As I stood in line recently to get into my local home improvement store I found myself growing impatient. While it didn’t take that long to get in it was still an adjustment to move six feet at a time waiting for the store employee to give the ok to enter. Then I realized how thankful I was that the store was even open. Welcome to our new normal! I watched the others in the line wait patiently for their turn and thought to myself we can adjust and make this work. It reminded me of adjusting to extra security at airports and having to take our shoes off. We didn’t like it at first but soon accepted it as a needed precaution to keep us safe. If we can do it at grocery stores and home improvement stores then we can do it other places as well.
Obviously there are still health concerns but we never had a zero risk society and we never will. Efforts by politicians to keep everyone quarantined at home seem increasingly as futile as trying to hold back the ocean with a broom. Some of the efforts we’ve seen to keep people isolated seem like political agendas at play more than safety precautions. As we begin our recovery from this crisis it will take a lot of common sense which I must admit is often lacking in our society especially by our elected leaders. I think we should proceed with caution but still proceed. Just because a restaurant or other business is open doesn’t mean we have to go in if we don’t yet feel safe but that is a decision WE should get to make.
The debate over shutting down our economy will be a long one. Looking back people may say it was the best option at the time to fight the virus while others will claim it was too drastic a measure that may have done more harm in the long run than the virus itself. Fear can do that. There are many lessons to be learned from this crisis. We are learning that government can’t fix all problems. Even when our elected officials stop fighting long enough to pass assistance we are reminded that it comes with limits, delays, restrictions and mistakes. We’ve also learned our food supply chain, a model of efficiency usually, has its vulnerabilities. Technology and automation are great tools but we still rely on people doing their jobs. Often, as in the case in packing plants, these are jobs many Americans don’t want to do even if faced with unemployment as many are now. We have also learned that our food supply system while efficient is not flexible. It is designed to deliver specific products to specific markets and a disruption like we are seeing now can dramatically slow or even stop that system altogether.
Hopefully this crisis will soon be history. Writer and philosopher George Santayana once said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. COVID 19 won’t be our last crisis so let’s use what we learn from this one to better handle those in the future.