Being Optimistic About the Coronavirus Pandemic
This is a little different. I know. Think of it as a part II to my Greyhound article.
I’ve been in self-quarantine for a week ever since my community college sent me home for possible exposure. I’m not adjusting well to the self-quarantine for several reasons, but one of those is because I’m a freelancer. My industry has been devastated by the coronavirus and many of us were struggling to begin with. But even with the fallout that will happen alongside the coronavirus pandemic, there are some silver linings.
We need each other.
Social distancing guidelines are necessary. But some of us are refusing to comply. While it’s easy to dismiss these individuals as selfish, misinformed, or obsessed with “personal freedom,” the deeper explanation of their behavior lies within human nature. We need human interaction. It took a pandemic to realize social media connections aren’t enough.
And while I love to cuddle my grandfather like the good ol’ days, he’s pushing 90 and is at risk of a severe case of COVID-19. His life still has value, both to him and to us. I want to go home and keep him company, but I had to realize his need to stay safe supersedes my need to be close to him. I’m sure he’s saddened by this as well, but he understands our goal is to keep him around as long as possible and wait out the pandemic. In the meantime, I can Facetime him so he won’t feel as lonely.
I imagine strangers with similar attachments to their vulnerable loved ones and it helps me realize social distancing is best for everyone.
We recognize something is wrong with work.
Because I had to self-quarantine so quickly, I’m now required to rebuild my course from scratch for an online environment.
I’m not getting paid extra for that. I’m not even paid for the training it takes.
Moreover, because I’m a weird hybrid of employee, I’m not sure if any unemployment assistance will apply to me. I’m a part-time employee, sure, but I’m an adjunct and I’m paid per class. So it can be argued the school is still paying me. But I also freelance and I’m losing income. So what then? If I qualify, do I file in Nebraska or Alabama? If I’m technically separated from my husband, do I still count as a housewife who doesn’t need the assistance?
Our current system doesn’t take into account a gig economy, digital nomad, side-hustle existence. We aren’t unemployed even though some weeks we make nothing.
My husband works a “real” job. His real job has him working extremely long hours in preparation for the COVID-19 worst-case scenario. He’s burned out as a result because we have to admit offices were understaffed in the first place.
There are reports of people getting laid off because pandemics cause stock markets to crash. If those people didn’t save, either because they wouldn’t or couldn’t because of stagnant wages, they face an uncertain future. Odds are their retirement plans took a hit during the market dips as well. And in the US, they now may be uninsured because someone had the bright idea to tie health insurance to employers.
Also, suggestions for people to order their food and groceries while in isolation ignores the people who bring you that food. Do they get a day off? What about the people stocking toilet paper and water at the grocery store?
A work revolution is on the horizon and not one of those fake ones helmed by upper-middle-class and wealthy entrepreneur celebrities and scam artists.
The fight for universal healthcare feels obtainable now.
After the pandemic is over and hopefully, the loss of life is minimized, we can go back to arguing about healthcare reform.
If anything, most Americans should recognize that it IS the government’s responsibility to keep its populace safe. We need the CDC to be fully operational. We need access to coronavirus testing for anyone and everyone.
Those who oppose universal healthcare can no longer claim the US has the best healthcare system in the world. Our system is designed to kill people. Other nations have handled their outbreaks better.
“But what about Italy deciding not to treat the elderly? That’s socialized medicine!” You mean instead of our current system where just the poorer people regardless of age die? Also, that’s not what happened. What’s actually happening is that Italy is running out of medical resources because its healthcare system is overwhelmed. A problem that can be avoided in the US by flatting the curve.
Calling out racists and xenophobes has never been easier.
COVID-19 is everywhere. Diseases are blind to race, color, gender, and ethnicity. And yet, some among us believe that the “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan virus” was created in some lab or by bat soup and now it threatens the good steak-eating people of America (not the Asian Americans, the real Americans). It’s an attempt to lay blame. Also, it’s an attempt to recenter the worldwide human suffering to the US or Europe just like The Black Death.
Making America Great Again by reintroducing the Yellow Peril. Yessir.
Unfortunately, some black people have gotten into the act, too, partially fueled by the intentional anti-black sentiment taught to Asian Americans and recent immigrants. Anti-immigration stances have always been used by bigots to persuade black Americans into “othering” non-white immigrants. But the average black person knows it’s a racist dog whistle.
If you question someone calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” that person will perform some mental gymnastics that easily reveals them to be a bigot. No longer can they hide behind “crime statistics” and other dog whistles normally aimed at non-whites. Any suggestions of a bat soup mean that person thinks the Chinese don’t eat “normal” food. Any suggestions of a Chinese bioweapon mean that individual believes the Chinese — and to a larger extent all Asians — cannot be trusted. An old school racist stereotype.
Several Asian people have been assaulted lately, especially in New York, which is not only one of the states hardest hit by COVID-19, but also one with a large Italian-American population. And yet very few Italian Americans have been attacked.
Meanwhile, there is a conspiracy theory in China blaming the US military for the spread of the virus.
There will be innovations in education.
I’m not the only educator building an online course. Teachers and educators from kindergarten to graduate school have to move their classes online. We are all terrified of screwing it up.
But as my college’s president tried to spin it, it’s an opportunity to create something better. Online classes have existed for a while, but are underutilized as a resource. Some subjects translate well online, while others not-so-much. It’ll be difficult for a CDL instructor to teach exclusively online.
But that’s where out-of-the-box thinking comes from. All-of-a-sudden we all have to adjust to a world where physical school no longer exists. How will we dispense information? How do we interact with students? How do we make sure they are retaining the information? How do we keep them engaged?
The weak link in online learning is that some students need in-person coaching and motivation. How do we help those students excel along with the self-starters?
What if school becomes a library for instructors to record lectures and demos or to interact with students online but the student never steps foot there? Are we prepared to live in that world?
What if students can “attend” school any time of the day at their leisure? This may be perfect for non-traditional students who have to balance work, family, and school. Will higher ed students stay in school if they can attend lectures even at 3 am?
What about the little ones? School is a source of daycare for many parents and children need to be socialized. This where homeschool innovations come in. There are already studies that suggest smaller class sizes increase the quality of education. School lunch availability will still be a problem and will be one of the biggest challenges of all.
I can’t speak for all education, because like most college instructors and professors, I was hired because I’m an expert in my field, not as an expert in education. But now that we all are forced to participate in this living case study, I expect some real solutions to manifest in the next few weeks.
Prison reform will receive some attention.
The US has over 2 million prisoners. That’s more than the population of several states. Those people are in a box close to other people. Which means social distancing won’t work. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Some folks on the outside feel little sympathy for prisoners, but they are human beings. But even if you believe prisoners deserve to suffer in prison, COVID-19 doesn’t distinguish between a prisoner and a visitor or prison employee. Some communities in the US exist because of the local prison. A healthcare crisis in prison can easily spread like wildfire. Some prisons are eliminating visitations, but because we are social creatures, visitation is the highlight of a prisoner’s day. However you are currently feeling in isolation, a prisoner may feel for months or years.
The vast majority of American prisoners are low-level offenders. Or even people who can’t afford bail because that’s the American way. Prisons are understaffed, especially for healthcare. Prisoners are basically slave labor. They suffer human rights violations.
And we are totally unprepared for a pandemic affecting prisons. Iran — of all nations — threw caution to the wind and just temporarily released 85,000 prisoners. Only time will tell if any other nation will follow suit or revisit its prison practices.
I hope you all stay safe during this time. Practice social distancing and wash your hands.