A year ago, we were bracing for our third month into the coronavirus pandemic when many thought the shutdown would only last a few weeks. Today and each day that passes indicate that we are experiencing the slow steps back to normalcy.
With our kids beginning to head back to school on modified schedules, sporting events allowing fans in the stands, restaurants starting limited indoor dining, and youth sports beginning to play, these are all clear indications that we are on the other side of the pandemic. As the case counts and deaths continue to be monitored and trend in the right direction, more openings will continue unless something drastically changes. I look forward to the day I can attend a sold-out concert or sporting event with my family. Until then, I am cautiously optimistic about the future.
One thing that is critically important from this experience is gaining knowledge. There has been much to be said about how the pandemic has been handled. Even I have been critical of the closing of small businesses — Costco, Target, Walmart, and many big box stores were allowed to stay open. In contrast, small businesses and restaurants were shut down, determined as gathering spots and considered a potential driver to spread the virus. I guess big box stores were not considered gathering spots and did not have the potential to spread the virus. I still believe that small businesses should have been allowed to stay open with the same socially distant measures like the big box stores. Those measures would have spread everyone out to purchase goods rather than forcing everyone into a few locations.
There is an element of “collateral damage” that has taken place in one form or another due to the pandemic. As an example, I remember commuting to and from El Segundo during rush hour. Hardly anyone was on the freeway, and a normally 45-minute commute took only 18 minutes. I documented these commutes on my Facebook page while carpooling with my cousin Pete Costa in what we called “cousins carpool.” A year later, data has been published that indicates an 8 percent increase in 2020 motor vehicle deaths versus the previous years, primarily due to cars speeding on roads that saw a dramatic reduction in traffic as more and more people worked remotely.
Collateral damage has come in many forms, most notably, in the loss of jobs, personal property losses, businesses permanently closing, rise in substance abuse and domestic violence, increased homelessness, hunger, and the loss of learning for our children, to name a few. Another example is the number of people who died because they were afraid to go into the emergency room due to fear of catching COVID while there, or those afraid to be alone in the hospital because of visitor restrictions leaving family members to wait outside the hospital, as opposed to being bedside with a loved one. I recently talked with a heart doctor who said he had patients pass away because they were afraid to go to the hospital due to fear of catching COVID, when they were having symptoms of a heart attack. By the time they came into the hospital, it was too late, and they passed away. The impact of the collective amount of collateral damage from the coronavirus has yet to be fully understood as data continues to be gathered.
Now is the time to do the work of pandemic recovery by helping businesses flourish, reducing unemployment, improving education, putting an end to homelessness, and getting our children back into extracurricular activities once again.
This pandemic will be studied for decades and must provide the necessary knowledge on how to better prepare us to fight the next pandemic and where we need to invest as humanity to eliminate and/or limit the impacts and collateral damage of a future pandemic. This will take public and private partnerships to rally around the work to make this a reality and eliminate the political rhetoric that came with the coronavirus. Stay safe and diligent. spt