May 11, 2020

What is Covid-19 Likely to Change?


It is human nature to speculate about the future. New Year's Eve resolutions are a good example. So are projections from economist about when the Dow will hit 30,000...or 3,000. I guess it comes from our innate need to feel in control, in charge. We look ahead and say what we think will happen in the belief that in voicing our predictions they become more than wishes, but actual prophecies. 

So, in that spirit, and well before anyone has any real idea, or even how many months or years in the future this might be, I am going out on the proverbial limb with some predictions of what may happen after Covid-19 is under control, still a serious disease but no longer the overwhelming factor in our lives it is today. The economy has recovered enough to feel less fear, to find plenty of toilet paper and disinfectant wipes, to even visit a favorite restaurant now and then. Quarantine fatigue has been breached. 

* Our country's view of health care will undergo a change. We will accept that our system of a mish-mash of private and public care, for profit, not for profit, subsidized care for some, no care for others, leaves too many dying for no discernible reason. Medicare for all is probably a bridge too far at this  time, but offering better coverage instead of looking for ways to cut it for the most vulnerable will become too big a problem to ignore.

The scientists and medical professionals who alert us in time to prepare ourselves, develop safety guidelines, and eventually develop treatments and vaccines will not be dismissed as wrong because they are smart, but supported because they save lives. There will be a dedication to preparing for future threats as much as possible, and reacting to new threats in a coherent way.

* Those who support us will become better paid and protected. Their importance will be recognized and rewarded for what it is: essential to the functioning of our society. There are the obvious front line people who risk their lives at work everyday: doctors, nurses, EMT crews, ambulance drivers, hospital employees from sanitation to food service.

Previously, non-top-of-mind people will be recognized for their part: garbage collection workers, those who maintain our roads, sewers, water service, electric grid will get their due. Delivery drivers, fast food employees who stayed on the job to prepare and work the take-out window, grocery store stockers and workers, those in warehouses who package and ship what we order online.

I wouldn't be surprised to see an increase in unionization, some strikes to press for change, a demand for higher wages and better benefits.

* Living choices may change. The move to urban areas in most countries has been underway for well over a century. In America 80% of the population lives in areas defined as urban. Why? That is where the bulk of the jobs and opportunities are. Importantly, only a third of us are happy in an urban situation. 

In this regard coronavirus has shown us two things: urban areas exacerbate the spread of something like Covid-19. Living so closely to so many people can allow the disease to spread more rapidly and more quickly. Secondly, working at home, telecommuting, even being part of the gig economy does not always require living in or near a big city. As the economy restarts, I predict many segments of the economy will realize the advantages of fewer employees on site.

That will allow those who prefer a less crowded living arrangement to choose something that is closer to what pleases them: a more rural or smaller city. The loss of productivity from commuting, the positives of working from home, or simply the increased awareness that big cities come with as many risks as benefits.  


* Inequality. The difference between the haves and have-nots have been put in very stark contrast over the past few months. The ability to get a virus test seems to depend on where you live, or the color of your skin. Those on the bottom steps of the economic ladder are suffering  more acutely from the economic shutdown. Those who live paycheck-to-paycheck have found themselves in increasingly dire straights. They are the ones least likely to maintain health benefits after being some of the first to be laid off. They are the ones waiting week after week for promised unemployment help.

The stratification of our society will be very difficult to sweep under the rug again after this shared experience. 


* Supply chain strengthening. The problems with keeping grocery stores stocked and medical supplies moving where they are needed all the while depending in part on foreign suppliers, most notably China, will likely enhance the push to bring more manufacturing and production capabilities back to the U.S. Because of substantially higher labor costs that will result in increased prices for much of what we buy. But, the public may decide that such a cost is worth it to do a better job of protecting the systems that supply us.


* Climate Change Awareness. After just 4 weeks, the pictures of cleaner skies from places around the world were visible proof of man's impact on the climate and the air we breathe. There is some evidence that climate change enhance the development and growth of new viruses. if that is proven, the push to protect the environment will take on new strength.

