We only learned in the last century and a half that germs cause infections. What seems essential today wasn’t always so. One hundred and fifty years ago, Vienna, Austria, was a center of culture and learning, but its hospitals were primitive and filthy, especially by today’s standards. All hospitals then had squalid conditions; Vienna’s General Hospital was no different. Making matters worse, no one washed their hands or wore clean gloves when examining patients.


Vienna General had two obstetric wards, one overseen by male medical students, the other by midwives. Puerperal fever deaths were three times higher in the ward tended by students. At the time, people blamed men rough-handling their patients. After a student developed symptoms similar to puerperal fever, a light went off in a young doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis’ head. He mandated handwashing, and immediately, fatalities dropped.


Maybe a silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic is we can change our view of how the world and our local economy work. But it took several decades before Semmelweis’ ideas about cleanliness took hold; people are reluctant to change.


For years it has been evident, a tourist-based economy strains infrastructure; now, it could be deadly. Ahh, for the days when only busy roads were our major complaint, but we don’t have the appropriate medical infrastructure either. One is a hassle, the other, much worse.


Maybe the "C" generation, kids who missed school due to the COVID-19 outbreak, will study epidemiology and find a better way to deal with pandemics. Standard dogma is "just in time" delivery of goods is more efficient and helps maximize profits, but it depends on a dependable supply chain. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link; no MBA required. A single bottleneck in a worldwide supply chain causes dislocations around the globe.


After 9/11, we instituted the TSA and other security control measures. In response to COVID-19, sufficient medical supplies are essential, either homegrown or sufficiently cached for emergencies. We have to stop being the country of dumb. A pandemic response team, not a bunch of sycophants, is essential. Testing took much too long here compared to tiny South Korea. Let’s look at what we did wrong and improve. There is no justification for the world’s wealthiest nation to be unable to test as adequately as South Korea. One explanation is South Korea has been under threat for its entire existence, but it is a good policy nonetheless.


Regarding medical care in the United States, we are paying for filet mignon but getting a couple of Whataburgers. Something is amiss when you spend as we do on healthcare, but have South Korea beat you. It’s like losing to Vandy. We will get through this crisis. I don’t know when, but we will. When we get to the other side, let’s review what went wrong and make improvements.


You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.