All we have to do to get through this pandemic quickly is stay at home, work from home, and be nice to each other. If everyone did that, we’d be through this in a month or so because the virus wouldn’t be able to find new hosts to spread to. As easy as that sounds, staying at home is a lot harder than anyone ever thought. Props to the stay-at-home parents and sedentary retirees.
But what’s going to happen after we get through this? Is it going to be business as usual, and by usual, we’re looking at business as it was done before the environment was protected since the protections were rolled back while we weren’t paying attention? Are we just going to go back to the same habits and systems that got us to where we couldn’t protect ourselves from a virus in the first place? Where states and the federal government are fighting over medical stockpiles and which entity they belong to? Where the most vulnerable are still vulnerable, economically and medically? Maybe, but they don’t have to go back, and some things won’t be able to go back. We can choose a direction.
Making a Habit
It’s been said that it takes four weeks to make a habit. After four or more weeks of staying at home, people will have gotten used to the convenience of having things delivered. Ordering from the Internet for everything will become the new norm. It’s going to take a lot to get people to come out of their homes and get them into restaurants and other businesses, especially if there’s any lingering fear of the infection. People from the Great Depression era had a tough time throwing things out and severely rationed for much of their lives even when the economy was booming. The economy will no longer be driven by brick-and-mortar profits but by Internet profits, including website monetization, video commercials, and sales.
Even if the U.S. Postal Service stops working in June (as its budget projections show it may), Amazon (affiliate link) will have its fleet of contractors. UPS and Fed-Ex will likely be around. Your local restaurants and other businesses will probably have delivery in place. In some places, cab drivers will become more than just a mode of personal conveyance.
People will support the arts through page views, Patreon and other sites as they realize the value that arts have to everyday life. They will have read more books, binged more movies, and surfed the Internet looking for more ways to entertain their children at home. Entertainment springs from the arts, and a more aware citizenry may be willing to fund their favorite creators.
Human nature will likely trump habits at least for a time. Within the first couple of weeks after restrictions are lifted, people are going to go out more than ever. The deciding factors that will temper this urge to hit the restaurants and theaters are the actual amount of discretionary income everyone has, what the weather is like, and what kind of job advertisers have done to stoke the desires of those experiencing cabin fever.
The first few movie weekends, for those movie theaters that are still around, are going to be huge. As long as people have confidence that they won’t be getting ill for going out, they’ll likely show up in droves. Chances are that these movie-goers will still be wearing masks, which could put a damper on concession sales and movie theater profits. The same could be said of sporting events and concerts. The only question will be whether or not movie companies have figured out how to capitalize on Internet releases. Hollywood, i.e. Disney, may be willing to forgo releasing movies to the theaters if they can get more people to subscribe to Disney+ or to pay for premieres in their own home.
Restaurants will fill up as people look to get away from doing the dishes and worrying about what to make. Malls will see an increase in mall-goers, if not actual consumers, especially if the weather is bad. While city parks may have been widely used, their use will sky-rocket as everyone has already created the habit and can now congregate in larger groups.
Finances and Politics
Financial pressures are going to be problematic. People who have put off their bills for a month or two and find them coming due just because the situation has been declared safe may face a mountain of debt they can’t overcome. Paying one month of rent is hard enough. If they are required to pay two months at a time to cover back rent, the country will be looking at a lot of people becoming homeless. Bankruptcies will increase. Homes will get foreclosed. The problems most associated with financial issues, alcoholism, suicides, and domestic violence will also increase.
A president may see the best way to relieve these problems is to convert the economy by starting a war. This could come from the outside where other countries are seeing the U.S. response to the virus as weak and untenable. They may think that the U.S. won’t recover from the damage that this virus and other policies have done to the country, and in its weakened state, is ripe for an invasion.
Many are already comparing the U.S. to a third world country. It won’t take much to convince the president of a former world power and now third world country to go to war. War brought us out of the Great Depression, it could cure our economic problems again.
As Americans get back on the roads, commuting to their jobs or heading to take a break from their immediate area, gas prices will increase. This will further depress the economic growth of the country and create a target in the Middle East for a war to free their peoples (and liberate their oil in the process).
No End Game
There is a possibility that there is no other side. As people, states, and the federal government refuse to put into place the necessary restrictions to eliminate the virus, the infection rate will continue to grow until everyone has been exposed. Companies will have to figure out how to replace ill employees. Funeral parlors will be a booming business, and old people will continue to be at greatest risk for infection and death due to the infection.
At some point, we’ll have to figure out how to continue, what an acceptable mortality rate is, and who will pay for the treatment for those who are hospitalized due to coronavirus. We could figure out a new way to do things to minimize the possibility of death and disease, or we could throw up our hands, as some pundits and pseudo-news people already have, and say, “F… it! We failed. I never really liked my grandparents or parents anyway, and since they’ve retired, they’ve been nothing but a drag on the economy.” In doing so, we may sign our own death warrants as the virus mutates.
We Make the Choice
The point is, we get to choose what happens at the end of this, but only if we make conscious choices to change for the better. Now is the time to think about what you want for the future and to start putting it in motion. Going back to the way things were isn’t an option, just like it was never an option after Sept. 11. If you want things to get better, you can’t cross your fingers and hope for good luck. You need to be the initiator of that change, large or small, for you, your family, the country, and the world.
If you choose not to direct the change, you’ll have to deal with whatever someone else creates to fill the voids. If you know what you want the future to look like and have some starting steps to get there, leave your suggestions in the comments.