The United States is closing. And no one is quite sure when it will reopen and what it will look like when it does.
If the situation in America soon resembles what’s already being experienced throughout Asia, Europe and the Middle East, the country is only beginning to understand the awful effects of coronavirus. If that’s the case, then no one quite knows when this hell might end.
Smart Americans are heeding the advice of various domestic and international health agencies and, for now, avoiding almost all situations in which they will be in a crowd. They’ve moved beyond the reminders to eat well, get a good night’s sleep and wash their hands. They are now hunkering down.
Employers are starting to send their employees home. Governors in multiple states are ordering schools closed for at minimum two weeks. College and university leaders are moving to online education, in some cases for the remainder of the academic year. Entertainment and sports organizations are postponing or cancelling their events. Houses of worship are telling their flocks to stay away.
And more action might be needed to prevent a staggering number of deaths.
Let’s be ridiculously optimistic and say there is significant, almost miraculous, progress within the next two weeks is reining in coronavirus. In that scenario, a kind-of spring awakening returns to the country around the end of March; doors and windows are flung open, and people venture outside to enjoy the warmer days, entertainment options and the joy of travel. Perhaps by mid-April there’s a sense that everything has returned to normal.
Now, let’s be pessimistic (and realistic) and say that within two weeks, the number of coronavirus cases are deep into the thousands (or worse). A situation not unlike what is taking place in Italy right now unfolds in the United States: in effect, people are ordered to stay home. Timetables for sports leagues to begin play again can’t be determined. Museums, concert halls, and theaters remain dark. A date for children to return to school is impossible to predict. All but absolute mandatory travel is out of the question. By mid-April, who knows what America looks like.
No matter whether coronavirus is a short-term or multi-month crisis, people will die; others will be hospitalized. Thousands, if not millions, of those people lucky enough not to contract the virus will lose their jobs. Businesses will close, entertainment options will reduce, and a mental and emotional toll will weigh on all of us.
So what does America look like once the country is, in fact, back to something resembling normal?
Swallow hard before you try to answer that question.