How are you doing in the midst of the pandemic? This is just a friendly check in. My sense from the news (simply put) is that people are becoming more restless and desperate, which is causing tension especially in politics. At the time of this writing, the Georgia Governor has sanctioned businesses such as gyms, salons, and bowling alleys to resume some operations on Friday, April 24, and theaters, social clubs, and restaurant dine-in services on Monday, April 27. Just as expected, the lifting of strict social-distancing policies in Georgia is being met with considerable resistance. Without making commentary on whether this move is “right,” I think it would be interesting to consider it a little more closely.
What is it?
According to the governor’s office, some service-sector business will be able to re-open this week granted minimum basic operation standards are followed, which “include but are not limited to screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhancing workplace sanitation, wearing masks and gloves, separating workplaces by six feet, teleworking if possible and staggered shifts.”
What are potential consequences of this law?
- The Good:
- Businesses can begin making money again. 26 million people (!!) filed for unemployment in the last five weeks. Millions are unable to pay their rent and are struggling in the economic downturn. A return to some business activity can help mitigate profound losses that many are facing.
- People are happier when they have opportunities to socialize. Sadness, loneliness, and anxiety are unfortunate side effects of this crisis. Opening businesses that encourage socialization like restaurants and bowling alleys could help alleviate some pent-up stress.
- The Bad:
- It’s too soon. We’ve all heard about flattening the curve. A flatter curve means that many people will contract the virus, but they will not contract it all at once and overload the healthcare system, therefore infection spans over a longer period of time. This slower rate of infection means that social-distancing policies are working, but they need to be in place for a while. Re-opening business now will have the unintended consequence of putting people in close contact. For example, if restaurant patrons bump into each other on public transportation or closely pass by on the streets, then the safety measures are rendered useless. So, while the curve is still…curvey…perhaps, opening the economy now is premature.
- The Ugly:
- “Letting a minority suffer so that the majority may benefit.” This is known as utilitarianism. When service-industry businesses like restaurants and salons push their low-wage employees back to their posts, these workers and their families stand a much higher risk of infection. Minorities, the elderly, and the poor have been hardest hit by COVID-19. With pressure to make money and loosen regulations, opening the economy becomes a political, socio-economic, ethical, and moral issue.
Who is in favor of re-opening?
- Governor of Georgia
- Some businesses
- Healthy Americans who prioritize liberty to eat out, get haircuts, work
Who is against re-opening?
- Trump administration (as of 4/22/2020)
- Healthcare workers
- People affected by COVID-19
- Healthy Americans who prioritize flattening the curve
What does this all mean?
The policies in Georgia show a divide between state and federal policy. Will the United States be able to coordinate legislation to slow the spread of infection? The case of Georgia shows that crisis does not automatically spur cooperation. My prediction is that Georgia will be seen as a testing ground. If Georgia can show us that we can do business without increasing the rate of infection, then, perhaps, that is exactly what other states will decide to do. If the situation becomes drastically worse in Georgia, then, perhaps, pressure from the federal government could be imposed to control the situation.
Unfortunately, Dear Reader, so many bad things are happening at the same time. People and businesses are becoming more and more financially insecure. We as individuals and as a society are becoming restless of the situation. We all want change, yet, people young and old continue to die and many more have to deal with the consequences.
Policies are important, however, we as individuals play the greatest role. Wherever you are, Dear Reader, I hope you will continue to take necessary precautions like washing your hands (yes, still for 20 seconds) and keeping your distance from others. We as people wield so much power to shape this crisis. If we continue to do our part, I am sure that we can see real improvement and stabilization of this crisis.
I wish you the very best.