Introduction: The COVID-19 Pandemic

We are now well into November. Things were much different and much more stable 11 months ago in the beginning of 2020. Goods and services were flowing within and across national borders. People, some of whom were tourists, could jump on a jet plane and travel to distant locations throughout the world. We had just heard rumors about a medical problem that had arisen in China. In fact, it turned out to be the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The first indication of the problem in the US came from Washington State in early January.

One of the important effects of the pandemic is the number of changes it has produced. There have been big changes in the nature and amounts of the goods and services that the population wants most. For example, there were massive shortages of things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. And suddenly there was a high demand for items like face masks, so much so that people started making their own cloth face coverings at home.

Then there is “remote learning”. As some teachers might agree, one of the joys of teaching comes from the direct contact with the students. That was certainly my experience. Not only did it help the student’s learning process, but added to my understanding as well. Now we have parents in the position of homeschooling their kids and workers being furloughed because it is unsafe to be in their work environments.

I have experienced many changes to my routine which have made it more difficult to stay connected with my community. In the olden days I got together with my colleagues and friends once a week or so to hang out, have lunch and discuss things. Now weather permitting, we sit outside 10 feet apart with face masks or get together on Zoom — in 2D not 3D. Also, with my hearing and vision issues, face masks have added another layer of difficulty. Faces and expressions are important points of connection for me. Where are the lips, smiles and frowns? Not to mention the hugs! Another pandemic, way back in 1916, deprived me of the opportunity to meet my maternal grandfather. I think of all those who will go on to live their lives being deprived of meeting their grandparents or other loved ones too. We haven’t seen the effects of these changes yet, but loss has a serious impact on those who must live with it.

COVID-19 is a new and novel respiratory disease, one that has never been experienced previously. There is no way of knowing ahead of time how it will play itself out and what steps are required to ameliorate its effects. By its very nature a basic, significant and underlying effect of the pandemic is the uncertainty that the disease brings along with it.

Society’s resources are limited. Some products in the previous mix are no longer required. Who knows if we will ever return to movie theaters, indoor malls, or restaurants? Many businesses have closed and others are struggling to stay open and may not make it to 2021. The pandemic mandates a significant reallocation of society’s limited resources.

The objective of this series of blog posts entitled “The Pandemic” is to examine the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes that have to be made to adjust to it. And we will adjust to it. Believe me, I have seen some changes in my (almost) 93 years. In this series we will explore some of the changes and talk about some of the important and long-term implications that I think are being overlooked.

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