a changing.

Coronavirus became front and center of everyone’s life last week.

With Tom Hanks and his wife being diagnosed with coronavirus and collegiate and professional sports being shut down in an attempt to contain the virus people across the country are beginning to pay more attention. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the coronavirus as a global pandemic. President Trump has declared a national emergency and Governor Whitmer and legislative leaders have shown leadership in the thoughtful actions they have taken to date to help contain the virus from spreading and protecting our collective public health.

As someone who has been connected to China in some form or fashion for nearly 4 decades and spent a good part of the past two years living and working in China, the coronavirus has been at the forefront of my consciousness since early January. I have watched as colleagues and friends has dealt with self quarantine and isolation as China was virtually shut down. They are just now cautiously beginning to return to normal as Starbucks and Apple Stores slowly reopen, people return to work and a sense of normalcy returns.

Tom Watkins – CHINA US Focus

We should be looking at ways to engage China and as the top two superpowers find ways to work together to benefit the people of China, America and all humanity.

Crisis as Opportunity: Occupandi Temporis

We are just in the first week of adapting to the new normal of learning new words and terminology (novel-coronavirus, Covid-19, social distancing, pandemic, self-quarantine, cordon sanitaire, community spreadto name a few) and adjusting to school closures, social and sports venues shutting down and life changing around us.

The spread of Covid-19 poses serious challenges to us all and should reinforce the fact that we are all in this world together. Our health and welfare is literally dependent not on just what our government does to keep us safe, what we and our families do, but what others do (or don’t do) as well.

Schools and universities are closing around the globe and here at home because of the coronavirus.

As cases of coronavirus disease continue to be identified in an effort to stem its spread has resulted in three hundred million students no longer attending a “physical school”. According to the United Nations, 22 countries on three continents have closed schools because of the virus.

There is much talk about universities and schools using offer e-learning/online learning to fill the void.


I know a bit about blended and e-learning having written an internationally recognized report on the topic while serving as the assistant to the President at Wayne State University at serving as Michigan’s state superintendent of schools:  The New Education (R)evolution: Exploring E-Learning Reforms for Michigan

Parents and students are panicking and wondering how they are going to keep up with their studies. There is a way. With technology, learning has become ubiquitous. Education is no longer confined to the 6 hour school day, the 4 walls of a school building or a classroom or the two bindings of a book- eLearning.

It is vitally important during these crisis times that our young people understand are all working together to keep them safe.

Governor Whitmer activated the State Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the state’s response to the coronavirus.,9309,7-387-90487-520509–,00.html

Governor Whitmer has issued an executive order to cancel school and all events or assemblages in shared spaces over 250 people until April 5th. Certain assemblages are exempt, such as those for the purposes of: industrial or manufacturing work, mass transit, or the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.,%20Governor%20Whitmer%20Emergency%20order,%20mass%20assemblages%20and%20schools.pdf

These decision were not taken lightly and were made with the public health and safety of all Michigan residents in mind.

Give Thanks

Some accolades are warranted at this point:

  • The Governor Whitmer’s leadership to date on this issue has been exemplary.
  • Great to see minimal partisan bickering between the governor and legislative leadership as they confront these issues. We should hope this demeanor continues as legislative and budget responses are necessary to protect and help citizens severely impacted by this crisis.
  • Educators step up, keeping the focus on teaching and learning as they adjust to a new normal of unplanned school closures. Educators are leading during this crisis. The great educators across Michigan and America are showing once again that our public schools are the true Statue of Liberty of this great country of ours – and our exceptional teachers are the torch lighting the way for us all!
  • Our schools mirror our communities and provide more than nutrition for the mind but also for the belly. Poor children at risk of missing out on their most nutritious meal of their day. Yet education leaders at the local and state level have sprung into action to assure no child will go hungry during the schools shut down. The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) requested and received a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to serve meals under the Unanticipated School Closure provision of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The waiver allows providers of school meals to serve meals without having to keep children together and on-site.
  • Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti understands our students can’t learn while hungry and has gone to extraordinary efforts to assure Detroit’s children receive nutritious meals during the school closure. Students will be able to pick up breakfast and/or lunch from select buildings during the morning and afternoon Monday through Friday, Students won’t eat at the buildings, but they can pick up food. Under his leadership the district will also deliver meals to medically fragile students at their homes.

