America as a country has done a very good job of fighting the COVID-19 virus. We took the most vibrant peace-time economy in the history of the world and stopped it in its’ tracks.
This was not a slow down over several quarters like taking a giant revolving gear wheel and allowing it to slow down gradually. No, it was like a car running down a road and hitting a brick wall. In a matter of several weeks America was greatly curtailed in its output. To make matters worse the countries of Saudi Arabia and Russia decided they would engage in a price war, hold the world hostage, cripple the American oil industry and send a vibrant world industry into a tailspin. This backfired and not only did it greatly hurt American oil but it sent oil prices to such a low level that both Saudi Arabia and Russia are reeling from the downturn and may spur government involvement in the industry.
America never truly shut down and oil and gas has not totally shut in all the wells and completely stopped drilling activities. Manufacturing has not completely shuttered its plants and there are places that we can still get food; both raw, canned and fully cooked. What we did do was to require over 25 million Americans to leave the job market and sit at home and watch television, play on the computer and try to make the best of a bad situation.
President Trump addressed in the early days of the pandemic the detrimental effect of long-term sheltering-in-place. He talked of depression, mental illness and how Americans are not wired to cope with long-term volunteer incarceration; it’s not in our DNA. The need to shelter-in-place for public safety versus our inherent fiber to be social animals are at odds with each other. Following a month of shelter-in-place we discover that the mental and emotional attitude of the American citizen has begun to overtake the rational thinking for the physical welfare of one’s self. America is ready to reopen the country as America desires to work despite the Federal government’s support to keep us safe and fed.
America never did fully “shut down”. Major food stores and retail stores remained open; albeit in a more cautious manner and on restricted hours. Food distribution systems remained in operation; albeit closing small stores has put a hardship on the farmer. Food processing plants continued to provide the bridge between the farmer and the retail store; albeit the virus has taken a toll on the ability to process food products at the plant level. Government continues to function; albeit it in a more controlled and cautious manner protecting our officials from the virus. The list continues as America has limped along in a manner that shows the resilience of the American spirit and as bad as it may seem we have done pretty dang good.
At this time there are more and more calls to get the country back on a normal track. This call for normality is coming in three forms. First we see demonstrators in various states across the country. News agencies periodically politicize these rallies as civil rights collide with public health. The debate about the right to gather, speak and dissent conflict with a government’s right to prevent the spread of the Corona virus. Though the rallies will not magically open a state like flipping a light switch, the rallies do make governments aware that Americans are ready to get out of the house. This may spur regulations to be reviewed and modified to make a safe opening of society a more viable option.
A second call for normality is coming from cries through social media and word of mouth discussion. Observe sites such as Facebook and the debate is far flung; and in many cases without merit. Some call for social revolution and just go out and mix within society. Many say the government data is wrong and this is a way for the government to control society. Others say that opening at all is idiotic. We must remain in quarantine and we must have no social involvement. This is the most unfortunate form of discussion and only leads to a further division within our country.
A third form of a call to open the country is what we are witnessing at this time. We are opening the economy, it is quiet, it is flying below the radar and it is taking place. Three weeks ago our Walmart parking lots were quite empty. Today the parking lots are filling up, gas stations continue to have more cars at the pumps and smaller convenience stores are seeing more traffic. Pizza parlors are pouring product out the drive through at a greater rate while fast food restaurants have long lines at the drive through or eat-in car sites. Construction is ongoing and outlets like Lowes are filling with consumers. In the mean time governors are beginning to officially open their states. The all-knowing media seem to pick which governors to criticize while leaving other states alone, thus the economy turn-up has been politicized.
There is one thing for certain, no state government is dragging its feet to get our economy back to normal. It is also recognized that premature state opening will result in catastrophic results. America has done pretty good fighting this pandemic. If we open too fast and we see a major recurrence, it is uncertain if America can return to the major shelter in place mentality we have today. If we open too late, it is uncertain if America will maintain a trust in the government’s ability to continue to lead.
Quite a balancing act. God Bless America.
Tuffy Fields may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.