Where will you be four months from now? A month ago, I would have been excited to talk about my potential summer travel, however, today, I hesitate to plan for anything more then a few weeks in advance. One of the unfortunate side effects of the coronavirus is the uncertainty. If the virus dies down with the warm weather, then we have a chance to return to normality. However, if strain continues to infect or even becomes more virulent, then there’s no telling the extent of the disruption.
Today, we all received an email from organizational leadership that all non-vital organizational travel was prohibited and all personal travel strongly discouraged. Plans that were scheduled many months in advance have been scrapped in an instant. Questions surrounding expenses, reimbursements, and alternative measures are all being raised without satisfying response. This ban on movement is especially hard when travel is an integral part of your life.
One of my colleagues was due to relocate to Europe this month. She is in a particularly difficult situation because her first accommodation in Europe would be a temporary sublet. However, the current renter only agreed to sublet because of a travel opportunity that would mean a temporary vacancy. Now with travel restrictions and pandemic fears, the renter could choose to stay home, which would collapse my colleague’s plans for accommodation abroad. With all the logistics of an international move on her hands, global panic and an insecure living situation are two especially rotten doses of bad luck.
Unfortunately, it does not seem that the coronavirus will make a sudden exit. There is no vaccine to be released in the near future and no effort to contain the virus has been robust enough to successfully deter its spread. It seems as if things are still on the decline and nothing will get better until it gets much, much, worse.
The two things I fear most about the virus are the extent of the panic it has given way to and the scarcity that may soon follow. I have already seen reports of Asian individuals being physically and emotionally harassed because of the viruses Chinese origins. When people are afraid they tend to act in extremes. We find scapegoats for our fears and are quick to make bulk purchases, self-quarantine, cancel events, and clean excessively. Governments are swiftly declaring states of emergency, cutting off ties to the outside world, and hoarding sanitary products. The more the virus spreads and panic grows, the more dire, frenzied, and fear-driven our responses will become.
The coronavirus is also affecting supply chains worldwide. Factory shutdowns in China have led to dips in oil prices. Fears of infection have led to items like hand sanitizer and face masks to be placed on backorder. With more people ordered to work remotely or stay home altogether, it is reasonable to believe that the availability of products and services could be severely affected. Will restaurants still be operating one month from now? What about the gym, malls, and movie theaters? I imagine grocery stores will need to hold out as long as they can or we would be in a dangerous state of emergency. How long will we be able to rely on banks to hand over cash and the U.S. postal service to faithfully make its rounds? The unofficial motto of the U.S. Postal Service “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” may imply that pandemic is a valid reason to suspend delivery.
Planning for uncertainty is hard. I have chosen to take a dual approach. I am choosing to plan for the best and worst. I will move forward to make my summer arrangements (minus anything that will incur a personal expense), while also stocking up on non-perishables. Times are growing darker, but we must never despair, succumb to our fears, or fail to do our part to contain the virus. Global cooperation is necessary to stop the spread. Every individual bears some responsibility. We must do our best to wash our hands, stay healthy, and limit our contact with others when we feel unwell. Health is a priority and interest of us all, so it is incumbent upon us to do our part to create a safer, healthier world.
I wish you all the best in the uncertainty. I hope you, Dear Reader, continue to wash your hands, make sound judgements in the face of fear, and stay healthy… I really, really do.