The collapse of oil prices and the likely bankruptcy of dozens, maybe hundreds, of oil drilling and equipment companies will not quickly be reversed. Major companies will take a long, hard look at investing billions to find and extract new oil fields. 


* Role of Federal and State governments. This will be one of the more interesting and important developments to watch unfold. At times, the federal government has suggested it has more power than the states; a few hours or days later that argument is "walked back." Yet, it is obvious in a situation this massive, only the Federal government has the resources to provide the aid that is needed. Without the bottomless stack of money, the death toll and economic damage would be greater.

Will power expanded to deal with the pandemic be rescinded afterwards? That would be unusual. Once a new control has been exercised, that genie rarely goes back in the bottle. But, how will the states react if decisions that historically have been theirs are now usurped by Washington?

My prediction is a permanent expansion and strengthening of the federal role in  government. States will fight back, and rightly so considering the Constitution. But, the stick wielded by Washington is too big. Consider the position taken by the Majority Leader of the Senate a few weeks ago: states can file for bankruptcy if effects of the virus are too high, but don't expect any bailout funds. That plays into something Paul Loeb wrote several years ago:" Society has systematically taught us to ignore the ills we see, and leave them to others to handle."

So, there is my spaghetti thrown against the wall. Only time will tell which parts stick. I like journalism Gary Moore's approach. Fill in the blank in this sentence:  “It isn’t my choice to __________ but it is my choice how I face it.” 

Our decision on how we react to whatever is put in that blank is ours. Maybe we can't solve the problem or even make it much better. But, we do have the power to choose how we allow it to affect us.


By the way, I turned 71 yesterday, Sunday (yes, I know, Mother's Day, too). In a million years I could not have predicted it would be spent in stay-at-home lockdown.  So, my predictive skills aren't the best, are they!

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39 comments:

  1. I must be more cynical than you are because I don't see higher pay for essential workers. More appreciation expressed for what they do, yes, but the people who control the purse stings won't give much in my opinion. I hope you're right that people will have a better appreciation and understanding of what the federal government does or such do during a crisis and will be more thoughtful at the voting booth. Ditto on hoping the pandemic has shined a light on climate issues.

    The change I'd like to see is smaller and is one I wished for before the pandemic is an end to shaking hands. I've always been a bit of a germaphobic and absolutely hate the practice.

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    1. I understand the hand shaking thing and tend to agree. Bumping fists or elbows, though, seems so contrived.

      I agree with you about the increased wages: they will not be offered willingly. I expect more unionization and the power of selected sickouts (seems appropriate doesn't it) to force employers to recognize the part these workers play in keeping a particular business or organization functioning.

      We remain the only wealthy developed country with no formalized paid leave program. That must change. A couple of fighter jets and one less war in some odd corner of the world would allow us to easily afford protecting our own people.

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    1. Thanks you! Mentally I feel about 55, so I am still middle aged!

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  3. Great post! All of the changes you describe hinge on the next presidential election. We could see many or all of them take place. Or we could find ourselves further in the grip of the orange-complected kleptocrat and crypto-fascist incumbent.

    Pray.

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    1. The next election will determine not only the direction of our country over the next four years, but the role we play in the world and the shape of democracy for decades. Claiming the next election is vital to our country's future is overused, but in this case, it is absolutely true.

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  4. I agree with “Goodly” that any of those changes depends on removing the narcissist from the White House and enabling an experienced leader to guide us through our recovery. I’d love to see our essential workers paid more..but Kroger/Fry’s is taking away the $2.00 per hour hazard pay they have been paying their staff, in the next couple fo weeks. YES to unions! Supply chain: I agree, we will bring manufacturing back to America and the price of goods will go WAY up.No more cheap jeans at walmart, sewn together for you by cheap labor in China and Indonesia. Or $15 coffee makers pieced together in Thailand . Last year, when trump started messing with China, we felt the price of all goods was about to skyrocket so we beefed up our home “infrastructure” and I prevailed upon Ken to let me get the refrigerator we needed, replace old TV, get the carpet redone in a small bedroom, and I got the sound speaker I needed for happy music experiences,at Costco.I truly felt prices would skyrocket.. now, it’s for a different reason, but we’re set. (And have all the comforts at home that we need during quarantine!) .. I pray for a more socialist bent to government, with some safety nets like health care and day care, forgiveness of portions of student loans, etc..THAT”s how we’ll get the economy opened again! And an FDR-like. WPA movement. The sooner th better.

