There are many lessons to learn from Covid-19. It reshaped our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined a few months ago. Things that we took for granted such as readily available groceries and medical supplies, a job to go to each day, and time with our families are no longer a given. The impact was swift and worldwide. In a matter of weeks the global economy came to a screeching halt and societies locked down. We were in a pandemic.
There have been threats of a global pandemics for years. Movies and books glorify the rogue virus and sell by the millions. I’ve read these novels myself. Localized pandemics hit Africa and the Middle East in the last decade. We’ve seen increasingly virulent and dangerous flu strains weakening our vaccine firewall. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and countless other national and international health watchdogs have warned that a pandemic was coming.
Yet, somehow, Covid-19 caught us unprepared.
The federal and state governments and our medical system came up short. The education system was unprepared to teach remotely. Restaurants and retailers that couldn’t pivot quickly to shift their model closed their doors forever. And individual people were left without basic needs and cut off from the ones they love.
We should’t let this happen again. Just a few generations ago, people prepared for emergencies but we’ve moved away from such thinking in the modern world. We’ve become convinced that “it won’t happen here”. But it did, and we should learn from this experience. Consider these 10 social lessons (hopefully) learned from Covid-19.
Family and Personal Planning for Emergencies
We were taught to save money and plan for emergencies but many of us don’t take these simple steps. This is one of the most important lessons to learn from Covid-19.
Save for a rainy day
The general recommendation is to save enough money to cover three to six months worth of expenses in the event you lose your income. This may not be a goal you can reach immediately but you can start now.
The cultural value of savings diminished over the years. Our grandparents saved first, and then saved again. First they created a fund for emergencies. Second they saved money if they wanted to buy something. In today’s economy, people charge and borrow to their hearts content rather than paying as they go and socking away any extra.
I’ve often heard people complain that they don’t have money to save as they finish off their $40 restaurant dinner and drive home in their financed new car. Or they claim poverty while sipping a Starbucks latte. For these people savings simply isn’t a priority. They are making life choices to spend money rather than save. Unfortunately, societal norms support these decisions through media and advertising telling Americans to buy, buy, buy.
How to build savings
Even small amounts of savings add up. If you make $50,000 per year, you need to save $12,500 to have a three month nest egg. Kick your Starbucks habit and save the $30.00 per week. At a piddling 2% annual interest, you’ll save your nest egg in eight years. That may seem like an eternity but think about how you would feel now if you started eight years ago. Find ways to cut back spending by small increments and save the difference. There is something very motivating about watching your balance grow. It makes you want to save more.
Keep a home emergency kit
A home emergency kit is something I’ve always kept on hand. I was quite proud of myself when the power went out and I went to my kit to get flashlights and a portable heater. Each Autumn I took stock of my kit, rotated out my six gallons of bottled water, check the expiration dates, and closed her up for another year. My kit contained the tools to splint a broken bone, stitch up a wound, or start a fire to cook with. I felt prepared.
But was I? It turns out the answer is “sort of”.
I prepared for a weather event. We installed a generator and stocked an emergency kit that would keep us safe, dry, and warm for weeks. My supplies would protect us through a short term pandemic. I had face masks and a well stocked medicine cabinet. But it fell short in two areas. My medicine cabinet was missing some critical items including alcohol and hand sanitizer. How did I miss that?
I missed it because I got comfortable with my annual review of my kit and didn’t periodically step back and assess what I actually need. My kit was not sufficient to the last several months.
Information about what to stock in an emergency kit and how to maintain the kit is widely available. A quick Pinterest search turns up dozens of helpful articles. Do your research, consider your family’s needs, and reassess every year.
Stock up on basic supplies
We are a society obsessed with instant gratification. We’re in love with Amazon Prime and the amazing array of retail establishments available to us over the internet. We can get almost anything we want or need delivered the next day… until there is a pandemic. This ease of access corroded our natural desire to stockpile basic food and supplies. I’m not suggesting a prepper bunker (though I also don’t criticize the idea). I am suggesting a change in how we shop.
It isn’t sufficient to hop on Amazon every time you need something and order it. This approach only meets our immediate needs with no thought to long term, or even mid-term, planning. It’s also wasteful. All of the excess packaging and fuel used for transportation contribute heavily to environmental destruction.
Why were supplies hard to find during the Coronavirus pandemic?
The overnight production and delivery network in the U.S. fell apart overnight. In early April, I couldn’t get a grocery delivery for three weeks! The reasons for the meltdown are varied. Retailers don’t want to waste shelf space with low profit items such as toilet paper and rubbing alcohol so manufacturers don’t produce as much. When the virus hit, productions plants closed down and transportation capacity reduced as workers became ill. Furthermore, our over reliance on international production means a wait time of weeks or months for supplies to replenish. The need to keep a supply of basics is a critical lesson learned from the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Plan what you need and stock up on basics to avoid this problem in the future. The need for basic supplies such as toilet paper is predictable. According to an article in clickorlando.com, the average American uses 141 rolls of toilet paper per year. Look at your own use of TP and other basics such as food staples, medical supplies, pet food and other needs, and common household items. Do an inventory of your home to identify what is critical for your family and maintain an inventory that will last you a few months.
Use Your Economic Power for Change
Money is power.
Over the past several decades, our economy has increasingly moved off-shore in search of cheap labor, lower regulatory barriers, and the availability of inexpensive inputs. We’ve created an internationally sourced economy built on low quality disposable goods. “Buy American” no longer means something to the average consumer.
