Corona Confusion

The new reality that results from the novel corona virus pandemic will be fundamentally different. This crisis may prove to have as much long-term impact as the 2008 “great recession” or even 9/11. U.S. health officials are facing a situation made worse by massive American failures to act on warnings as the virus spread. By failing to rapidly scale up testing, U.S. officials added a layer of uncertainty about how the public should respond.

The CDC’s initial test for the virus was faulty. And, for reasons that remain unknown, the U.S. decided not to use the World Health Organization’s test while the CDC worked on a new one. Red tape slowed down academic labs that wanted to develop their own. Testing is now becoming available, but we’re still trying to catch up while the virus continues to spread.

As schools and companies shift to functioning solely online, the potential consequences include fundamental changes in how we conduct our daily lives. Businesses that depend on people moving about will shutter. Retail brick and mortar, transportation and service industries will collapse while data processing, information technologies and online ordering companies will undergo paradigm shifting challenges that will overwhelm some and ignite others.  

Economists are growing more certain that there will be a recession in 2020. The question is how deep? The answer will depend on how quickly people regain confidence in health safety measures and once again start to participate in public activities.

Businesses had already begun pulling back on spending as a result of the U.S. – China trade war. That left consumer spending holding up the economy and the COVID-19 outbreak will change that dynamic for an unknown period of time. The current pandemic is triggering an accelerated move toward remote work. It’s not like working from home is new but such a rapid switch to telecommuting has the potential to change how we live, work and learn at pace that will be impossible to keep up with. These disruptions will have lasting effects. Closing offices and classrooms is only the beginning. Most organizations are not built for the virtual world. They’re filled with jobs that require face-to-face interaction.

Cities, in particular will face crippling demands on infrastructure. The challenges of keeping essential services running while employees work in close quarters will create unforeseen impediments to slowing the spread of the virus. First responders will need to self-isolate even as they are being exposed. City governments will have to call on utilities to refrain from cutting off power and water services as people fall behind on payments. Facing profound revenue losses and rising costs, municipalities will have to draw upon already stressed reserves.

A severe pandemic could also overwhelm the health care system. The virus seems likely to expose structural gaps in the system. Insurers have promised to make Corvid-19 testing available for free (Blue Cross Blue Shield has announced full coverage for testing and treatment), and a handful of hospital systems have imposed temporary freezes in billing patients for such treatments. But relying on corporate benevolence won’t provide assurance that care will be accessible, especially for the poor and the uninsured. If people don’t get care because they can’t afford it, that risks further spreading of the infection.

The world once looked to the U.S. for leadership and aid in global health crises. But the Trump administration has rejected a leadership role in the fight against this pandemic and much of their initial response was focused on the economy. The stock markets have made their displeasure clear, lowering the Dow Jones averages by more than 20 percent in less than a month. On the other hand, China began quarantining entire cities while sending masks and diagnostics to Italy and a logistics team to assist Iran.

All of this was predictable when we elected a man people believed to be a political “outsider,” one who would bring his expertise in running large companies to Washington. Once again, we’ve been fooled. What we got was a great politician and a poor businessman. The same goes for the NC General Assembly. Our Moore County Representative, Jamie Boles has been entrenched there for twelve years. His business background does not prepare him for the type of thinking on your feet that emergency management requires. As a result we have gotten years of reduced support for essential government services in order to provide ever increasing tax cuts for NC Corporations.

The current government is literally killing people. The mismanagement of the CDC, the muzzling of scientists, the wholesale reduction of environmental regulations and the perpetual “head in the sand” style of preparing for natural disasters puts more lives at risk. It is time for change. It is time to elect people who learn from the past and think about the future.