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    1. Returning more manufacturing to our country is a smart move in such a messed up global situation. Not just the virus, but the weakening of the EU, the emergence of China, and climate change all will combine to disrupt the supply chains we have depended on to keep our standard of living artificially high.

      Cost will go up dramatically since American employees will not work for anything remotely like our "feeder" countries. Will we be willing to pay the true price of clothing or TVs? Time will tell.

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    2. Seeing yet another post from someone who is political opposed to the POTUS and his policies using defamatory comments about the POTUS is another reason many of us dig our heels in from listening to other perspectives. I am truly sad for people who feel they must constantly berate people whom they do not politically or socially agree with and then the same people tend to be the ones who preach that they are all about love and peace and the betterment of humankind. Ms Kaisen's and Mr. Goodly's comments about the POTUS totally alienated me from even considering their points of view as anything more than belly aching negativity which is unfortunate in that I suspect they may have some good topics to discuss but with such an inflammatory response I will not partake in this topic that I would normally have engaged into. The key takeaway for all your readers is that this country is about equally split between conservatives and liberals, and no matter what the government leaders and politicians say or how they behave, we are the ones who must take our country back from all the negativity and hatred being spewed by the politicians and on social media no matter which side of the political equations is spewing the hatred. What you say and how you say it whether in person or in writing is a direct reflection of your maturity in my humble opinion. I possess no ill will towards these two individuals and only wish them the best and ask that they also respect the opinions of others in a polite and professional manner.

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    3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    4. I have removed the comment just above because it contained a personal attack and did not engage in a reasonable discussion of his or her point.

      Dan P. is passionate about his point of view and what he sees as unnecessary partisan attacks. Unlike "Anonymous," he does not resort to name-calling or slurs. While I may disagree with some of his points, I do not disagree with his right to express them because he maintains a respectful, mature tone.

      His point of view is certainly not unique and should be part of any meaningful exchange.

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    5. Hi Dan.

      We are unfortunately way past changing each others minds. Both sides are dug in for a political civil war. The side with the highest turnout takes the next presidency and possibly the senate with it. The future direction of the country is at stake and we will see who wins.

      Republicans tend to be more homogenous and better at long term strategy. The Democrats have many diverse groups, which makes consistent voter turnout similar to herding cats. It will be interesting but it won't be about building consensus across the aisle.

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    6. Fred, I do tend to agree with your perspective, however, I strongly believe that we do have the ability to change as people and be open to each other's perspectives. An old adage that I remember from my childhood; it's easier to attract flies with honey versus vinegar. If we can all try to be at civil in our discussions and all realize that what we believe may be seen differently by someone else with a different set of experiences and perspectives, then we will all get along much better. One of the things I learned a lot about in people leadership was the value of diversity from a cultural, religious, racial, political, and thought process. I value all the people who worked with me for their ideas and thoughts whether I agreed with them or not and worked hard to try to understand what motivated their thought processes. I was able to learn from them different perspectives which in turn morphed my perspective in some ways and I was able to morph theirs too. I have faith that we will one day, as a nation, move closer to that model and away from polarization. It's up to each and every one of us to make that effort.

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    7. Thank you, as always Dan P, for your perspective - which I very much agree with.

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    8. I think much of our rhetoric and our media silos exaggerate the amount of political division in our country. I live in a "purple" state. Yes, there are both liberals and conservatives here who are dug into their positions. But most people here are moderates who can see some merits in both arguments and are uncomfortable with the intolerance on both sides.

