Friends, what a strange time we’re living in.
A Stay Home–Work Safe order was issued on March 24 for Houston and Harris County residents, going into effect at midnight and lasting until April 3. The order was announced in a press conference with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. As for what a Stay Home–Work Safe order entails, Hidalgo said it as plainly as possible: “Put simply, this means that all of us should stay home unless our jobs are essential to the health and safety of our community.” If it’s deemed that people’s jobs are essential to health and safety, they must adopt safety measures while on the job, like distancing themselves at least six feet from one another. Stay home, and if you must work, work safely.
As people across the country and the world are staying at home in an effort to curve COVID-19, how we interact with one another is changing. I was at Legacy Community Health in Montrose the day the Stay Home–Work Safe order was issued, and multiple stripes of blue tape marked the floor to enforce the “six feet apart” rule. Whether it’s taking to social media, playing the newly released Animal Crossing: New Horizons game for Nintendo Switch, or taking to Netflix Party to have long-distance movie nights between friends or spouses, there is an accelerating restructuring of the way humans socialize with one another. One has to wonder if it’s temporary, or if a New Normal is being established.
I’ve typically covered the Democratic Primaries for the past nine months, which have come to a screeching halt over the past couple of weeks. The November 2020 election has all but ceased from public discourse, as former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have stopped campaigning amid the pandemic, instead turning their focus onto COVID-19 and how to combat it.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans have been trying to reach an agreement on a bill to deal with the impacts the coronavirus has had on Americans and on the economy. According to Washington Post, Congress and the White House are closing in on a whopping $2 trillion stimulus package to combat the toll coronavirus has had on the country. It’s unclear if the current package will hold, as lawmakers are constantly going back to the drawing board and arguing over details within the bill, but as it stands: “The Senate bill would direct payments of $1,200 to most American adults and $500 to most children…. It would bolster the unemployment insurance system and pump $150 billion into U.S. hospitals.”
The package would be nice, but COVID-19 has truly made people realize the fundamental flaws in U.S. policy. The lack of adequate paid sick leave and the lack of a brisk response to the crisis is more apparent than ever, and perhaps we’ll see a shift in the conversation when it comes to healthcare in the United States, perhaps a renewed swell of support for universal healthcare that covers all Americans at no charge.
We can and should do better. The wealthiest country in the world shouldn’t have botched preventing the virus from spreading as quickly as it has. Many Americans are out of work (myself included) and have had to file for unemployment. The U.S. has shown how swiftly it comes to the aid of corporations and banks with bailouts, and it’s time that its priorities were shifted to focusing on helping its citizens first and foremost.
In the meantime, the best we can do is support one another, and supporting one another includes keeping our distance from one another. Six feet apart, washing our hands for twenty seconds, being mindful of the surfaces we touch, and avoiding touching our faces. We hear these things over and over, but every reminder to help with the transition into muscle memory is helpful in the time we’re living in. We must remain optimistic and hopeful that this can be overcome. I’m incredibly proud of MONTROSE STAR for trucking on during this time, as all of us write from home and work to put out issues for our readers. Please, stay safe and healthy!
Please visit TWC.Texas.gov if you need to file for unemployment benefits and WorkinTexas.com/vosnet/Default.aspx for work opportunities in Texas. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Montrose Star and are entirely those of the writer.