One of my friends is an optimist.
He’s also moderately liberal, but hates Hillary Clinton almost as much as he hates Donald J. Trump, and thinks her endorsement actually hurts Joe Biden.
I don’t because she is still very popular among white, female Democrats, who feel she was somehow cheated.
Anyway, this has nothing to do with today’s topic, which is the worst case scenario.
I am not normally an optimist. Realism is more my speed and realism does not = optimism. Too many things can go wrong, but I will say again what I have said before: I believe medicines to prevent or cure COVID-19 will come sooner than current predictions, such as 12-18 months for a preventative vaccine.
My friend, I’m calling him Thomas, for Doubting Thomas, says not only will there not be a medical cure anytime soon, he says the current pandemic will not abate at all, that it will remain at current levels of infection and mortality for about two years, and he said that before a University of Minnesota report said the same thing.
In other words, the Great Isolation and wearing masks are the New Normal, and it is permanent. “The life we are about to enter is going to be very different,” he says.
He knows something about restaurants and says they won’t be back to normal for two years. Many cook and service teams have been scattered to the wind. The cost of daily disinfection will dramatically raise operating costs. That plus fewer seats for greater spacing will result in higher prices.
As states and cities are opening up, he says 90% of people will wear masks and observe social distances, but the 10% who do not will negate the efforts of the 90%. “There is a possibility the virus will never go away,” he worries, “because we will never do everything we must do to get rid of it.”
I ask him how about enforcement by police?
He grimaces. Did I mention he is a liberal? He talks about summonses as high as $1,000, but he doesn’t want the tickets to be served and doesn’t want offenders jailed. The liberal dilemma.
Through lack of enforcement, we give the lawless minority power over the lawful majority. Are you happy with that?
The New Normal touches every aspect of our lives. And our deaths. The death rate has levelled off, but at a high level. Will we adapt to, and accept, losing several thousands of Americans each day, the price we pay in World War III?
Many of us will continue to work from home, a blessing for some, a curse for others. Those who work from the office are likely to see their work spaces redesigned, expanded to increase distance between employees. Expect hand sanitizers everywhere and perhaps masks. Be prepared for service personnel in masks and gowns and customers having their temperature taken at the front door.
With fewer people coming into Center City to work, ridership on Septa will be down and greatly reduced schedules will continue, putting more commuters into their cars.
Fewer people in Center City will result in the loss of many of the retailers found on the main shopping arteries of Market, Walnut, Chestnut.
Happy Hours will be Unhappy Hours and fewer people will stay in the city after dark, hurting restaurants, bars, and night clubs. Philly will look like it did in the ‘50s. The suburbs will be worse as malls close.
This is Thomas’ nightmare, which I do not share.
But, it is possible.