Virus: Creating Supermen and lepers

Let’s dust off the crystal ball and ponder the unknowable: What permanent changes to us and how we live will result from our coronavirus adventure? 

Very soon I foresee Supermen and lepers, but let’s start with business.

Is one of these in your future?

We will have more people working at home than ever before. That’s a safe prediction because telecommuting has been on a dramatic upswing for years.

Not a lot of people actually had done it. Now, almost everyone who can, has.

If employers see that workers like it, and production does not suffer, why would they not adopt it? 

If white-collar employers allow most employees to work from home, they will not need all the pricey downtown real estate they  now have. Big name companies may want to keep a Center City address for prestige, but with only a fraction of the square footage they now pay for.

That will create a glut of downtown office space, which will have to be repurposed, maybe to rental housing units, or perhaps lower-cost spaces for artists, digital startups, or other small businesses. Maybe even shelter for families driven out of their homes when they lost jobs that will not return.

More people working from home will depress the demand for mass transit. With revenue plunging, mass transit will have to cut costs by reducing service. That will add to its decline. Or it could increase fares, which also would decrease ridership. A solution might be moving toward self-driving buses and trains. But that would increase unemployment.

If the lockdown continues, even with government handouts, thousands of businesses will fail and the jobless will be unable to find work as our economy changes forever.

To keep the jobless from desperation, which could lead to anarchy (see the 1932 Bonus March) the government will be forced to establish a safety net the equivalent of a lower middle class income. Once that is established, socialism is here to stay. To satisfy right-wing sensibilities, handouts will be called the Liberty Dividend. (Hat tip to Andrew Yang.)

Turning away from business, how comfortable will you be returning to restaurants, just because the government says you can? How about theater, orchestra, ballet, movies? Sporting events? Religious services — any place where large numbers of people you don’t know congregate?

Not too likely, I’ll bet.

Until we get a vaccine — predicted to be at least a year away. 

Until then, we will have two classes of Americans: Those who have had COVID-19 and are thus Immune, and those who have not had it and are Susceptible.

Those with the antibodies that protect them from the disease will be like Superman, able to work, travel, and indulge themselves in public places. The sky’s the limit. No worries.

The Susceptibles will remain behind face masks and gloves. They are lepers, quarantined for their own protection, roped off from the rest of society, second-hand citizens of the virus.

The Immune would receive cards to carry, like Social Security cards, called Socially Secure cards, to show they are allowed to be out in public. White-clad unarmed civilian police will be authorized to check for cards. People interested in each other romantically will ask to see a status card before they start dating. Who wants to date a leper?

Google will maintain an online  list of the Socially Secure.

It’s easy to see the advantages of being Immune, even if you have to get it like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and spend some time in the ICU. You’d much rather get into the club like George Stephanopoulos, who barely mussed his hair.

Once everyone is vaccinated, everyone will be Socially Secure — until the next bug comes along.

Will we handle it better than this one?

6 thoughts on “Virus: Creating Supermen and lepers”

    A well written column for sure, but me thinks that you took the high road on this one. Not wanting to be a soothsayer and bearer of bad thoughts, but shades of President Jimmy Carter, here I go. If memory serves me right, President Carter wanted to check the economy by restricting wages. Union wages. It didn’t work. I see the recovery hampered dramatically because of the lack of jobs for the service personnel. As you say, we will be limited to seating, standing and just plain hanging out. Job loss. Straight across the board, poor economy. Less tables in restaurants. Less seating at shows, sporting events and everywhere that you base your profit on attendance. This should reduce the wages of all of those professionals that are playing to half capacity. Likewise all across the board. The big question would be, how does this affect the utility companies. With less demand for their product, will the price go down or up ? With less need for all of the empty office buildings, where will Philly get their tax dollars to continue to provide inadequate services ? With less need for mass transportation, does it wither and die ? This disaster of an economy can only be saved by bringing home the manufacturing that we lost since the ’60s. Retrain the service people and those that have lost their jobs due to reduction in size. Time will tell how long it takes to recover from this (sic) unforseen pandemic.

    1. Art – do you thing the brothels will follow? LoL Then we can change Philly’s name to “The City of Brothel-ly Love.”

  2. Stu – you sure one of your uncles wasn’t George Orwell? Maybe we could call your new book on the above subject matter “2084”? You make some good points to ponder. I’ve coined another phrase with some of my other compatriots: “Welcome to the New Abnormal.”

    Let’s hope we really don’t have to go there. I know, I’m Mr. Optimistic. Or is that Mr. Myopic?

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