Things that don’t need to back to ‘normal’ after quarantine
The coronavirus pandemic has had catastrophic effects in the United States. According to CNN, the U.S. death toll was at more than 34,000 on April 16th and it is sure to still rise higher. There is no moral realm of circumstance that can excuse the deaths of thousands of people for any good reason, but there are changes due to the pandemic and the implementations of quarantine that have been having a significant impact on the world.
Social media is the main form of cultural and informational exchange for most people these days and there are many on these platforms that are sharing a similar ideology: we can’t go back to the ways things were before.
This is a seemingly powerful sentiment, but what does it really mean? The world is turned on its head and pointing to which change is the most monumental is like trying to remember the day of the week: blurry and uncertain at this point.
Here, I will discuss the most obvious changes the world seems to be encountering in this coronavirus age and how, if at all, it might be possible to sustain these changes when we go back to ‘normal.’
You hardly need a newsource to learn about the environmental changes in the world happening right now. Really, all you need is an Instagram friend who lives in L.A., where the smog has lifted off the city or someone who lives near a national park live streaming a pack of deer on their doorstep.
The fact that humans are detrimental to the environment is indisputable, unless you choose not to believe in experts in the field, which at this point there’s really no helping you, is there? So, with most people inside their homes, with many planes grounded from lack of passengers and cars staying in driveways as their owners sit inside, it’s easy to understand how pollutants from vehicles are on the decline.
Looking at China, the BBC reported that their emission levels declined by 25 percent from the initial moment stay-at-home orders were sent out to today. In Northern Italy, nitrogen dioxide levels are gradually decreasing.
Around the world, as people retreat inside, the earth hasn’t recovered and is not yet free from the dangers of climate change, but for the first time in what feels like a long time, it’s been made clear that humans do in fact have the capability to change the state of the environment should they really care to.
It seems the argument for years has been that, even if we’re bringing the earth towards a dangerous state, there is really no way to stop us. How could we stop driving our cars at the rate we are now? How could we completely change our behavior so starkly that it would even make a difference?
Granted, these are certainly not ideal circumstances, but if this quarantine has shown us one thing, it is that we are in fact capable of extreme changes. Most people are making sacrifices to stay inside, schools have been shut down, concerts and music festivals cancelled, graduations postponed, the whole world feels like it has been put on hold.
So, come the end of this isolation, the argument can’t be made ever again that we aren’t capable of making any changes. We are certainly able to do that and then some. The question instead becomes, how much do we care about the environment, the future of our species and our planet, to make those changes a reality?
In the U.S., this virus has exposed the extremely weak and vulnerable aspects of our healthcare system. People who can’t afford health insurance are dying. Americans are dying. The necessity of healthcare as a human right can’t be any more impactful than seeing images of hundreds of body bags in New York, or in the stories of grieving relatives who lost their loved ones as a result of their economic status as much as they did due to coronavirus.
When people have to choose between being able to feed their family and getting tested, they’re really not given a true choice. According to the World Health Organization, the United States’ has the second highest out of pocket cost for healthcare in the world. Per capita out of pocket spending is $1,103 in the U.S., compared to countries like Canada at $690 and the Netherlands at $601.
This time doesn’t have to go down in history as when the world went on hold, instead, it can be known as the time when the world woke up.
Looking toward the future, a presidential election is coming soon and universal healthcare should be at the center of national debate. America is known for the right to freedom, the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The right to life is a foundation of this country’s principles and healthcare is a necessity to that right. Denying life to citizens on the basis of wealth and access is not only immoral, it is un-American.
If it was not clear before the pandemic, it should be clear now, our President is not fit to lead this country. Never has an American president treated the loss of American lives so callously. Never has a functioning human, with the capacity for empathy, looked at a crisis taking the lives of thousands of people as an opportunity for self promotion.
The lack of responsibility from the highest levels of leadership in this country would put dogs who’ve pissed in a corner to shame. Trump takes no responsibility for dissolving the pandemic preparedness office in 2018. Trump takes no responsibility for failing to take action when the virus presenting in the U.S., meanwhile downplaying the severity of the illness insisting “warm weather” would dispel any issues.
There have been government bailouts to corporations as large as $500 billion while the response towards medical necessities, such as testing kits, ventilators and protective items (masks, gloves, face shields, etc.) has been dismal.
According to Worldmeter, the U.S. now leads the world in coronavirus cases, with 673,215 confirmed cases, more than three times the number of the number two spot (182,816 cases in Italy).
If we cannot turn to our leaders during a global emergency, when can we turn to them? And what is a true leader if not someone who can admit their mistakes and fix them. Instead, the virus has been treated like a PR stunt, revealing the paranoid trappings of Trump’s mind and his incompetence to protect the citizens he was meant to serve.
I don’t care what your political party is, who you voted for or how you feel about public policy, more than 34,000 Americans are dead and our ‘leader’ can’t even feign remorse.
The same workers who are often looked down upon in society, who are considered lesser than because of their type of work or their yearly salary are now the same workers who are holding our country together. People can afford to stay home and safe because grocery store workers, nurses, delivery drivers, cleaners, and retail workers are quite literally risking their lives to keep a semblance of order in place.
Physically and emotionally these jobs have shown to be some of the most challenging, despite years and decades of insistence that workers in these jobs do not always deserve to be paid a living wage, receive benefits or even earn the respect of those who they benefit.
When all this is said and done, the work of these dedicated people cannot be taken for granted, nor should we forget the next time one of these workers demands for the resources required to live from their government. These people are the reason many others are alive and safe, when given the opportunity, every person should make an effort to make sure all people who work essential jobs, even when there is not a national emergency, have the right to live and be safe too.
Working from home
For years, many individuals with disabilities have been told that their jobs require them to come into work every day. Parents too weren’t given the opportunity to stay on maternity leave longer or to work from home because their jobs required face-to-face interaction.
Well, many professionals now have no other choice but to work from home, and for the most part their workplaces aren’t falling apart at the seams. The same jobs which once required to be done in person have transitioned easily into an online platform.
The lives of the disabled, of parents and of any number of people with extenuating circumstances have become easier to manage (and obviously harder in other ways due to the pandemic) due to an at-home work platform.
If companies can make the sacrifice to transition to at-home work, similar sacrifices to those made by individuals who have begrudgingly come into work for years, then there is no need to go back now.
Appreciating the little things
Many people are stuck at home with family, partners and friends. This time is stressful, pillows have been screamed into and entire cartons of ice-cream have been destroyed in one go. However, people have the opportunity to spend more time with these people, their family and friends and even themselves than they have perhaps ever.
American society doesn’t value relaxation and leisure, but when you’re locked inside all day, what’s left. Many people are learning how to relax.
Coronavirus should not be taken lightly, neither as something with only positive outcomes or as something to mess around with. However, it is a reality and one that is changing many established aspects of our lives. When the pandemic has finally come under control we can all go back to “normal,” but it’s clear normal hasn’t been working for us.
Or, we can give half the effort we’ve given to this pandemic and help clean up the earth. We can provide people with their human right to health care and elect some competent leaders. We can give more appreciation to essential workers and less appreciation to constantly working. This time doesn’t have to go down in history as when the world went on hold, instead, it can be known as the time when the world woke up.