Every cloud has a silver lining, goes the saying. Can we say the same for pandemics?
Maybe. I’ll explain why in a second.
First, I must apologize to loyal readers for keeping Connecting the Dots on hiatus since July. My family and I are all safe. I just needed some time to work on other projects.
And, to be candid, writing about the pandemic and recession every week wasn’t helping my mood. Between The Corona Depression Is Here (June 23) and Will America Accept the Worst? (July 21), I didn’t have a lot of good news to report.
Sadly, subsequent events proved my outlook mostly correct. Winter will probably be tough. But there is a bright side… if you know where to look.
Reasons for Hope
COVID-19 has been catastrophic. More than a million people are dead worldwide, and the US has more cases and more deaths than any other country.
Nor is the catastrophe over. We are still several months (at best) away from having an effective vaccine and another wave seems to be building. With people staying inside for winter, the virus could spread faster. And as long as it is, the economy can’t recover.
Without minimizing any of this, I think we should also acknowledge some good things that are happening. Here are seven examples.
While no one is “safe” from the coronavirus, some people are more vulnerable. We know it is more serious for the elderly and people with conditions like obesity, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and others.
Some of these are uncontrollable but others respond to behavioral changes. Knowing the healthcare system might not be able to help them has inspired many to get more exercise, lose weight, etc.
This helps both those individuals and the economy. A healthy labor force boosts economic growth.
Access to Healthcare
“Lockdown” critics say, correctly, that virus restrictions prevent some people from receiving necessary medical care. We know cancer diagnoses are down, for instance. That’s not because cancer has disappeared; it’s because fewer people are getting mammograms, prostate checks, and other tests.
The odd part, though, is many of these lockdown critics are the same people whom a year ago wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which helped millions of people get that kind of care. But now, they’re suddenly very concerned when people lose access. This might affect public opinion and lead to better healthcare policies that help the economy.
We all know the drill now: Wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands. These simple steps help public health in general, beyond the coronavirus. They may reduce this year’s seasonal flu cases.
If these new habits stick, they should help keep us all healthier long after this pandemic is over. That’s important because we should expect more viruses like this one.
In Asia, it’s long been common to wear a mask when you feel ill, as a courtesy to others. Maybe Westerners will adopt that habit.
The pandemic struck businesses hard, especially those requiring personal contact: restaurants, bars, hotels, retailers, airlines. Thousands of small businesses won’t survive.
At the same time, the situation motivated some business owners to evolve for the new reality. The transition will often be brutal, but they will be in a better place when it’s over—and hopefully provide jobs for the millions who will need them.
(I have a little personal experience with this, via the small business I own with my wife. You can read about it here.)
In the US we used to have a dog and cat surplus. Not anymore. Pet adoptions soared starting last March as people stuck at home sought furry companionship. Now once-overloaded shelters have extra room.
Many studies show pet owners are healthier and happier, with fewer medical problems. As someone who works from home with dogs and cats never far away, I know my pets make me more productive. More people doing this should help GDP growth.
Giving It Up
Middle-aged Americans grew up hearing how the country pulled together in the Great Depression and World War II. People endured hardships because they wanted to help each other.
Today we have a smaller version of that. Yes, a small and vocal group refuses to wear masks or otherwise cooperate. But most, having seen the necessity, are doing their part.
Some are doing more. Many have given up enjoyable activities to protect vulnerable family members. Others, upon noticing possible COVID-19 symptoms, have isolated themselves at significant personal cost, because they wanted to protect others.
These sacrifices, while usually minor, show most Americans know we are in this together, and we’ll only get out of it together.
Source: Corinne Perkins
There was concern earlier this year that virus fears might depress voter turnout. In fact, the opposite is happening as people show up for early voting in record numbers. Reports from around the country suggest it has been safe and orderly, though often slow.
Obviously we don’t yet know how these people are voting. But they are going to the polls despite personal risk, long lines, and potentially unpleasant encounters with the opposition. It means they care. They want to help. That’s encouraging.
We will get through this.
See you at the top,