  • Media. Far from the “enemy of the people”, or “fake news” the free press is a vital part of our democracy and a beacon of truth, facts and transparency every day, shining like a spotlight during a crisis. Keeping truth, facts and science in the forefront of your reporting is a godsend. For your service, you are collectively deserving of the national medal of freedom.
  • We owe a big thank you to the wonderful counter clerks and staff stocking shelves at supermarkets and pharmacies. Seldom are these people paid high wages, or have great health care plans, 401ks or pension plans. Yet, they are there for us. Their dedication and hard work, often at risk to their own health, is vital to the health and safety of our communities and nation. Thank you!
  • Nurses aides, janitorial staff, phlebotomists, doctors, nurses, all those working in the health profession and at our health centers we owe you a debt of gratitude. You are running towards the virus as we all run away.
  • First responders, as always are on the frontlines keeping us safe. Much appreciated.
  • Restaurant servers and others in the hospitality industry which are the tip of the spear being hurt economically by the social distancing and self quarantine taking place. Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation aimed at mitigating the economic impact of the coronavirus by providing financial assistance to people impacted by the pandemic. The measure includes provisions that would ensure that workers can take paid sick or family leave, bolster unemployment insurance, and guarantee that all Americans can get free diagnostic testing for the coronavirus. President Trump promised he would sign the bill into law.

These individuals and organizations deserve our thanks. There are many more and I encourage you to share the unsung heroes you are encountering in the comment section below.

Keep Track of the Cracks

  • I encourage the governor and her team to make a note and keep a record of the holes we notice in the social safety net and inequities in our society and schools that are being exposed by the coronavirus. They are enormous.
  • We have far too many working poor in this state that are a paycheck away from going under. We should have paid sick leave for every working person. As we are seeing, coming to work sick, because your can’t afford to stay home can have deadly consequences for us all.
  • Many more Michiganders have health insurance because of Obamacare or Healthy Michigan, yet high co-pays are barriers to access to care.
  • Learning does not need to end simply because your school was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet we have great inequities in our schools that mirror our society and far too many of our students don’t have access to technology in their homes and many parts of rural Michigan don’t have access to broadband.
  • Our seniors are vulnerable and in many cases lonely. What can we do to improve their quality of life and protect them?

We will get through this crisis together. It is important that when we do, we take the time to reflect on what we have learned and what we need to do to be stronger as a family, state and nation as the 21st century unfolds.

Now that your done reading this- go wash your hands with soap and water (sing the happy birthday song twice while you are doing it) and clean that dirty computer keyboard or phone while you are at it.

As a community we can and will beat this virus and be healthier as a state and nation as a result.

Helpful Information:

State of Michigan-

State of Michigan COVID-19 hotline. Public health experts will answer health-related questions about the virus and direct residents and providers to the right resources.

The hotline will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136.

US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization (WHO)

Track The Global Spread of Coronavirus in Real Time

Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19

Learning Resources: Coronavirus Resources: Teaching, Learning and Thinking Critically

Michigan Virtual

Accredited On-line/eLearning School

WAY American School

Learning Community- information for educators, teachers, parents and students — learning need not end simply because schools are closed. Engage and share ideas.

Tom Watkins

Tom Watkins has an eclectic career in both the public and private sectors. He served the citizens of Michigan as state superintendent of schools and director of the department of mental health. He has held leadership positions in higher education, business and behavioral health. Watkins has a interest and passion in all things China and has written hundreds of article on the value of this most important bilateral relationship in the world today.

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Clinton Galloway
Clinton Galloway

Thanks Tom! You have done an incredible job of nailing the important lessons we are learning from the emergence of those little rascals we have named “novel corona viruses”. Perhaps we should add them to our list when expressing our gratitude. Who would have thought a year ago that a gang of little guys we can’t even see with the naked eye would be able to interrupt our divisive partisan bickering and begin to bring us together! Gives us a heap of stuff to ponder as we take refuge in our foxholes.

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