Like most people I am wondering not only when the epidemic will be controlled and eventually gone, but what lasting impact this disease will have on the country, and citizenry besides, of course, the tragic loss of loved ones.
Some sources are reporting that it will hasten the already begun demise of department stores like Macy’s and Kohl’s. Between big box stores and online shopping they were already reeling in loss of sales. Times changed before the pandemic and had been changing for a while.
But, besides hastening the disappearance of our shopping malls and department stores, what else might the pandemic legacy do? What is the impact on the economy? What happens to the credit ratings of those who found themselves jobless and unable to pay their bills? What kind of damage is that going to do to their ability to obtain housing, cars, credit cards. If the usual standards of credit worthiness are applied what is the loss of the commerce from these people denied credit going to do to the economy and, by extension, to everyone? Landlord, car dealerships, credit card companies to name a few.
What will the effect be on the health care system? It became obvious fairly early that we have some serious gaps and need for improvement in our health care. Will we go back to business as usual? Will health care continue to be a privilege tied most often to one’s employment? Will we try to improve our systems and readiness in case of another pandemic or just keep our fingers crossed?
Let’s take a peek at public education. If the school building is closed how do teachers teach and students learn? Distance learning has been touted as the answer, but everyone does not have internet and a computer. Trying to do your lessons from your cell phone is probably a difficult, if not impossible task, and perhaps you do not even have a cell phone. Higher education is in not much better shape. Labs and student teaching are not possible long distance. New strategies for reaction to disasters will have to be formed for all levels of education.
How will we react to the situation of those people whose jobs were considered essential, who had to continue to work and be exposed to large numbers of people in order to keep the wheels of society turning? Not only doctors, nurses, other health care workers, but grocery store clerks and staff, big box store clerks and workers, gas station attendants. We definitely could not have continued even a minimal lifestyle without them, and in some cases people would not have continued to live. Will we have new respect and care for these people, and perhaps pay them better, or will we go back to taking them for granted?
But, perhaps the most interesting challenge will come with the question of inequities exposed by this epidemic. Inequities caused by economic status, race, geographic location and a list of other things. Are we going to continue to make our society unequal where some men can appear in public armed and masked to intimidate others with impunity, where some people can ignore directives to maintain social distancing or wear masks simply because they do not want to, even in a pandemic. Will these things be addressed in the future? We can hope so.
At the moment I begin to wonder if anyone is actually in charge or if we are devolving into anarchy. The common good must be prioritized and enforced, even if we have to invoke the words of Mr. Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”
Live long and prosper.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and guest columnist.