The bubble that Americans have lived in for quite some time has been obliterated by the coronavirus. Communities are suffering in ways that haven’t been seen since the beginning of the 20th century. The cracks that we steadily rode over are beginning to crumble under the weight of the pandemic. Successfully rebuilding life here, will entail a serious look at ourselves and what we can do better.
As of April 14, 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 570,000 cases with roughly 23,000 deaths. The rapid rise of infections shut down the economy and forced people into their homes and hospitals.
Sickness is the elephant in the room that Americans acknowledge as a problem but don’t know how to solve. Our leading causes of death stem from ailments such as: heart disease, cancer and stroke. When problems arise, a battle can ensue between the patient and entities seeking money for treatment(hospitals, insurance and pharmaceutical companies).
The for profit healthcare system that we live by is marked as flawed but doable. The failures of The Affordable Care Act proved that the market reigns and corporations dictate the quality of care that people receive.
The system currently in place is wholly unprepared for a pandemic of any level. The private and public sector are both struggling to meet the basic demands of hospitals by providing personal protection equipment, tests and ventilators. Local governments are scrambling to find life saving equipment to treat patients and protect healthcare workers who are exposed to COVID-19 positive patients.
The worry of contracting the virus is just a piece of the pie as layoffs send shockwaves across the nation. Nearly 17 million workers have filed for unemployment during the first three weeks of the shutdown. Service industry workers were the first to go, but its estimated that the second round of layoffs for ‘white collar’ workers is inevitable and coming shortly.
The loss of income is hitting families hard as they scramble to pay for rent, food and utilities. It is estimated that 57% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved in the event of an emergency. People all over the country are quite literally a paycheck away from being destitute.
A lack of savings combined with debt and sudden job losses has millions of people seeking government assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, unemployment and the stimulus. The new demand has pushed existing infrastructures to the brink and left citizens penniless. The disruption of the lockdowns forced food banks to turn away the hungry due to limited resources.
Legislators have stepped in to ease the burden of bills with deferments and grace periods but that’s not enough. The absence of income highlights the tremendous need of citizens and the local governments that are trying to figure out how to operate without the subsequent revenue.
The looming question in the minds of desperate Americans—when will normal life resume? Coronavirus is a threat that no one was prepared for. As a nation plagued with pre-existing conditions, the last thing anyone needs is a virus that feeds off illness. Hefty hospital bills are a reality for those with and without health insurance. The healthcare system is not designed to manage large swaths of critically ill patients nor does it currently have the means to do so.
The economic downturn is an individual crisis that cannot survive prolonged lockdowns. The government is dependent on its citizens to produce revenue through all its different avenues. The plan that governors are meeting to discuss will need to come to fruition sooner than later.
After America is out of the woods, it would behoove everyone to examine how the majority of us live. The resources that are available to us in our own homes and the government are critical. While planning ahead is difficult due to circumstances it can sustain us in the beginning of dire situations such as this.
The ability to avoid a certain level of hysteria can stabilize the expectations of the public. The lessons learned from this ordeal will be essential to navigating a crisis in the modern day. It will also give us the tools we need to be prepared as individuals to save ourselves and families from the initial hardship that a global pandemic can bestow.