What changes will the pandemic cause?

We’re in the midst of a great social experiment. How will living month after month with a disease that causes no symptoms in many and yet kills and maims at a high rate change people? And what are the long-term effects of designating 20% of the workforce as non-essential and sending them home–some with money and others without?

There are too many variables for serious research, but we do need answers.  

Why does anyone become angry enough to shoot people over being required to wear a face mask or being refused sit-down dining? Would these people have resorted to violence over petty issues in different circumstances or is a change in privileges and routine that unsettling for some?  

In March gun sales were up 85% from the previous year–and a significant number were handgun purchases by first-time gun buyers. Will these buyers continue to fear others when people aren’t getting so ill?  Will more guns mean even more suicides and accidental killings?  

Will people become more upset at homelessness–or at the homeless? Protesters in San Francisco are angry that the city has managed to house only 1,000 of the 8,000 homeless, yet many will oppose a continued drain on the city’s coffers. Sprawling Los Angeles county has spent heavily to house 14,000 street people while leaving another 45,000 homeless.   

And will the nation resume the former rate of shopping and eating out and attending concerts and sports events when the pandemic is over?  Or will businesses close as many permanently adapt to a more stay-at-home lifestyle? 

 Will people newly accustomed to doing business via skype and zoom continue to prefer meetings where no one knows if they’re wearing shorts and flip-flops? Or will the instant boom for these companies be followed by a major bust?

Meanwhile disputes over how to vote continue in many states that have previously limited absentee voting to people with significant reasons for their request. Some see voting from home as benefitting Democrats more than Republicans–possibly because many Democrats work longer hours, have less access to transportation, and face long lines or bullying at the polls.

Absentee voting has been open to all Idaho voters for decades. Still, voting only by absentee is a significant change.  

There’s some indication more people may vote–by last Friday, nearly 250,000 Idahoans had requested absentee ballots.  Only 176,806 voted in the 2016 primaries. In Canyon County the numbers were over 24,000 ballot requests for 2020 and 13,651 votes in May 2016.

Of course, having an extra two weeks for voting will affect the results. May 19 is the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot and June 2 for voting.

Perhaps the most important question is will this pandemic help or hurt the status of science in this country? Obama appointed five Nobel prizewinners and 25 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine during his administration. Trump issued orders silencing scientists early in his administration and has steadily replaced many with career politicians and business executives. The man recently appointed to head the fight against the coronavirus previously managed Dallas Labradoodles. 

Have the scientists been right in recommending measures to stop Covid-19? Or would it have been wiser to have let people die without ventilators while the disease ran its course?  

Scientists have overcome much of the opposition to previous findings about smog, tobacco, DDT, asbestos, sugar, and saturated fats.They have gained wide acceptance, but not victory, for theories about evolution and global warming.

Will their current fight help or hurt their future influence?  

Just how different will our new normal be? 

Published by Judy Ferro

Judy Ferro is communication director for the 2C Dems and a columnist for the Idaho Press.

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