COVID-19 Reflecting on “Stay at Home” 3 weeks out.

NOTE: This is 10th in a series on Coronavirus, all in March 2020.  For the others, go to Archive, for March, 2020.  Check back for later commentaries on this and other topics.

Thursday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had this front page graphic under a banner headline “Stay at Home”.  (I don’t feel guilty stealing the illustrations – I attribute the source.  Also, I’m (we are) a daily/Sunday subscriber to the STrib for many years.  I’ve paid my dues, or so I reason.)

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by the post office, and a young man preceded me in.  He was wearing gloves and a mask – not a crook.  Otherwise he appeared very healthy.  He’s been an unusual sight in my town.  I look at the graphic above: basically I’ve behaved consistent with the recommendations.  The only short term decision on the “what’s closed?” list will be a mutual one between myself and  barber – long retired who works out of his home for a few of us long-time customers.

In my opinion, the recommendations are very reasonable.  They have caused me no personal hardship, but they surely require a change in habit!  The financial and risk dimension for employees of closed businesses, etc. is another story, completely.  But these instructions are about health, and without health there is no consumption.

I’m about a month from 80, and thus too old to be constructively engaged in a physically active way, and in the prime at-risk group. frustrating realities.  I follow this crisis (and it is a crisis) carefully, and I offer a few personal observations in addition to the above.  My list is only a short list; mine could be much longer.

  1.  The people on the front lines, particularly in the medical profession in any capacity are the heroes for all of us.   And, the victims are not only those who are exposed to the disease, but those who were people like the young people and others on the front line as the baristas at my now-empty coffee place, and all employees at our favorite restaurants, etc.  And yes, the businessmen and women, particularly small and local. These folks are the ‘face’ of business for lots of people like myself.  I keep thinking about how I can help them after a semblance of normal reappears, though that will have to be deferred.
  2. This crisis points out once again that you cannot prepare for a crisis after it has begun – you have to do pre-planning, and then respond immediately.  We didn’t.  There was too much talk of ‘hoax’, and blaming someone else for starting the pandemic.  It wasn’t productive.  The old instruction applies: when the accident is happening, it is too late to fasten your seatbelt.
  3. The federal government is always a favorite whipping post.  But a main purpose of States being United is the reasonable access to central coordination, as opposed to one state doing this, another doing that.  Pandemics don’t respect boundaries, we certainly are learning that again.  We had a bottleneck at the very beginning of this crisis, and we’re paying the price now for that.  Preparedness involves sacrifice before the crisis begins.
  4. Shortly, we’re going to get a gigantic financial handout, or that is how it will be perceived and sold.  The federal government aid is essential and I support it completely, as I did in 2009 after our near national catastrophe.  But people need to look at this handout as each one of us taking out a loan for which the bill must be repaid, either in fact, or through future reductions in services we took for granted.  IN THIS COUNTRY, WE ARE THIS “GOVERNMENT”.  There is no free money, and while it is extremely convenient to offer it prior to an election, it can bite us all in the end.
  5. We have an opportunity during and after this catastrophe to reprioritize our lives and the life of our country.  In too many ways we have been convinced to live our lives to facilitate profits for capitalism; where the well-being of our planet and our neighbors who live on it should be our focus.  Our country, with about 5% of the world’s population, has about 25% of the total money wealth of the planet.  Within our country there is a far worse inequity in wealth between the rich and the rest.  Within our own country, Paul Wellstone’s adage always has rung true: “We all do better when we all do better.” We have, and have had,  a collective responsibility much greater than a right.  “God” (or Capitalism) didn’t “bless America“.  That’s my ideological statement.

I could go on at much greater length.  Your thoughts?

POSTNOTE: Today’s Washington Post.  The U.S. is Still Exceptional by Fareed Zakaria

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