This reliance on the global economy, and disregard for local and small businesses, ate away at the core of many local retailers and service providers. For decades they have scraped by to make ends meet as Americans shopped elsewhere. Our community based business owners were stocking their shelves with the bare essentials and not maintaining inventory. We left them weak and in many cases unable to step up and help supply the nation in its time of need. We need to rebuild local businesses.
Shopping locally is one of the easiest ways to strengthen your community. The money you spend tends to stay in your community as local shop owners conduct transactions with other like minded local entrepreneurs. Tax revenues increase resuting in stronger infrastructure for all who live in your city or town.
Be sure to include your local farmer. Our family and community farms have been decimated by factory farming and importing of foreign produce. Today’s farms can’t support our food needs because they have been forced to cut back in order to survive. It’s time to rebuild local farms and farming communities. Besides the obvious benefit of access to food, there are also health and economic benefits to eating locally. Read more about the benefits of eating seasonally and locally.
It is also a good way to connect with your neighbors. When visiting local shops, you’ll see and meet people who live nearby. Seek out the shop owner and introduce yourself. Develop a relationship with those around you to foster your community.
If you can’t find what you want in your own local community, you can still shop small and support local entrepreneurs. The internet places a country full of small businesses at your fingertips. Use Google or frequent small business marketplaces such as Etsy. Participate in Small Business Saturday in person or online.
If you can’t shop locally, and you can’t source from a small business somewhere else in the country, you can still try to buy American from all retailers.
Any of these three approaches keep more resources in the country, shorten supply routes and the time needed to receive goods, build long term strength in our economy and supply lines, and enhance the economic well being of businesses and communities. Doing so will better position our businesses to support us in future times of need.
Read more about ways to use your economic power to support your community.
Good Health and Hygiene
Wash your damn hands!
This lesson is long overdue. The world is dirty and your hands are the quickest path any virus or bacteria can take into your body. We know this but many people ignored basic hygiene. Covid-19 seems to have driven this message home.
Don’t rely on hand sanitizer to do the trick for you. It’s a good alternative in a pinch but long term use of hand sanitizer & anti-bacterial products may weaken your bodies immune system. Good old fashioned soap and water does the trick nicely.
Be as healthy as you can be
A friend made this point to me. The majority of people dying of Covid-19, though not all, had underlying healthy conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or other coronary or pulmonary diseases. You can prevent may of these underlying conditions through a good diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices. Almost 40% of Americans are obese. Many never exercise. It’s time to change this as a society and that starts one person at a time.
There is a possibility that without a vaccine, we will all eventually be infected with Covid-19. It’s critical that you are in your best health in order to fight this illness if it comes your way. Start making good choices now and take care of yourself so you can become as healthy as you can be.
Support Your Community
Recognize the importance of everyday tasks
If you go through the checkout line at any grocery store, you see shelves full of magazines with smiling movie stars and professional athletes on the cover. The news loves stories about Wall Street millionaires and tech giants. But when Covid-19 hit, these people didn’t matter.
The people who did were the ones that fly under the radar in normal times. We needed our grocery clerks and delivery people. Home health care workers, nurses aides, and direct care staff in community settings and nursing homes took care of thousands of people every day, often without the protective equipment that was prioritized for hospital workers. Housekeepers and janitorial staff who fought back the spread were everyday heroes. Restaurant workers and farmers kept food flowing to the public.
These are the people who kept us all going through this pandemic. They supplied the basic needs of everyday Americans. Let’s not forget them when this is over.
You can’t look the other way
One of the most destructive characteristics of Covid-19 is that it spread indiscriminately. It didn’t care where you live, what you do for work, your race or ethnic background, or your sexual preference. It hit everyone.
In this way, it was unlike other viruses.
Consider Aids. It spread for decades before getting serious attention. Even today it kills hundreds of thousands of people annually with no news coverage and limited global cooperation to stop the spread. According to Centers for Disease Control, 37.9 million people are currently living with HIV or Aids. 770,000 people died from Aids related illness in 2018. Thirty-five million people have died from Aids since the beginning of the epidemic. Compare that to Covid-19. As of this writing the World Health Organization reports 6.3 million people diagnosed with Covid-19 of which 379,000 have died.
Why the disparity in response and treatment? Could it be because Aids didn’t substantially impact wealthier countries? It is, after all, still considered a disease for low and middle income countries, drug addicts, and homosexuals. I hate to think this is the case but can’t ignore the possible reality.
Covid-19 should teach us to not look the other way. When a disease spreads around the world, regardless of who it infects, we have to stop it. It is the right thing to do for all human beings. If that isn’t reason enough, hopefully people have learned that we must act quickly because they could be the next one infected. It is in everyone’s best interest to target ALL killer diseases.
What’s Next- the “New Normal”
We don’t know what the future holds for Covid-19 or when the “new normal” will truly feel normal but we can plan and prepare better. We can act on the lessons we learned from the Coronavirus pandemic. I suspect that a vaccine is forthcoming and we’ll find a way to move forward and get to the other side. I hope that we take these, and many other, lessons with us. These 10 important social lessons (hopefully) learned from Covid 19 shouldn’t be brushed aside when the threat is gone. The pandemic was a wake up call. Everything will not always be okay. We need to be responsible and prepared. It brought out the best in most of us and changed our communities for the better. Let’s keep that momentum going and make this world a better place to live, one good person at a time.
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