Most of the USA is under some level of shutdown to prevent further pandemic spread of the novel coronavirus. As a result, economies are struggling with losses that could amount to $2.7 trillion. The USA has committed to a Covid-19 aid package of $2 trillion, with more making it way to Congress. In the USA alone, 16 million displaced workers have filed unemployment claims, a number sure to rise. The Trump administration and most GOP members of Congress want to “open up the economy,” letting people get back to work ASAP, but what really happens in the USA after Covid-19? Will the country ever look the same as in pre-corona virus days, or are we being set up for a dark, new normal?
Vox’s Ezra Klein subtitles his article, “I’ve read the plans to reopen the economy. They’re scary.” with, “There is no plan to return to normal.”
After a review of major plans for a return to ‘normal,’ Klein sees two basic ways of emerging after Covid-19 from the people who will ultimately make these decisions: (1) “life under a surveillance and testing state of dystopian (but perhaps necessary!) proportions, or (2) “a long period of economic and public health pain, as we wrestle the disease down only to see it roar back.”
Could America come to this in so short a time? It’s been less than six months since the coronavirus was discovered. Less than half that since social distancing protocols began. It’s hard to believe the USA could fall so far, so fast.
Whatever comes next, the USA will not go back to what she once was. Normal is gone forever.
When new is normal again
The average person takes about 18 months to adjust to a life change and begin to feel normal again.
To a lot of people, social distancing already feels like the new normal. Staying at least six feet apart, gatherings of no more than 10 people, virtual gatherings for church, civic meetings, birthday parties, weddings, and even funerals. It’s been hard, but most of us have gotten used to it.
The practice of social distancing is costly, both economically and mentally. No more going to movies, gathering at restaurants, or backyard get-togethers. A lot of people have struggled with a sense of loneliness.
A slow reopen in USA after Covid-19
When the economy reopens, it will be a gradual roll-out, region by region and industry by industry. Health providers and government agencies will probably come first. Entertainment and hospitality venues, with higher instances of close contact exposure, will probably be last, as will spas, barbers, and salons.
If it is close to a year-and-a-half before the economy is fully open again, will people be ready to go back to the way things were? Will they be able to?
Most Americans fortunate enough to return to work as soon as the economy is reopened may still be struggling to pay rent and utilities. Those payments may have been suspended without eviction or disconnection during the economic shutdown, but soon bills will be due with those harsh measures in place for nonpayment. Forced to play catch-up, it may be a few months or longer before folks are planning a vacation or new car purchase.
Many who were able to keep the bills paid by working at home or receiving enhanced unemployment benefits may not bound out the door as soon as official social distancing rules are lifted. Restaurants and other hospitality venues may not see customers return until reports of new cases (and deaths) are practically nil.
Even when past those two immediate reasons for slow economic activity, people are probably not going to spend as freely as they did in pre-coronavirus days. Americans now see how quickly everything in their world can change and what that means when a family spends too much while saving too little.
Or, they’ll simply be so used to eating and entertaining at home that they don’t want to go “back” to what will by then seem new and strange.
The end of consumerism?
What happens to a country that prides itself on high levels of consumerism when there’s no more desire to consume? What do Americans and the USA look like in an economy that may, in a few years, to about 80% what it was in pre-coronavirus times?
Nothing will ever be the same again in the USA. Whatever the source of coronavirus or its true numbers, as some may question, the world in its wake will be like the aftermath of 9/11, the 1918 flu pandemic, and The Great Depression running concurrently for 2-3 years.
And that economic reality could be far worse if we can’t get testing going and a vaccine developed soon.
Test & track
A big question about reopening the economy centers around knowing if employers or customers are carrying the coronavirus and may spread it while at work or while shopping and dining in public. Testing for the virus and then its antibodies is the only way to know who has immunity and who remains susceptible.
And while this testing is the best way to eventually knock out the threat of coronavirus, it is also the most frightening, for it threatens our privacy and freedom.
For how do we know who has been identified through testing as either immune or vulnerable? At present, it’s all over the country (and world) in records strewn here and there. To be effective, we must know who is in what stage of vulnerable, infected, and immune.
The Trump administration is already discussing how to identify those who are immune, perhaps with a card that an individual would present that certifies they are immune to coronavirus through either vaccination or antibody testing. The testing station (doctor’s office, hospital, drive-up, etc.) would register the test results in a national system with some form of identification given to those who are registered as, let’s call it “clean.”
Google-Apple, of course, will soon have an app for that. Putting the app on your phone and sharing your information with others is completely voluntary, but the purpose of the app is to track people whose COVID-19 status is known and then letting you know if you have been exposed. It’s expected to be available within a month of the initial announcement.
One can easily imagine the possibilities for Orwellian abuses of the data, but we’re to focus on the enhanced safety it gives us as we click to download this far-reaching technology.
What could make all this testing and tracking even more reliable and convenient than a microchip implant? No, it’s not being discussed in any way that approaches publicly, but it is the natural evolution of this thing. You’d know for sure it is the record of the person standing in front of you, not someone who has absconded with someone else’s card or phone. A chip implant is already in use with a growing number of employers and can do many other nice things for us.
In this brave new world of identification by coronavirus status, what happens if someone hasn’t had it or been vaccinated for immunity? Are they somehow compelled to take the vaccine?
If an individual does not have natural immunity and refuses the vaccine, are they forbidden to enter a movie theater, eat at a restaurant, or get a job? Basically, are they unable to earn a living, participate in society, buy or sell?
This is not the “mark of the beast” but could be the step that opens the door to it. Sure, people said that about Social Security numbers and UPC bar codes, but this is different because it goes into the body.
And, since a person will need it to do just about anything, almost everyone will comply with the government mandate to have it and check for it. That overwhelming acceptance will normalize putting a chip into the body and make it easier one day to accept the one that changes everything about you.
The new USA — after Covid-19
What comes next for the USA is frightening. There will be no recovery after Covid-19 that restores us to the American tradition of bigger and better than ever. Instead, we’ll see an economy worse than The Great Depression and longer lasting. Freedoms disappear as privacy rights are decimated. Everybody is so afraid of dying they give up on living as Americans.
Want to live better than that? First thing to do is to solve the fear problem: 1 John 4:17-19.