By Stephen W. Hiemstra
I am all zoomed out.
It is not that I dislike Zoom or interacting with people online, but fatigue has set in. Cabin fever grows more stressful seeing the beautiful spring weather and needing to soldier on indoors alone. I am starting to understand why many people have thrown all caution to the wind and begun to party hardy. Still, I have enough sense not to engage in such behavior.
In recent years, my custom during the Memorial Day weekend is to make a bi-annual pilgrimage to Leesburg’s Outlet Mall. Normally, I would drive up before the opening on Friday so as to find a good parking place and walk the length of the mall visiting all the shops carrying men’s clothing. Then, ladened with all my bargain deals I would drive home for lunch.
This week I visited a men’s store online and ordered a few shirts. I did not purchase nearly as much as usual, but I am not sure where I would show off my new clothes anyway.
Local Corona Virus Statistics
Here in Centreville, Virginia we describe the local area as Western Fairfax, which means that we sit on the border with Prince William County. Normally, we go to Fairfax Hospital, which is 4.8 miles east, but we could just as easily go to Prince William Hospital, which is 5.3 miles west.
Viewed through the lens of corona virus, the risk levels in the two counties are substantially different. During May, the average mortality rate in Fairfax County was 3.4 percent, while in Prince William County it was 2.3 percent. Fairfax County has had substantially more corona virus cases, an average 235 cases daily, while Prince Williams has had only 122 cases on average daily. The quality of care is likely not the determining factoring these differences.
Looking at the daily numbers for Fairfax County, the peak number of cases and deaths was reached in early May. On May 3, 31 people died while yesterday (May 25) only 4 deaths were reported.
Re-Open for Business?
The re-opening of many businesses and activities has started, but the consequences in terms of cases and deaths may not be immediately obvious. The numbers have been going up and down in waves during the week. This makes separating changes from normal variance difficult until broader averages are compared.
The politicization of the question of how to re-open is unfortunate, but it is a product of the class divisions separating the country right now. These divisions used to be between white-collar and blue-collar workers. Now, the division is between those able to work at home and those who cannot.
For those able to work at home, this pandemic will end once an effective vaccine becomes available. In the meantime, the financial impact may be rather minimal as long as you continue to work.
For those unable to work from home, the pandemic will likely end sooner as people get sick and recover (or not). Sheltering in place delays the onset of the virus, but the economic cost is direct and obvious because of lost work.
Because the financial impact of staying home and closed is much greater for some than for others and the class divide grows the longer businesses are closed, people have gotten vocal about getting back to work. Ironically, the political implications of are not necessarily obvious.
On the one hand, the White House usually gets blamed—fairly or unfairly—for a weak economy. Others have piled on in this blame game.
On the other hand, the White House has supported financial assistance to those hurt and has advocated strongly for re-opening the economy. And those arguing for a smart re-open strategy have been only partially successful in getting people to comply—even among the minorities hardest hit by this pandemic.
Given what has happened, this pandemic has probably been a political wash. How people interpret events is more likely influenced by their default political settings than by the government response. Turnout rates will likely be the deciding factor in the election once again.