Once We Re-Open

Based upon the comments on the blog’s Facebook page, my last post was generally well-received (you know you can comment on the blog’s webpage vs. Facebook, don’t you?).  The ones who complained, or called me an idiot, generally appeared to be people who still had a job or were retired – people who don’t appear to be too impacted by all of the stay-at-home orders.

Here’s some interesting statistics (good and bad):

  • Since the Great Recession, and prior to all of the stay-at-home orders, we added approximately 24.8 million jobs; that could be up or down a couple of hundred thousand jobs depending upon which part of the Employment Report you read.
  • In the last five weeks, approximately 26.4 million people have filed for unemployment. During the Great Recession, we lost approximately 8.7 million jobs.
  • More than 20% of the American labor force is employed in 15 of the highest-contact industries (restaurants, retail, service industries, etc.). That equates to approximately $1.3 trillion in wages annually.
  • After the last two recessions it took 28 and 76 months, respectively, to recover lost jobs.
  • After the Great Recession, it took older workers on average 43 weeks to find a new job. If you were male and over 62 years old, once you found a new job you took an average 36% pay cut from what you were earning before you lost your previous job.
  • Small businesses (defined as having nine or less employees) make up 57% of the number of all businesses.

In other words, it’s pretty bad economically and it is going to take a heck of a long time to recover.

Some think I am callous and have no feelings when I said it was time to gradually start opening the country: that is far from the truth.  I personally know people who have caught the coronavirus and, unfortunately, I know someone who passed away from it.  The reality is those most at risk are those who are in poor health, have an underlying issue, and our seniors.  I 100% believe if you or a family member is high-risk you should stay at home and be smart.  Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland kept things open – but they have been playing it smart and actually adhering to social distancing behaviors vs. paying lip-service to it.

When we open back up we are going to have to change the way people shop, eat out, and go about daily life until an effective vaccine has been developed, mass-produced, and distributed everywhere.  Even if every government across the globe said “starting tomorrow, everything is back open the way it was” doesn’t mean normal returns tomorrow.  People won’t feel comfortable and businesses will have to change the way they have been operating for decades.

For restaurants, a good start will be not having each table right on top of each other: have less tables per square foot, with ample room between each table.  My family and I don’t eat out very often but when we do one of the main drawbacks is everyone is right next to each other, there’s probably some background music, and you can’t hear the people at your table because everyone is talking – and talking louder to overcome the noise from the table next to them, and next to them, and next to them, so much so it seems like everyone is yelling at times.  Restaurants will balk at that because it will mean less potential revenue for them.  Maybe restaurants will have to raise their prices, maybe that means we will have less restaurants.  I do know the lifespan of a restaurant once it opens is generally not very long, so maybe that means we will have better-quality places to eat and going out to eat will be what it was when I was growing up: a special occasion at a nice place, that cost a little more, but you knew you were getting quality food and excellent service.

For doors at commercial establishments, will they have to be retrofitted to open either way so I can push it open with my forearm vs. having to grab a door handle to pull it open and touch whatever biological residue you left on the door handle?

Will sporting events and amusement parks ever be the same again?  I don’t know, but I wonder how many of you will feel comfortable attending the next baseball, football, insert-sport-name-here event in a packed stadium?  Maybe more people will opt-in to watch professional and college sports on TV, but what about high school and other sports?  The fans will return eventually but I don’t see it being something that turns back on overnight.

I haven’t been able to think through how up close and personal industries like barbers and nail salons will have to change, but I do wonder about malls.  Malls were already at a decline before the coronavirus shut them down, so how will the mass congregation of browsers be impacted going forward?

You can go through many industries, jobs, and lifestyle habits and each would have about the same answer: it’s not going to go back to the way it was overnight, and things may never be the same.  It’s also going to take a long time before everyone is able to get back to work.

I believe one of the main reasons this thing isn’t under control is the conflicting messaging and rules from the various elected officials combined with certain segments of the population believing the social distancing rules and recommendations didn’t apply to them or they are invincible.  The lack of a coherent and consistent “rule” has led to confusion and anger among the people, and what appears to be power plays (and in some cases, stupidity) by governors and local officials who have an opinion on everything hasn’t been helpful.

I still believe if it is “ok” to shop at the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and the liquor store / marijuana dispensary it is “ok” to have other places open, also, if we minimize the number of people together.  Until we have a vaccine, keep on playing it smart but don’t live your life in fear.  It will only work if everyone does these simple things:

  • Rather than saying “practice social distancing” let’s put it this way: get out of my personal space, and I won’t invade yours.
  • Make it a habit of washing your hands frequently. Knowing what people touch and come in contact with I really didn’t want to shake your hand in the first place, and I didn’t like touching door handles and elevator buttons before all of the coronavirus pandemic discussion.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. I didn’t like getting the cold or flu you brought to the office prior, and I certainly don’t want to get anything else because you are inconsiderate and selfish now.
  • If you or someone you live with is in a high-risk category, stay home.

Thoughts, comments, complaints?


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