hand holding a newspaper

Tired of COVID? So am I. Let’s do something about it

Close your eyes. Make a wish. Did that make COVID go away? Hmm. Ok, well we tried that, now let’s try actually doing something.

If your main priority (and mine) is to stop the spread of the virus, we are not going about it the right way.

If your objective is improving the economy (and I get it, people are in a lot of pain), we definitely aren’t succeeding. This isn’t political; this is science and common sense. A disease doesn’t care if you wear a Notorious RBG t-shirt, or you prefer red hats. If your business is open now — and you want it to stay open — we all need to work together on this and follow some common sense steps so we can stop this disease and more businesses can stay open. Being shortsighted will only make things worse.

In fact, it already has. For all the people who whined about speeding up openings before we were ready, thank you. Now, instead of a few months of sacrifice, we are looking at possibly years.

These are some steps we can take to make things better. Spoiler: it involves doing things that we all know will help. It’s like flossing. You may not like it, it may be boring, but it works. And only 8-year olds (with bad breath and gingivitis) try to reason that it doesn’t.

  1. Little things matter. Seriously, wearing a mask, washing your hands, giving people a wide berth and avoiding gatherings may be hard (actually no, it’s not, it’s just annoying), but it works. Look at Canada, Europe, and most of the world where they got this right and got it done early. It isn’t any more against my civil rights for my governor to tell me to wear a mask than it is for me to have to wear a seat belt when I drive. Or not drink and drive. Or have to wear pants at work. Ok, that last one was a little odd, but you get the point.

    In an emergency, we need to do things for the common good. We can ask military people to die for their country, and health workers to risk their lives, but the rest of us can’t wear a mask? Please. If you make a mask political, it is because you care more about the politics than your stated goal of a) stopping the virus or b) helping the economy. So, which is it? And if wishing and dreaming leads you to decide that there is no virus issue and that this is all a hoax, then run with that. While you are at it, massive unemployment is a hoax; places being closed are a hoax; kids out of school is a hoax. What are you worried about? Things are great. Nothing to see here. (The rest of you, please keep reading).

  2. If your business doesn’t follow guidelines, you are making it worse. My wife and I used to travel a lot, and eat out at restaurants 3-4 times a week (yay, no kids!). How often do we eat out and travel now? Zero. Why? Because when we go by restaurants, malls, hotels, etc., we see a lot of people being careless and businesses letting them be. We drive on. No one wants to tell a customer no, or put on a mask or leave, but as long as people think it is not safe to go to your business, they won’t. No orders to open up, no political speeches and no marketing is going to change people’s minds as long as they have that perception. And if you have a few confirmed cases, you will likely end up closing, anyway. Why do that to yourself, your employees and your customers?

  3. Big and small companies need to be on the right side of this. Caesars Palace in Las Vegas opened up and is being very strict on protocols. Even big-time players (the whales) are reportedly being told to cooperate or leave. Their logic: If people feel safe, and if cases are kept down, people will come back for the long run. With this logic, offending some of the naysayers who don’t want to play along now yields longer-term benefits later. It still may not be a good idea to go to crowded venues, but being strict about guidelines helps. 

  4. If you can do more, do it. Two of the businesses I run can function with people working at home. Thus, we are keeping them at home. It’s a no brainer. It helps stop spreading the virus among our employees and their families. Two employees have contracted COVID outside of the workplace; but the damage is considerably less than if we had had everyone back. Not every business can do that, but the ones that can, should. This isn’t us against them; it is about us with us. So do your share to help mitigate the problem.

  5. Understand that we have a societal issue here. Poor, uneven healthcare (you can yell all you want that the US is number one in healthcare, but we are not. I can’t think of one [positive] metric where the US healthcare system comes up on top), poverty and crowded living conditions help spread the disease. I know a few people who were exposed to the disease last week, because service people in their homes or offices got sick and spread the virus. Restaurant, food processing, retail and labor-intensive workers get sick more often because they tend to live in crowded situations, get less healthcare and are often more stressed.

    When they get sick, so do the rest of us that count on them and come into contact with them on a daily basis. If we don’t improve the situation of our lowest-paid workers, we are extending the virus, which makes recovery take longer, which puts more people at risk. If we don’t start fixing things from the bottom up, recessions will get worse, wage disparity will continue to expand and our society gets weaker. Today it is service workers; soon you can add in teachers and daycare workers, too. If parents can’t leave their children somewhere safe, they will stay home and can’t work. If people can’t work, then who is going to buy your product or service?

  6. The worst is yet to come, so understand how urgent it is to get this right, now. Schools are going to be asked to do more with less money. Unemployment insurance payouts (which I believe have been the most effective way of propping up the economy right now) are about to end, and people are going to be stuck with the choice of getting exposed or not having a job.

    When those who are currently unemployed lose their enhanced benefits, the economy will falter quickly, and no amount of liquidity to the stock market is going to stop that. When we get over the hump (and I doubt that would be any time before December), we are going to have an exhausted workforce, a bankrupt government and a weakened infrastructure. I hope I am wrong but my Magic 8 Ball says I’m not (“All signs point to ‘this shit’s getting real’”). It is going to be a long, tough go through the slough to get to normal. We can’t do it without helping each other and working on planning for tomorrow and not just today. Spend wisely, protect your employees, work hard, be safe and look out for neighbors and others who may not be doing so well. Just do it at a distance.

So, it comes down to this: people are getting sick and some are dying because of COVID-19. The economy is in tatters with the manifest cause being Coronavirus, and the latent cause being excessive government debt, the politics of division, income inequality and a poor health infrastructure that focuses on disease management, instead of disease prevention.

The good thing in all of this is that if we band together, stop acting like children and focus on slowing the spread of the virus, we can do it. Instead of feeding the inner infantile who says “I miss partying”, “I want to travel again”, and “I hate being told what to do, even if it is the right thing to do”, we just need to do what we all know we should do. You can choose to make the right choices today in your life and business, or you will be forced into dead ends later when things get even harder. I don’t know about you, but I understand that real choice and real freedom involves being responsible and sensible. It means being humane, sacrificing and pitching in. 

Call it patriotism, religious furor, moral imperative, enlightened self-interest or noblesse oblige. I don’t care. Just do it. Do it because you really care about your community, state, country or planet. Do it because you want your candidate to stay in office or because you want the incumbent out. Doesn’t matter – our interests are aligned here. Why are we making it so hard?