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  5. Have a happy and healthy 71 Bob.
    I hope you are right about unions making a comeback. The only way the lower paid workers can get any leverage is sticking together and unionizing. Being passive and asking nicely will get them nothing. Take a page from the French. Have protests and shutdown segments of the country.
    Bringing back factory jobs to the USA will only happen with government mandates. If there is a cheaper overseas alternative corporations looking to maximize profits and consumers looking for the lowest price will not tolerate higher costs. I remember a 60 minutes story years ago about the mills in the south shutting down and moving overseas. They went to some of the towns affected. The locals would not even buy the products made locally. They wanted cheaper prices and bought the products from overseas, effectively cutting their own economic throats.

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    1. You highlight the biggest problem we will face to get a firmer grip on the stuff that keeps us functioning: people's willingness to self-sacrifice for the greater good. Since WWII ended, focus on the self has been the driving force in decision-making. There is a chance Covid-19 will change that mindset over time. Fingers crossed.

      Thanks for the good thoughts for my birthday. I spent it doing nothing special. But, being healthy and with my wife of almost 44 years made it just fine.

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    2. Good health and a successful marriage (especially of that length) are certainly blessings to be celebrated on your birthday. Best wishes, Bob, for all of life's best in the year ahead!

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  6. I think the largest change will be in the role of government and the end of "The government is the problem" way of thinking. The financial crisis in 2008-09 and the current pandemic crisis shows there are problems where only government has the resources to prevent a disaster. Just about every item on your list -- affordable healthcare, minimum pay and protections, climate change, protecting the supply chain for essential items -- are going to require government regulation and intervention. These are things that the "free market" (if there ever truly was such a thing) just isn't well suited to deliver.

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    1. Donald Trump has been about as far off from the standard GOP playbook regarding government intervention and expansion, plus spending/deficits as could be. If Mr. Biden is elected in November, the Democratic approach may not look that much different: the government, at both state and federal levels, is the only entity equipped to handle these large issues.

      I believe the pressure for a coherent health care system and the basics of a wealthy developed country, like paid sick and maternity leave, maybe free education, will be too strong to ignore.

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    2. Agree with you Bob!! It is time for leadership. Our nation’s economy and the average neighbor next door is not going to bounce back just because Washington has decided covid is not much of a problem anymore and that our Governors should ope “the economy.” Our future as a nation is at stake!

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  7. I hope you had a wonderful Birthday-Day! I think a lot of us are imagining the changes that could (or hopefully should) come in the future right now. It gives us something positive to do besides more back and forth about the virus. And while I agree with everything you said as anyone's good guess!

    But you really didn't go into the changes that will certainly be happening with our economy. Housing and real estate will be deeply affected by this experience and that will touch people in all sorts of ways. All the people who won't be able to recover financially will either lose their house and/or be forced to move into rentals. Loans are already tightening so that will drop prices because less and less people can buy even if they have a decent ongoing job. Stocks? Eventually the "bull" will be tamed because it has been unsustainably running amouk and on and on with all sorts of repercussions. And the economy will be affecting the supply chain because all sorts of businesses will be unable to hold and will simply collapse--putting more and more people out of work.

    As a perpetual optimist I believe we will come through it all...but it no doubt will be challenging. And of course, so much of it hinges on how the next election goes. If we want any sort of strong recovery that puts people before business then we need to #VoteBlueNoMatterWho ~Kathy

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    1. Housing is a big unknown at this point. What will happen to housing prices? What about the availability of loans? Who will be able to qualify with unemployment so high? Will rental prices skyrocket since a mortgage is out of reach? How much worse will the homeless problem become?

      These are questions that will be answered one way or another, we just don't know when or how.

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  8. Happy Birthday!! May this year be better than last.
    b

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    1. I hope it will be better next year! 2020 has already set the bar for disruptive.

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  9. To lighten it up a bit...
    Remember what Yogi Berra said: “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

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  10. For what it's worth, I second Jean P.'s point. Where I live we of course have a few liberals and conservatives who are dug into their positions, but most people are moderates who can see some merits in both arguments and are uncomfortable with the intolerance on both sides. Otherwise . . . I follow the old adage: I don't make predictions, especially about the future.

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  11. Oops, sorry, ddavidson beat me to it!

