2021 New USA Normal
My opinion, having endured 14 months of COVID-19 restrictions while observing political, medical, business, and human behavioral data, is that the USA will not return to a pre-COVID-19 normal (norm) of behavior.
On a national level, the public hears that we have begun a return to health, along with an unprecedented time of prosperity. Yet, on business news channels we hear counters to that message. Mostly, the counter is that restarting an economy will be time and resource complicated. The government does not control the free will of individual citizens, nor does it control the decisions of millions of businesses. The economy in the USA today is on life support because multi-millions of people who used to have jobs have and continue to live on stimulus payments, an underground economy, and multiple “Gig” jobs that mostly pay in cash. Likely, businesses, mostly hampered with debt, will only re-employ skilled former employees who are essential. What happens to the rest of the unemployed?
A return to viability of the travel/leisure industry has been named as a great hope. However, the commercial airline, cruise ship, and mass gathering entertainment industries have all been designated as vectors of the pandemic. The commercial airline industry this year has only been able to meet its high debt payments by using revenue earned on increased personal travel in early 2021. No profit, no dividend payments to investors, and a total reliance on government stimulus payments to its idled workers are details that do not describe a business returning to a “norm.” The 1QCY2021 measure that I recently read from one airline was that business travel is still down 80-90% from the pre-Covid norm. Business travel receipts were the essential ingredient in the old norm for commercial airlines.
Historically, on almost any subject, there is no continuing human “norm.” Constant, vast, but small, changes in human behavior go unnoticed. A calamity, such as a pandemic, stops the entire process, forcing us to adapt to the enemy (a virus). “The Enemy has a vote!” In military planning, always, the planners must determine all possible actions of the enemy commander, and the political will of the leadership and people behind that commander.
COVID-19, a micro-virus, spreads opportunistically among us. It has no leadership, political will, or experienced commander. Like water, the virus moves to the lowest (most vulnerable) points (habits) of gravity (human behavior) to turn us into soil for its survival and a host for its expansion, thereby constraining us from what we choose to be our “normal.”
Our free will provides new opportunities for the virus to spread and mutate. It is folly to plan for humanity to return to “the old norm” while a live, deadly virus does what it has been doing all along. I have read of one claim of humanity eradicating a virus: Smallpox, in the 1970s. Even that may be a stretch because smallpox has appeared and disappeared in earlier human history. Aids, Bubonic Plague, Syphilis, and thousands of other live viruses today are managed mostly by attacking the conditions, isolating the locations, sharing information, and applying vaccines. All of that is a change in human behavior, not a return to normal.
God is not to blame. God put the first man (Adam) in management of all plants and animals. We, as sons and daughters of Adam, are expected today to manage the natural world that he gave us. Microscopic organisms like viruses are not mentioned in the Bible, but just as small cells are the building blocks of all living matter, they surely have been with us from the beginning. Would all-powerful God cause DNA from a bat to cross over into human DNA? No. If he wanted to snuff us out, he could kick our entire planet into the sun and be done with us. He has always done the opposite of that. He gives us his grace. He expects us to come to him in prayer. It is our free will, our focus on our selfish wants that blinds us to the goodness of God’s grace, and justifies our mismanagement of the world that he gave to us.
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