By Shirin Kaye
The coronavirus is harmful in so many ways. Although social distancing orders are in effect across most of the country, one cannot disregard that there are also Americans advocating for the reopening of the country.
Closures due to the pandemic severely harmed the US economy. Since the start of the pandemic until the end of April, stock markets suffered drops of -35% at the lowest. People who own a substantial amount of stocks are seeing their life savings shooting down and up. International oil prices reached their lowest value in decades, and the price of one type of crude oil became negative for the first time ever in the US. Businesses large and small are struggling to survive for the sake of their profits and the sake of their workers. Some businesses have been hit so hard that their owners have lost hope of ever reopening. Moreover, when one business closes, it has a domino effect on others. Large and small suppliers close as well; trucking and delivery companies close; and the shops, food trucks, gyms, arcades, and bowling alleys, where all those workers used to spend their earnings, also close. Sadly, the people hurt the most are those who are the most vulnerable part of our population -- people whose jobs cannot be done remotely; people whose salaries were low to begin with and now are gone; people with little or no savings.
People want to maintain their physical health, but a part of physical survival is economic survival (one cannot live healthily and comfortably without money). In the first six weeks of spring, more than 30 million people in the US filed for unemployment benefits -- a record-high number. Many owners and workers in businesses that depend on customers coming in -- such as hair and nail salons -- are seeing their already-low life savings disappear, with no way to recover. Less money means less ability to pay rent and less to spend on groceries; people cannot go on like this! Yes, the government is working hard to support its citizens by way of stimulus packages, but this financial aid does not reach everyone who needs it. For those that the extra check helps, it is merely a bandaid, not a permanent cure.
As people became fed up with quarantine, they took to gathering in protests to demand that government officials ease shutdowns. On the surface, these people emphasize the need to return to work. However, the protesters also bring to light an underlying concern for national values. The US Constitution guarantees Americans freedom, and some believe that lockdown orders deprive them of their liberty by forcing the majority of residents to stay home.
Although COVID-19 will not disappear entirely any time soon, public health experts have suggestions as to how to reduce the health risk as society returns to normal. To protect themselves and others, health professionals advise people to use personal protective equipment such as face masks when in public. People are advised to avoid crowds and public gatherings as much as possible by staying home and using private transportation instead of, say, buses. In retail and restaurant settings, it is recommended to limit the number of customers inside at one time and to space tables six feet apart. In the workplace, employers are encouraged to monitor their employees’ health regularly and disinfect shared surfaces frequently. These measures will hopefully prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases while allowing the country to retain some degree of normalcy.
There are definitely cautious methods to reopen the economy, and strong support to do so. Sadly, the major challenges that people have endured as side-effects to the health crisis force people to answer a difficult question: am I willing to risk getting sick for the sake of financial survival?