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    1. There is never enough Yogi Berra in our lives.

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  12. Happy belated birthday!!! Several birthdays have passed in my family over the last couple of months. And of course Mother's Day. All celebrated in ways we could not have foreseen even at the beginning of this year. How fast things can change.

    Your acknowledgment of folks like sanitation workers, grocery workers, and delivery people reminded me of when I worked in the legal department of a global courier company many years ago. We used to joke that the delivery drivers made more money that we lawyers did. That wasn't far from the truth. The company realized that the drivers were the "face" of the company to millions of customers. Drivers received a good salary as well as other incentives and support. Also, the workers in the hub who offloaded planes in the middle of the night, sorted packages, and reloaded the planes were supported in many ways. Many were part time workers and college students. The company offered assistance programs to help them. And teams were acknowledged with bonuses and recognition. It was fascinating to see this from the inside of the company. No wonder their employees were so loyal and excited to work there. I hope your prediction on this point will manifest in reality.

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    1. I hope so, too, though the first signs are not encouraging. Kroger, the grocery giant that owns several brands, has been paying their front line people an extra $2 an hour as an incentive to continue working and keeping their stores stocked. A few days ago, Kroger announced that virus "Hero Pay" would end May 17th. Even though the danger remains very real for these folks, that small token of appreciation is being clawed back.

      Your example is the way to keep employees loyal and dedicated. Kroger's is not.

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  13. Happy Birthday, Bob! I hope you ate cake!

    It's really hard to know what to expect right now. People are eager to get back to 'normal' but I don't think that will happen. Even in the states that are opening restaurants, most people aren't rushing out to eat. The fear is real. And it will affect us until we have a vaccine. The mixed messaging coming from this administration continues to ramp up the polarization, and I'm not as optimistic as some of your other commenters on healing that gap. But I sure hope I'm wrong.

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    1. Unfortunately, politics versus science and safety is never a logical situation. The virus will do what it is going to do regardless of what some people want. We are just spectators.

      Yes, I hade some red velvet cake!

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  14. Education is changing, and fast.
    Fauci said schools should probably not open in the fall.
    Our kids' state has announced that IF they are not in Phase three by end of July, schools might not reopen for the fall. If they do reopen, in order to promote social distancing, the kids will be on an A/B schedule. Either T/TH... M/W or one week on one off. There will be NO assemblies, sports, band. I know that most of your readers probably had a parent at home during their upbringing---but that is not true in this day and age. This means a parent needs to be off several days a week. Forget it if you are a single parent. People are panicked--and most of her friends have Masters or PhDs. Are we going back to the age of governesses or just no school for the minority? 20% of her district has not even "checked in" for classes...mostly poor or ELL. My daughter just got the information for Missouri, where they have land, the guidance (and attendance) is about the same.
    Even more of a shock to me was this, "California State University, with 23 campuses and more than 480,000 students, on Tuesday became the largest university system in the country to declare that it intends to go without in-person instruction for most classes in the fall because of the public health crisis." I had just read an article about the top universities taking on huge classes with the help of Google or Apple. Thousands of colleges would be dealt their final blow. I know U of Arizona is giving it a try. They are not going down without a fight- those Wild cats!
    I think that my family is positioned well for these things to occur. We have a strong academic background. Between the six of us we have degrees in a number of subjects. I think we, collectively, will pass sixth grade in five weeks. It takes a village. Not sure how it will look to many other families out there. I cannot even imagine college with no campus, but it is coming.
    My daughter said the new saying ---"Are we now sacrificing our children's future for our parents' health?" My daughter is true blue as are most of her friends...She hesitated to tell me this.
    Today we wondered if people over 65 will just be told to stay home- period? Don't go out At All.
    My husband's bags are packed....we may be headed west before we were expecting to. Yup, that may really change our retirement. WE need a western small town....fast! We both know there still is no vaccine for AIDS that works.....

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    1. You present several very sobering possibilities, all of which lead to an educationally lost generation. The American educational system is already failing many of its students. These steps will only hasten the decline and our ability to compete in the world.

