Masked May: Can We Open Up the Window Just a Little Bit?

By Samir Shukla

Open the country softly, but carry a big bottle of sanitizer (apologies to Teddy Roosevelt). And, of course, wear a mask when outside your home and around other people.

Debates are raging around the country on when to start opening the economy. All sides have a point in this debate and there are no easy answers. We can't open things up and jump back into our pre-virus routines too quickly and possibly risk massive infections and forcing a second round of stay at home orders. We also can't hide out in our homes for an indefinite period and watch the already decimated economy just melt away. Businesses and livelihoods that were built over years, even lifetimes, are teetering on bankruptcy and closures in a matter of weeks.

There has to be a middle ground of common sense based on health experts' suggestions and personal behavior, and do phased openings of different businesses with mitigation efforts that should now be second nature to all - wash hands, sanitize, wear a mask, and stay a few feet away. The prime consensus also is the need for nationwide testing, so we can get a handle on who exactly maybe infected, where in the country and work on control measures.

This year is no longer about maximizing profitability for most small businesses. The next few months are about survival. How can we keep many small businesses, as well as many larger companies, from permanently shuttering while conducting business in a safer mode?

The month of May presents small windows of opportunity, as some states loosen isolation measures. It needs to be a massively masked month, a habit like putting on seat belts, while we test the murky waters, crack open the windows a bit to let some fresh air of sanity swirl through the business world and our lives.

We can be like cowboys of the American west, carrying bottles of sanitizers in holsters as side arms while putting on protective masks everywhere human contact happens. And don't shake hands. That act of clasping human hands is so last year, so last century, so unhealthily unnecessary.

A sensible middle ground must be found while the medical world finds effective treatments and the eventual pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, an effective vaccine. In the meantime, we must work toward commerce and human activity with safety in mind. There is never a zero risk to anything we do.

Maybe hot summer sunshine will subdue the damn bug for a while and we can get some people back to work, with the knowledge that the bug is now with us. We just have to be ready with all necessary measures.

You can still work from home if your job allows it. Ride out the rest of the year at home, until you feel it is safe to come out. That is an option you have even if we weren't in a global health emergency. Many people simply don't have this option. The fear factor alone will keep people at home even if businesses reopen. My family has comfortably sequestered the elderly in our family, same could be done nationwide. For those elders and vulnerable folks who don't have family or financial support, we can create networks of volunteers and supporters who can help them stay home and deliver them necessities until an effective treatment is found. There will be no cure, we don't have a cure for the flu or cancer, but we have meds and treatments to help us navigate through these and other medical maladies.

My analysis of this is that the numbers of infected are at least 10 times or more then currently documented cases. If this is true, then the fatality rate is much lower, of course I'm not downplaying fatalities, but they are likely much lower as they are currently counted against diagnosed cases.

I don't want many more to get sick or worse. But, realistically, the time to softly open the economy, in a step by step manner, is approaching. It's either that or a massive global economic depression that may take years to recover from. No one also knows the physical, and, especially, mental problems that may ensue from long-term isolation and loss of work, especially among the poor and low income. The virus is out of the box or the lab or the bat or the monkey, wherever it came from, and I don't think we can completely wipe it out.

A masked May leading to a summer where we can practice limited travel, eating out, and shop can help recovery. I can't imagine indoor concerts or sports happening possibly the rest of this year, but summer is coming. Hosting outdoor concerts, events, or sports with smaller crowds practicing distancing and masking could generate revenue to support those in the industries who have suddenly lost their livelihoods. It would be survival money until better conditions are availed.

Uncle Sam is broke, how long can the government dole out trillions to keep things afloat?

This maybe a pipe dream but I think summer will offer a bit of catch-up time. The bug will rear its head here and there, and maybe again in the fall/winter along with the flu. We must put together the necessary infrastructure now to deal with it.

How we live and work with the new virus among us are the challenges. Let's meet again, in commerce and in person, logically and softly.

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Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact - Samir@saathee.com