Covid-19 has changed American seemingly overnight. Life without regular human interaction, social distancing, and empty store shelves have changed American life still further. The skies are empty of airplanes and traffic has all but disappeared. Netflix has seen a subscriber jump as people have begun to watch more content online. But one question remains, how much longer will all this last, and will it have long term implications?
Airlines have been posting videos about all the steps they are taking to ensure safe, virus-free travel. The most shocking thing about these videos is that airlines weren’t doing more of this from the start. Everyone knew that airplanes were not exactly clean but I think most people had some idea that planes were getting cleaned. As it turns out, many airlines are finally cleaning their planes to a standard that we would all expect. However, clean planes aren’t enough to get people flying. Demand for air travel has reached an all-time low and for many carriers is practically non-existent. This has led to parked planes in airports around the world. How and when the industry will recover remains to be seen. Travel could be the scene of bankruptcies for years.
The Food Supply
This week, Tyson foods and other industry partners announced that grocery stores would be seeing meat shortages later this week as 13 meat packing plants have been closed because they are hot sports for the virus. The food supply chain is finally breaking down. Americans could be soon eating more vegetables and more canned goods as fresh meat supplies run out. Farmers around the country who rely on guest labor are struggling as well with the border closure. Many of their usual seasonal workers are shut out of the country which will make harvesting spring vegetables difficult. If there isn’t enough labor to harvest vegetables, the American diet could become very boring, very quickly.
In the early days of the virus, the food supply chain was strained due to increased demand. CEOs of major grocery chains described it as the weekend before Thanksgiving every day for weeks. However, it appears that the lack of protection orders in states who pack the meat that we all enjoy has led to the food supply chain collapsing under the weight of Covid.
The Politics of it All
Covid-19 has plenty of political implications. Congress has had to figure out how to meet using social distancing rules as well as create massive new spending to rescue industries, workers, and small businesses. Even this massive spending has had its own problems. There has been controversy about the $1,200 stimulus check that people are beginning to receive as well as the small business loan program running out of money in just 10 days. Trump’s daily press briefings dominate the airwaves and his comments are tweeted about and fuel the 24-hour news cycle. Who will pay for the testing and treatment has already become a hot button issue, at least until Katie Porter got the head of the CDC to admit that it would be free.
And that doesn’t even begin to talk about the international implications of this virus and its changes to globalization, international travel, trade, and national relations. Obviously, relations with China are strained with the rest of the world despite their efforts to begin an immediate image rehab. However, the bigger story is about globalization. Globalization was already in retreat leading into this crisis and between the travel bans and the moving of manufacturing out of China due to government spying and intellectual property theft, globalization is going to take a big hit. Corporate leaders are going to look to move their supply chains closer to home which could lead a manufacturing renaissance. This is going to cause global economic strain and possibly big shifts in the global economy, especially once the covid recession begins to lift.
Stay-at-home orders and school closures have completely shifted Americans’ lives. Parents are attempting to homeschool their children, work from home (in some cases), and feed their family all with minimal trips outside their home. Daily routines have been upended as well with sleep schedules being moved around and decidedly poor dietary habits. The jokes about gaining quarantine weight practically write themselves. Most Americans haven’t stayed at home this much in their lives and this has been a new experience. Sports seasons have been canceled leaving some without their usual distractions. This has forced Americans to confront all sorts of problems. Things like commuting, work-life balance, and the precarity of income have all come into sharp focus. People like bartenders and restaurant workers who are usually never out of work are finding themselves looking for ways to make up for the difference.
Will Covid Life Last Forever?
As states begin to open back up, many people are asking the question, “Will people keep their quarantine habits?” In online discussions, the lack of people returning to restaurants was mentioned. People might decide that staying at home and cooking their own meals is a better way of doing things. Social Distancing may become the new norm as might wearing masks in public, particularly during the winter when the flu will be circulating again. Will working from home become commonplace? The cubicle is already making a comeback as companies abandon open working environments for more secluded work spaces. The travel industry will struggle for years, most people will not be eager to travel outside of the US for some time and in many cases may be legally restricted from doing so by closed borders. Pandemics cause many small changes that we just don’t understand can’t identify yet. Will Americans live like this forever? Probably not, but all sorts of things we took for granted are sure to change as the country comes out of its houses for the first time in a month or more.