      The lack of day care for kids on alternate schedules is another dilemma that is building. The cost of watching after children already is impossible for many families. If as many day care facilities fail as have been predicted, there will be nowhere to send the children, even if a parent can afford the cost.

      The interconnectedness of our lives is on full display. We will develop workarounds, but the pain and disruptions are going to be with us for years, not months. And, it seems likely many parts of our way of life have been altered forever.

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  15. "Science denial" is gaining momentum across the country. I think that people have decided, with respect to the virus, to "let it rip."

    Of all of the things the current administration have promoted, the dismissal of expertise and the denial of science will have the most lasting damage. My biggest fear is that we have a massive resurgence of infection and that the health care workers begin to walk away out of frustration and exhaustion, let alone their own individual illness and death. My mantra in my life and in the advice I give to others: 1) you make a decision. 2) you act on that decision. 3) you face and experience the consequences of that decision. It is really that simple. We seem to have exchanged slogans for science. Still hoping for the best.

    Rick in Oregon

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    1. Sweden did almost nothing except some good old common sense. They now have herd immunity and have become a beacon of 'what to do' for the rest of the world. They should be 100% fine by June. Had nothing to do with science.
      https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/sweden/2020-05-12/swedens-coronavirus-strategy-will-soon-be-worlds

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    2. Sweden's per capita death rate from Covid-19 is among highest in the world. Good old common sense instead of science put them there.

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    3. Bob, I feel there is a lack of context in this thread. What we do now know as fact...

      1. There is no universal (county, state, national, global) standard for how we accurately track cause of death. We can definitely track tested and known infection rates versus the general population because there are tests that have binary results, yes or no. With causes of death, there is a lack of uniformity. Did the person truly die from Covid-19 or did they die of another underlying health issue that had nothing to do with Covid-19 and they either had tested positive for Covid-19 or in some places were suspected of having it and categorized as a covid-19 death? See the news article about what just happened in Colorado with re-classification. Many states and even their counties cannot agree on how/what to track with regards to cause of death.
      2. What are the historical numbers of causes of death historically from all forms of dying for each reported area? How is this awful virus rating in each county/state/country? Really depends on #1 above now doesn't it to some degree?
      3. I have found that in most cases of the media reports, no matter the outlet, data elements that are valuable to people who can analyze the data on their own is missing (either not available or omitted). The reporting has turned into more of an agenda agent versus showing everyone all the data. I have personally seen this issue arise in many supposed reputable media outlets locally and nationally. The more clicks a story can get, the more ad revenue generated. If it bleeds it leads so I always keep that aspect in mind which led me to uncovering the other data elements when available which many times tell a different story from the media reported ones. An example in Texas is that our 2nd most populous county, Dallas county, is not tracking or reporting upon recoveries from people who previously tested positive for Covid-19. All surrounding and very urban counties in the Metroplex are reporting that stat, so when the local media reports on Metroplex stats, they have to leave out recoveries for the area since the data is incomplete. People then only focus on the count of infections since the start of testing versus active case counts and positive test rates as a percentage of tested people. Active case counts and positive percentage rates are what many people see as the tell tell metric of how we are doing in addition to Covid related hospitalization rates. The general public is not seeing these stats due to the data missing and media not reporting what data is available.
      4. The financial toll for the actions taken to date to shutdown the entire world economy is only starting to appear. I believe the US will come out of this OK but with some severe scars that will take years to fade. How do we balance physical health and financial health at the same time? People are hurting on both sides of the equation and as shown in history from the Great Depression era, poor financial health can and will lead to a snowballing of poorer physical health and death due to many factors related to bad financial health. See the report from Gov Coumo about the mental health issues arising in NY state as a result of the lockdown, loss of income, etc as an example. At what point do those health issues outweigh the benefits from social distancing on Covid-19? I don't know...

      We have so much yet to analyze and learn about what we have been dealing with, and I am sure that as the months slip by, we will all get a much clearer picture of what was truly effective and what were policies and approaches that may have seemed prudent to enact at the time were not effective. Best wishes to you and all your readers!

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