The COVID-19 virus dominates today’s news stories and conversations around conference tables and dinner tables alike. Reporting on the U.S. presidential candidate debates and newsworthy events around the globe have taken a back seat to news and conjecture about the virus, its effect on people and on the economy, how much it’s spread, and how to best stop the spread of the illness. And rightly so. Johns Hopkins University has reported that more than 169,000 people worldwide have contracted COVID-19 and 6,400 related deaths have occurred.
The Personal Effects of COVID-19
Globally, people feel the virus affecting their lives in various ways. Those who are infected suffer the symptoms of the disease including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose and possibly difficulty with breathing. Older adults and those with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to serious struggles and death. Infected people live with the knowledge that they could infect family members, friends, coworkers, and anyone with whom they came into contact, creating psychological stress. Patients are quarantined and unable to leave their homes or an assigned location. While all this is happening, are the patients still earning a paycheck? Can they attend school? Do they need to take care of children who are home from school? The answers to these questions have an impact on every patient, positively or negatively.
While those infect with COVID-19 suffer the direct effects of the virus, the rest of society experiences its own challenges. People stay home so they don’t encounter the virus, changing their commuting, shopping, working, and daily living patterns. Being shut in can take an emotional toll on people, especially when they’re not sure of the endpoint.
The Economics of the Highly Contagious Virus
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, businesses may close temporarily, and some business owners wonder if they’ll have the funds to reopen. They may have been forced to close by the government, or shut their doors due lack of business. Some must change their business models to stay afloat. Deliveries and curb service replace eating in a restaurant. Theaters, if they stay open, sell fewer tickets and put space in between viewing parties. Every business cleans and sanitizes more frequently than ever, costing extra money that may not be returned in business profits as consumers stay away.
Still, other businesses see their demand increasing. Shoppers grab essential grocery store products as quickly as retailers can restock. Major companies talk of hiring extra personnel to get goods to customers faster. Opportunities arise for companies who can take advantage of the market shift, such as food delivery companies who might gain new customers during this COVID-19 battle.
One of the biggest, most obvious impacts from this new strain of the coronavirus: the plunging stock market. Company stocks are plummeting, taking the stock market down 13% on March 16, the worst loss in a single day since 1987’s Black Monday market crash. Wall Street trading has been halted several times to this point. Individuals are losing money on investments and in retirement accounts day after day. No one knows when the crisis will be over or when the freefall will end. Until then, much damage is being done to the world economy.
For those countries largely affected by the virus, government review and analysis is required to develop helpful measures intended to bolster the economy and to help businesses and individuals. Measures are already being taken in the most affected countries, such as China. In the U.S., change is taking place at the national, state, and local levels to impact positive change, and much more support is needed as the conditions created by COVID-19 continue to affect the nation.
Changing the COVID-19 Narrative
Many people now follow the wisdom of the curve, an epidemiological model that projects how many individuals will contract a disease or illness, in this case, COVID-19. The logic behind the model explains that, with social distancing, we can flatten the graphical curve representing new cases of COVID-19. Social distancing involves closing public spaces and disallowing large gatherings of individuals. When the opportunity to be together with a group of people is taken away, the spread of the virus slows and the COVID-19 projection curve flattens.
With the world watching, the U.S. struggles to provide access to enough COVID-19 tests to cover people recommended by medical professionals. With time, this availability will improve, and we can get a better handle on the real numbers of infected patients in the U.S. Widespread testing will drive the curve upward until preventive measures bring it down.
Concerns exist about our preparedness for the number of potential cases of the coronavirus strain. Are there enough beds? Do we have sufficient ventilators? Will the U.S. have the capacity to treat infected patients, or will we suffer the same fate as Italy? These are all important questions to be answered in the near term.
A Call for Personal Accountability
What can each of us do to help flatten the curve? Recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 which, again, are:
- sore throat
- runny nose
- in severe cases, difficulty with breathing
Take care of yourself and your family with good nutrition and healthy habits. Watch out for others who may be vulnerable or who can’t help themselves. Don’t panic and run to the emergency room. If you’re showing signs of the disease, contact your medical professional and ask how to proceed. They’ll tell you whether to visit the office, or where to report for testing.
Stay home as much as possible and keep away from crowds. Work or study from home, if your employer, school, or business makes it possible. Cancel any parties, events, meetings, lessons, competitions, fairs, etc. that you have control over, and don’t attend them if they are held. Eat at home, get food delivered, or pick up take-out food. When you are interacting with others and the surfaces we all touch, remember to wash your hands with soapy water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer in liquid or wipe form for hands and surfaces. Touch your face as little as possible. Common sense, a little care, and the right moves will go a long way toward slowing the increase of COVID-19 cases, and putting people’s lives and the world economy back in shape.