Sen. Justin Brown’s Legislative Column for March 20, 2020

To Defeat a Virus

What a difference a week or two makes. It wasn’t long ago that many Americans had never heard of a coronavirus. Some of us were aware China was battling an infectious respiratory disease, but the danger seemed a world away. Now, the COVID-19 virus has arrived on our shores and everything has changed. The president declared the virus to be a national emergency on March 13 and the governor followed suite in Missouri the same day.

Coronaviruses have been around a long time, but this one is new. The medical profession is still learning about this new bug and the disease it causes. While symptoms are similar to the flu – fever, headache, sore throat and cough – there are important differences. The COVID-19 virus is thought to be more contagious than the flu strains we normally encounter. It’s also potentially deadlier. Unlike the flu, there is no vaccination or specific treatment for this “novel” coronavirus, which is believed to have mutated from an animal pathogen. The human species is on its own for this one.

Much of what we know about COVID-19 comes from other countries that are just weeks ahead of us in battling the outbreak. Since first appearing in China late last year, the virus has traveled throughout Asia and Europe. Now considered a pandemic, COVID-19 has reached more than 160 countries, with at least 200,000 infections worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Asia and Europe remain the areas most impacted.

The rest of the world watched in wonder as Chinese officials ordered nearly all normal human interaction in affected areas to cease. Residents were told to isolate themselves in their homes to avoid spreading the infection. I believe this draconian approach appears to have worked. The rate of infection in China slowed dramatically. Their temporary hospitals are now closing for lack of patients. In Europe, officials initially responded less decisively to the contagion and the virus spread like a wildfire, quickly overwhelming medical resources there.

Public health officials learned valuable lessons from the experiences of other countries and determined that “social distancing” was the best way to contain the virus. Americans must limit human-to-human transmission, they warned. The emergency declarations by the president and our governor reinforced this strategy. Avoid large public gatherings. Work from home, if possible. Postpone discretionary travel. Stay out of restaurants and bars. Wash your hands. Disinfect commonly-touched surfaces. Shut the virus down!

The approach should be familiar to those of us who have worked in agriculture. We know that when an infectious disease appears in a herd, you must isolate any affected livestock. That’s all we’re doing. We’re separating ourselves to prevent infecting others. Many of us think we’re invincible. We tell ourselves we won’t get sick, and if we do, we’ll get through it. That’s not the point. The precautions we are being asked to take will prevent the spread of disease to others – especially to older Americans and those with compromised immune systems – and keep the numbers of infected people at levels our medical system can manage.

The response in the United States has been swift and comprehensive. Large public gatherings have been suspended. Schools are closed, or have begun conducting classes online. Businesses are shutting their doors and sending employees home to self-isolate. Travel has stopped. The entire economy is taking a time-out. I believe the cost of these measures will be extremely high. I’m sure businesses and employees will suffer. The good news is that the federal government is working on a stimulus package to bring relief. Direct payments to individuals are likely. The state of Missouri has begun the process of qualifying employers for disaster loans through the Small Business Administration. Help is on the way.

The economic solutions will be sorted out quickly. Our focus must be on slowing the virus. We want to avoid a situation where large numbers of people require advanced medical care at the same time. Fighting this virus will require sacrifices on our part. We’ll need to stay home more, and interact with each other less. These precautions are temporary. In time, infected people will recover, and they’ll develop immunity to this coronavirus in the process. Eventually, a vaccine will be developed, tested and made available.  We will get past this.

Each of us can do our part. Educate yourself. Go to the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services ( to learn more about the pandemic and steps you can take to slow the spread of the virus. Those without internet access can call the DHSS 24-hour coronavirus hotline at 877-435-8411 for information. If you experience flu-like symptoms and have reason to believe you’ve come in contact with someone carrying the COVID-19 virus, call the hotline for guidance.

It’s going to be tough, but we can do this. Our grandparents and great-grandparents rose to the challenges of World War II and the scourge of polio. The generations before them survived the Great Depression and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. We’ve been here before. This is our time. We will rise to the occasion.

It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at for more information.