In my last post, I talked the current pandemic in that it was predictable, that it was going to be at least a year (and likely longer) before we’d see a vaccine, and that various treatments would be tried and many would fail. In this one, I’m going to talk about what I think will happen over the next year.
1. Things will not go back to “normal.” This virus is not going to go away on its own, and until there’s a good vaccine, there will still be shutdowns, stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and other measures that people will have to follow. Aside from the official measures, people’s behavior is going to change, and much of what we used to considered normal, everyday life will not return quickly.
2. The next set of outbreaks will hit rural areas and states without strong restrictions. I’m not an epidemiologist, but I can look at the news, and it’s easy to see where the next hot spots for COVID-19 will be. The “Liberate” protesters, the evangelicals who continue to have large services, and states where the governors think they don’t need strong “stay at home” orders, or lifted them early, are going to have a lot of cases over the next two months. Areas that attract a large seasonal population, and have tourist attractions are also going to start having more cases. These areas are also the most likely to be underserved when it comes to healthcare, in addition to having older populations, so the mortality rate will be higher.
3. The economy won’t bounce back quickly. Over the past week of listening to various conservative “experts,” Republican state officials, and the President, I have come away with the impression that they have somehow convinced themselves that if we just lifted all the restrictions, the economy will be booming again in short order. That is not true. A sizable number of small businesses, and even some major ones, are never reopening. Even for those that do, the inevitable effects of the reduction in jobs and personal savings will mean that customers will not be once again flocking to public areas and congregating. It will also take time to recover from and repair the disruptions in various supply chains. So even if the virus were to suddenly disappear tomorrow, it will take months, and more likely several years for the economy to bounce back.
4. States are going to struggle, some more than others. What many people seem to be forgetting is that state constitutions require that a state balance its budget. The effect of the shutdown on the economy also means that state revenues will drastically decline. The inevitable result of this is that state spending will have to be slashed. A great many programs will be given major cuts, if not “zeroed out,” and state and local employees will be on the unemployment line. Education, roads, social services, environmental protection, parks, and a host of other things people take for granted and rely on will either be closed or greatly reduced. Those states which already are at low spending levels, and those which have a less diverse economy will be the ones that struggle the most, because they have little margin for error.
I’d really prefer to be writing an optimistic blog post right now, but I deal with reality. I remember the impact the recession had on the economy, and in particular on this area, and this is going to be worse. Yes, we will eventually come out of it, but the next 12 to 18 months are going to be tough. All the bluster and bullshit in the world coming out of the White House and the conservative media is not going to change that, although it can make it even worse.