So many people are itching to get back to work because they think this means getting back to “normal”. They want goods and services to flow again, they want paychecks, and they want to resume activities.
I get it. I really do. I want those things too. But I think we are all missing the bigger picture here.
Trump and some other politicians are urging the return to work asap, as they are far more worried about a recession and loss of votes than the loss of life. Thay calculate risk and success by numbers, like an insurance company. 200,000 or 500,000 deaths is not a big deal to them. Not when it means that millions are still alive. They just dont care if you (or me) are one of the survivors. They dont care that your mom, or dad, or husband, or wife, or child died. They care about having enough people standing to get the economy working again. We already know that some of them dumped stocks or moved their investments around to protect their assets during this crisis. Trump is actually using the crisis to establish new business deals.
What does this mean? Well obviously the faster the economy starts up, the faster the wealthy will start making money again.
But what does it mean for the rest of us? There are a couple of harsh realities you may not have considered.
Just because you were laid off does not mean your company is going to hire you back when they start up again. many companies now have the perfect excuse to get rid of employees they wanted to lose but could not fire without fear of a lawsuit. Age, race, disabilities, or maybe your manager just didnt like you, they can finally get rid of you without any fear. Maybe they just want to get rid of employees that have been there a long time and are earning higher wages and getting a higher rate of benefits. Now that all these people have been laid off, they can replace you with people who are willing to work for less money.
And lets be real – when businesses do start up there will be a flood of people looking for jobs. Competition for employment will be so great that employers will lower wages and people will have no choice but to work jobs for minimum wage. Jobs that paid $50 an hour two months ago will now pay $15 an hour.
That is what you are rushing back to. That is what you are about to risk your life (and your loved one’s lives) for. Its about to be a game of “how low will you go?”
Last year there was a lot of press about low unemployment numbers. What they didnt show was that many people were working two or three jobs just to make rent. Many others were out of work but not considered eligible for unemployment so were not included in those numbers. Of course unemployment was low!
When businesses open back up you will not be getting back to normal. You will be in crazy competition for lower wages and fewer benefits to work in an unsafe environment that has no employee protection laws in place (because this is so new no laws have been passed to regulate workplace standards).
Even now companies are citing Trump or CDC “guidelines” which are the bare-bones minimum. They tell people not to wear a mask, to wear a mask, that this is a hoax, it is not a hoax, etc. Politicians say 6 feet distance, while health and science experts have published studies showing it should be 13 feet. These “guidelines” keep changing so how could they possibly be used to create a safe work environment? How safe are we if businesses are adhering to what politicians say instead of medical and scientific experts?
So for those who are able to find a job at crap wages, what does returning to work look like?
Checking for fever? Well that already failed. Most countries were taking temps before letting people board an airplane. Then we learned that many people are asymptomatic carriers that spread the disease without showing any symptoms. Oops, people spread the disease throughout every country on the planet. No fever – lots of virus. So lets scratch that plan since we already know it wont work.
Masks? Wearing a cloth mask will help keep some of your largest respiratory droplets from reaching the air, but they wont stop the smaller droplets as only N95 masks can do that (95% of droplets are blocked with those). So there will still be some virus droplets in the air near people. The more people, the more droplets.
We also have to take into consideration all the other variables scientists warn us about. Air temperature, ventilation, wind/breeze, etc.
So outside in a wide-open field on a warm day of 85 degrees with very little wind…two people wearing good masks and wearing them properly could pass at 6 feet with a very low risk. Even if small droplets carried for 13 feet (as we know they do) some will have been blocked by both masks, some will fall to the ground because no wind carries them across the field, and the warm temps will help render whats left less active.
Isnt that a nice perfect scenario? And how often is that going to happen?
Now let’s look at an average work environment. 20 people in office cubicles, or on an assembly line, etc. in a closed room at a temperature of 65 with no open windows. People are roughly 4 or 5 feet apart. The HVAC system has no HEPPA filter and is recirculating air throughout the building. Everyone is wearing a mask but they are all homemade, and some fabrics are useless. Some masks do not even close properly, and some people keep pulling the mask down to rub their face or get a breath of air. People go into the bathroom and take their mask off completely. The toilets in that bathroom do not have lids that close and research has established that the virus can spread through fecal matter. Any time a person poops and flushes a small cloud of particles will come up into the air and if that person has covid (think of the asymptomatic people) those particles can carry the virus. The next person that comes into the bathroom now breathes that air or touches a surface the particles have landed on.
So you tell me…what is the risk factor in that scenario?
Studies have also established that once small droplets fall to the ground they will still live on that surface and attach to your shoes…which you will then take home with you.
Next, there are a bunch of people that have recovered and now think they are immune. This baffles me as medical professionals and scientists have said flat out that there is not enough data to make that assumption. We still get the flu every year right? And several countries are already reporting cases of reinfection. They are not even sure yet if it is a completely new infection or if the virus is lying dormant and just reactivating. So now we will have a bunch of recovered patients charging back out into society thinking they are immune when what they really are is carriers getting other people sick.
And finally, let’s not forget the crushing medical debt that will come with any treatment if you have been sick. Not all of it is covered. And because hospitals and labs are bearing such huge financial burdens, medical and insurance costs are going to skyrocket. We will probably have to pay additional insurance fees if we want to be covered for covid related illnesses.
People keep saying its an overreach to have government healthcare for every single person, but what they dont understand is that this is not about controlling citizens, its about PROTECTING them!
Yes, there was a time when less government was desirable because big corporations could be trusted to do the right thing on their own. They paid decent wages, gave great benefits, and paid pensions to retired employees. Those days are gone! Companies today pay the least they can get away with and still have good workers, offer high deductible health insurance we can barely afford, and outsource our jobs if it will save them money.
Are you really willing to put your life and the lives of your loved ones into the hands of politicians and big business?
We need a government that will protect the people. We need healthcare and affordable education. We need protection against the rampant hiring discrimination we are about to face. We are going to need laws to protect us from working in unsafe work-place environments. Some companies will do the right thing, but most will not unless they are compelled to do so.
So when businesses do open back up and you go looking for a job, please remember that you have worth and value beyond what you can do for a company. Do not sell yourself low and do not just sit like a duck in an unsafe workplace.
We have the right to be safe and still have jobs. Stand up and show solidarity or we will all be in a worse position than we are right now.
And if you have any reservations about this idea just keep in mind that one sick worker can infect the entire company and force a closure…which will just put you out of work all over again. back to the end of the unemployment line applying for another check.
I do think we will beat this, but it will be a bit of a long road. We are talking about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady will win this race and only fools will rush in.
Be safe, be slow, and be well!