Phase 1 recovery a step in right direction, exercise in restraint

There’s a lot that could be said about the coronavirus shutdown that I won’t say here.
Volumes have already been written already.
There have certainly been positives: Comparatively few lives have been lost, though we mourn the ones who have succumbed to this illness. Statewide and locally, they are almost exclusively victims who were already compromised – which is sad, nonetheless.
This shutdown has definitely been a mixed bag, though, and it may be years – if ever – before we can really ascertain exactly how all this played out.
With the announcement that Linn County is approved as a participant in Phase 1 of the recovery, we’ll see how much we’ve learned. Don’t get me wrong: I certainly think it’s time to move carefully toward resuming normal life, at least for those who are not compromised in some way. But this will take some effort and focus.
In the midst of a crisis, with anxiety at a high level, reasoned judgment is sometimes elusive, as has been evident by the constant changing directives, etc. Compounding the confusion has been the internet- and social media-fueled conspiracy/rumor/phobia mill, which is particularly convincing if one is already unhappy with the situation.
Economically, there’s no question this has been one of the hardest hits Americans have ever experienced. We already have a Great Depression-level of unemployment. Some people have been off work for two months.
Even then, though, it definitely hasn’t been all bad.
Those of us who’ve invested in Plexiglass and medical supply manufacturers should be feeling pretty positive right about now. Oh, and dog leash manufacturers.
Anyone who’s been to the local hardware or garden store has likely figured out that a lot of people have taken advantage of the down time in positive ways.
They’re building that fence, painting the garage, putting in a garden. Building and garden supply purveyors have to be doing well, and since productivity is good for the soul, getting that to-do list whittled down has to be making customers feel better.
As we enter Phase 1 of the restart, it will be interesting to see how things go.
Some economists say that recovery from this severe downturn could be very rapid. The reasons for this sudden depression state are vastly different from the long-term, deep-rooted problems that caused the collapse of 2008 – primarily the unprecedented level of household debt and lack of equity people had in their homes.
Apparently, we’ve learned something from that. Equity is more than double what it was in 2011, though consumer debt is still pretty high – about $90,000 per person, but a lot of that due to mortgage loans. With housing prices at the level they’ve gotten in recent years, those numbers aren’t as staggering as they might have been a decade ago.
Getting things right financially is a must, because if this thing continues, with multiple waves of shutdowns, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out where that will go.
Meanwhile, we’re living in the present and people are eager to get back to whatever normalcy will be.
Now that Gov. Brown has raised the curtain to begin that process, we need to restrain ourselves, but we also need to do what we can to help our neighbors, particularly our local businesses.
The list of “non-essential” businesses that have been shut down by gubernatorial decree is staggering, not just here in Lebanon but across the state. Those checks from the government have been better than nothing, but there are lots of costs here, not all of them immediately evident.
Businesses are opening their doors and things will be different. We’re all conditioned now to avoid physical contact. Have you watching pre-COVID TV commercials showing people shaking hands and hugging? How’d you feel about that? We’re wearing masks now.
The one segment of our local community that will really need some TLC is those businesses, particularly those that have been shuttered, or semi-shuttered.
Anyone who has run their own business knows there are a multitude of pressures of which non-business owners, even employees, may not understand very well. Those have definitely been compounded during this crisis.
We’ve already heard about local business owners, people who have committed extensive effort and finances to provide goods and services to the community, who are being forced to throw in the towel.
If we value our local shops and services, now’s the time to figure out how we can support them after two months of being on a starvation diet.
All of us need to use our heads, think ahead and do our part to keep Phase 1 going and to support those who need it. Those who have deep concerns about contracting COVID-19 would do well to maintain a high level of caution.
At the same time, though, I really think this is also a time to exercise grace as everybody figures this out. Consider not calling the authorities or jumping down someone’s throat if you see them not adhering to your preferred level of caution.
After all, this is about recovery. Let’s give each other a chance to let normalcy start to happen again.