WORDS: 1,234 — Pick your descriptor and likely Covid is it. Working from home, re-alignment of careers, re-evaluating life in general… and those are just the the personal wage earners adjustments as a result of Covid. Health is a “new” priority. That’s not to imply that all the other factors currently affecting our national stress levels are not causing some effect on top of that. Society.. humankind… is engulfed for at least the near future, if not longer. In the meantime, people are still dying… and they are dying needlessly because of politics and disinformation.
I seldom make a post in here using a post source as an article from another media source as I prefer to post original content of my own, as most bloggers do. But sometimes another media author can present a subject in their own words that can be more concise in summing things up. For a while I’ve been wanting to post about the future of life under Covid, a kind of synopsis. This author from The New York Times did a far better job given the resources at his finger tips. If you wish to check it out in it’s original form with all the embedded links go HERE.
I think the overall take-away here is that things have yet to get worse before they get better. This article suggests what those “things” are that which could get better with interventions or even get worse in spite of those interventions as we travel this road.
The Covid Malaise
Offices remain eerily empty. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights. Subways and buses are running less often. Schools sometimes call off entire days of class. Consumers waste time waiting in store lines. Annual inflation has reached its highest level in three decades.
Does this sound like a healthy economy to you?
In recent weeks, economists and pundits have been asking why Americans feel grouchy about the economy when many indicators — like G.D.P. growth, stock prices and the unemployment rate — look strong.
But I think the answer to this supposed paradox is that it’s not really a paradox: Americans think the economy is in rough shape because the economy is in rough shape.
Sure, some major statistics look good, and they reflect true economic strengths, including the state of families’ finances. But the economy is more than a household balance sheet; it is the combined experience of working, shopping and interacting in society. Americans evidently understand the distinction: In an Associated Press poll, 64 percent describe their personal finances as good — and only 35 percent describe the national economy as good.
There are plenty of reasons. Many services don’t function as well as they used to, largely because of supply-chain problems and labor shortages. Rising prices are cutting into paychecks, especially for working-class households. People spend less time socializing. The unending nature of the pandemic — the masks, Covid tests, Zoom meetings and anxiety-producing runny noses — is wearying.
While some of these disruptions are minor inconveniences, others are causing serious troubles. The increase in social isolation has harmed both physical and mental health. Americans’ blood pressure has risen. Fatal drug overdoses have soared, with a growing toll among Black Americans. A report this week from the surgeon general found that depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior and attempted suicides had all risen among children and adolescents.
“It would be a tragedy if we beat back one public health crisis only to allow another to grow in its place,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, wrote.
Schools are a particular source of frustration. Last year, the closure of in-person school caused large learning losses. This year, teachers have the near-impossible task of trying to help students make up for lost time, which has left many teachers feeling burned out.
And school operations are still not back to normal. Students are sometimes forbidden to sit or talk with one another during lunch — or to eat indoors. Masks make communication harder, especially for students with learning disabilities. Positive Covid tests or worker shortages can cause schools to close temporarily.
After Jennifer Reesman’s local school in Maryland closed for a day recently, she told NPR, “Our community can no longer count on the public schools.”
Red and Blue
As is often the case in our politically polarized era, the situation differs in red and blue America.
In Republican-leaning communities, the biggest Covid problem remains a widespread refusal to take the pandemic seriously. About 40 percent of Republican adults have not received a vaccine shot, according to the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll. As a result, the Covid death rate is far higher in heavily Republican counties than in Democratic ones.
Red America’s Covid denialism doesn’t seem to be abating, either. Fox News continues to spread disinformation, as Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post has noted. Many Republican politicians spend more time complaining about mask and vaccine mandates than trying to persuade conservatives to get a potentially lifesaving shot.
Blue America, by contrast, has taken Covid seriously. Fewer than 10 percent of Democratic voters have not received a vaccine shot. Political liberals also tend to be comfortable wearing masks to reduce the spread of the Covid virus.
Yet many Democrats, both voters and politicians, have been almost blasé about the costs of Covid precautions — the isolation, unhappiness, health damage, lost learning, inflation, public-transit disruptions and more. Democrats have sometimes focused on minimizing the spread of Covid, regardless of the downsides: Closing schools, for example, almost certainly harms children more than it protects them, given the minuscule rate of severe childhood Covid, even lower than that of severe childhood flu.
Consider this recent data from Gallup on the relative happiness and anxiety of Democratic and Republican voters:
There are few easy solutions here because trade-offs are unavoidable.
Although Covid presents relatively few risks to children and vaccinated adults under 50, it presents more to older people and some with specific immunodeficiencies. The current Covid surge has led to a modest rise in hospitalizations and deaths among the vaccinated and a much sharper rise among the unvaccinated. This surge justifies an increase in masking, testing and some other measures.
But it’s worth remembering that the point of those measures is to maximize people’s health and well-being. And maximizing health and well-being is not the same thing as minimizing Covid.
If that sounds strange, remember that society would cease to function if it tried to minimize every medical risk. Schools and offices don’t close each winter because of the flu. Families travel in cars even though crashes harm vastly more children than Covid does. People jog, play sports and ride bicycles even though thousands end up in emergency rooms.
The economic and social costs of our Covid precautions are real. In some cases, those precautions are clearly worth it — and in other cases they’re not. Figuring out how to control the virus while addressing the other Covid-induced crises is one of the great challenges of the pandemic’s next phase.
After reading this I couldn’t help but imagine same or similar Covid reactions and concerns across the board within the developed countries around the world given our global communications, markets, media, and health system capabilities being taxed to their limits. Yes, this post showed how all this is affecting, and will continue to affect, Americans in America. But make no mistake… what happens in America affects the world.. and what happens in the world affects America.