What We Have Learned So Far, by Rich Paschall
While we certainly have not put this long social nightmare behind us, we have learned a lot along the way. These are some of the highlights, or in most cases, lowlights.
Politicians vs. Scientists
For some strange reason, a large percentage of us decided to go with the advice of right-wing politicians rather than that of scientists and doctors. This was likely fueled by a constant stream of misinformation fed to us by various politicians and the occupant of the White House himself. No amount of counterpoint by doctors and scientists would dissuade millions of Americans from believing that the global pandemic was just a hoax, invented to make their favorite orange politician look bad.
News reports of people who were sorry to have attended parties and wound up in a hospital gasping for breath had no effect on those who believed that COVID-19 was a hoax or at least overdramatized. The deaths of celebrities and Republican politicians did not slow down the fervor of disbelief in the words spoken by America’s top doctors. The words of the commander in chief to “Liberate” Michigan led to rebellion against authorities trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Masks and Garbage
Apparently, many people thought it was OK to just toss masks and protective gloves on the ground when leaving a business rather than putting them into a garbage receptacle. This may have been fueled by the dissatisfaction at having to wear these items in the first place. As businesses started enforcing our statewide mask policy, we began to notice more Personal Protective Equipment (aka PPE) being tossed out in the open. This resulted in establishments placing garbage cans outside their businesses and signs asking people not to throw masks and gloves on the ground. When did we become so inconsiderate?
Toilet Paper and Shortages
Remarkably we have learned that many of us are more concerned about having enough toilet paper rather than enough food. In the uncertainty of the early months, we scooped up all the toilet paper we could find. You would have thought people would have gone for dry goods and frozen items to hold them over, but toilet paper was the first thing to disappear from stores. After that, it was a run on Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, and Clorox bleach. A few thought the orange guy might be right, and drinking the stuff would keep away a virus.
Remember all those Peloton commercials? The exercise equipment maker saw a golden opportunity when gyms started closing around the country. They advertised the heck out of their number one product and created a shortage in the process. It took too long for the items to come from Taiwan, so they bought a US manufacturer to make them here!
If you still have your favorite coffee on the shelf, good for you. Many brands are running short. A lack of airlift from coffee-growing countries has put a kink in the supply line. A drought in Brazil, along with a surge in the coronavirus, has slowed the delivery of precious coffee beans. Other shortages have been seen at retails markets.
Zoom, Teams, and Work From Home
If you thought the internet was just for social media and video games, you may have found out firsthand that it is good for work and school as well. When we were told to “Pack Up and Go Home“ we had no idea that it would be an indefinite process. Over a year later, we are still working from home. The internet allowed us to use Teams to chat and share files, including the spreadsheets we use for several processes. Video calls allow us to meet with customers as well as with each other.
Schools learned to hold class remotely, thereby allowing the school year to continue. The downside of this is that many women left the workforce. With young children at home and a lack of daycare workers and babysitters, many families were forced to have a parent at home during the day. If one parent did not lose a job to the pandemic, then one may have been forced to take a leave of absence from the workforce.
If you were not buying a Peloton bike online, you may have been buying many other items. From grocery shopping to clothes to exercise equipment, people were buying more goods via the internet than ever before. The boom in e-commerce meant a boom in other businesses as well. If you could not go to your favorite restaurants, its items may have been coming to you via Uber Eats, Door Dash, or one of several other delivery services that thrived during the pandemic.
Jobs and Unemployment
While many industries were forced to lay off workers they could never call back, other industries could not find workers. The large supermarket chain, Jewel (perhaps Albertson’s where you are) had difficulty filling all its jobs, even when it reduced hours from three shifts to two per day. Certainly in the early months of the pandemic, many were fearful of working in jobs that had close contact with the public. With so many people out of work, you would have thought they could get new employees.
The Death Of Small Business
While large companies got small business bailouts during the Trump Administration, many actual small businesses found they could not get a helping hand. There’s a list of wealthy companies from Republican states that may have been able to survive on their own but got loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. The money was gone before they considered the mom-and-pop shop down the street. Many small businesses could not live through the long shutdown imposed by local governments around the country and are now gone forever.
In our neighborhood, many empty storefronts and vacant lots are the reminders of the Global Pandemic that killed over 580,000 Americans (per the John Hopkins University of Medicine) and countless businesses around the country. Would a faster government response have saved lives and businesses?
See also: “Our Local Business,” The Pandemic Legacy, Sunday Night Blog, rjptalk.wordpress.com, May 9, 2021.