Many of us would like never to hear the words CoronaVirus or CoVid-19 ever again. I’ll be honest and say that, in the midst of all of this doom and gloom, I’d very much like to go back to before this all happened and stop time so that this never happens. Needless lives have been lost and we are all changed because of this disease.
However, since I can’t do that, I’ve got to wonder about how this virus or any other virus by another name, will change American Society, or society the world over. Some of this will be political, some of this economical, and mostly all of it health-related. This virus has touched ever facet of human society and Americans are uniquely suffering for our vaunted individuality.
For perhaps the first time in a long time, divided we conquer is actually the right way to go about it. Social distancing isn’t a new concept but it is one that Americans, so accustomed to physical touch, seem to have a hard time grasping. We’re told in vague terms, how many feet will be a safe distance to stop the virus from spreading from person to person. In reality, any distance within eye-shot is really too close for comfort.
So where does this leave us, a nation of people who are plagued by a public health crisis that see’s no end to the debt and corruption. The politics of the situation are dirty at best, hopeless at worst. In our time of need, many are seeing that some of their government officials aren’t up to the test of saving lives. At the end of the day, no matter what side of the political spectrum you stand on, the hope is to save the lives of the American people.
Unless of course, that hopeless scenario comes true and more and more, it seems as if it might be just as we feared. This virus has heavily politicized the world and in the US we see that the politics of this crisis is killing the American people. Already, we have had twice the number of lives lost to this virus in comparison to 9/11. That fateful singular day changed the lives of all Americans and New Yorkers especially.
Today, and in the future, this event will be published in books, studied in medical journals and talked about with horror and awareness. More than ever, we are aware that the American Health Care system, lead by it’s politics and capitalism, is broken. There are many facets of the American political system up for debate but what is not up for debate is that our current health care system is killing the American people. We are literally dying before we can be approved for coverage during this virus.
All at once, medical insurance providers have seen a massive uptick in the questions they are getting, hospitals and healthcare providers are getting a deluge of calls and hospitals hit capacity way sooner than predicted. That is to say, if predictions are even possible because the most scary of the models being mentioned state that more than a Million, ONE MILLION, lives can be lost to this disease. The best case scenario being even 10% of that is still an unmitigated disaster.
As with the last major society altering event, this disease will change how New Yorkers look at their daily lives. In measures big and small, people will now hopefully be aware of how they can stop spread their germs. Jokes about drinking from mossy public playground fountains aside, this virus has put the fear of death into all of us. There are no easier fixes such as beefing up airport security and increasing background checks. There is no police dog that can detect the virus or cool slogans like “see something say something” because this is not a thing that you can detect with the naked eye. People all over the world will have to take a good hard look at how they live their lives or else we risk a repeat of this virus or any other virus wiping out half of all human life on earth.
So now, we look to the changes that are necessary. The medical community has many varied opinions on how this will change us. Clearly, anyone even caught not washing their hands again will receive a thorough shaming, perhaps rightfully so. Insurance premiums will rise and medical debt will climb into the tens of thousands of dollars for many families. Some of us have lost jobs, cars, homes, loved ones. What insurance does not cover, we have to pay ourselves if we can. That is, if the insurance industry is ever the same again after this year.
The cost resulted in the economic deaths of millions of Americans, many of them applying for unemployment with partial success. Tens of thousands on furloughs or permanently let go from their jobs where they had already lived paycheck to paycheck. Entire whole industries will shift, many hopefully implementing work from home capabilities for employees who didn’t have it this time around or risk continued collapse.
Even still, some industries are built in such a way that human interaction is a 100% necessary requirement. If as predicted, will we see a shift that reduces the already unattractive nature of a front line job? No longer is a job in the restaurant and hospitality business just underpaid, under respected and over working, it is now also a great risk if another virus should strike again. No longer is a job working in a salon or doing make up, already filled with picky customers and long hours on their feet enough, no the closeness risks a perfume of virus along with it. These are skilled workers, who because of a possible decrease in human interaction, have to switch gears and find new jobs.
How will manufacturing change one wonders? As a country, as a society, as a global economy, we rely on China for many of our manufacturing needs. When parts of China were under lockdown, entire supply chains ground to a halt and faced major delays. Will we see a shift away from overseas jobs to bring them back home or will those at the top double down on cheap labor to save themselves. One
One such industry to highlight are those in the fields of medicine, essential services like dining and groceries, and our first-responders. This area truly highlights how necessary and under appreciated our most basic needs are. Underfunded, underpaid, over worked, these are the heroes that are finally getting the praise they deserve. Yet the cost for the awareness of this praise are the human lives lost. Never again, will we forget how important our doctors and nurses are. How necessary our EMT, Fire, Police and other enforcement units are for the safety of all humanity.
On a lighter note, is is my hope that we look at our lives and see who risks more than others in their work and highlight their industries. The bag boy at your grocery store, the barber or stylist at your local salmon, your mail man, deli worker, teacher, customer service rep, automobile dealership, hotel staffer, and countless unnamed others who stayed open in the name of providing a good or service during this time of crisis while many of us hunkered down, afraid for our lives.
Many of us have had anxiety from this and many more still will feel the far reaching affects of prolonged stress under a quarantine environment. Yes people are stuck at home but some of those homes are not always comfortable. Some of those homes are cramped, hazardous-perhaps abusive places to live. Of course, this assumes that you’ve had a home to go to, as there are boundless numbers of homeless or imprisoned people who are at risk of this illness as well. The hope is that we walk away from this with ideas of how to better protect vulnerable populations of people.
The phrase “Many Have Been Affect by This Virus” will now take a new meaning. Where before, Many was considered just more than a few, now the word Many includes every American life. Every human life has been touched by this event in some way or another, in waves of panic, worry, and pain.
The most tragic aspect is that we have lost loved ones without being able to say goodbye in person. Just because video conference technology has gotten better does not negate what it is, a technology. It will never replace the warmth of real human touch and so for hundreds of thousands of families the world over, they have had to watch their loved ones pass onto the next world from the screen of their phone, if they got to watch at all.
We are at war, this killer a silent cough or sneeze. Never before will such a simple exhale of breathe be greeted with such suspicion and outright paranoia. Will we see temperature monitors installed in public spaces soon? Will we see a society of smiling friendly Americans begin to wear masks, greet each other without hand shakes, and cities empty in favor of more wide far reaching pastures? Will neighbors begin reporting on their neighborhood if someone takes ill?
The concept of trusting wide open space, so long under lock and key, may alarm people. The stigma of being Asian and sounding ill may immediately alarm everyone within a 20 foot radius, the news that they are ill spreading like wildfire. The strange turns that people may begin to exhibit, already evident in the spike in those seeking psychological therapy, shows that people will seek comfort and safety during and after this period of darkness.
The times now, they are indeed dark, bleak. We have hope while we endure our suffering but we must learn from these unfortunate lessons. The loss of human lives the world over has untold costs that can never be tallied, never put into any proper framework. If we do not change the way our societies work, we will perish. It may not be this virus, it may be another. It may not be virus at all, but the environment itself that unleashes it’s fury upon us. If we do not take care of the world as a whole, all of it’s people working together, then we are lost to the future.
Perhaps one day, we will have a perspective of this virus that looks beyond the fear and pain, the doubt and the anger. For now, we must endure.
Sincerely, fearfully, hopefully,