America: One Nation Under COVID-19

America: One Nation Under COVID-19

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Every day looks like Christmas in the United States, but not in a fun way. No, every morning does not start with festivities and the whole extended family does not come over for dinner. While COVID-19 may have brought with it new pets for some, for most, every day feels like Christmas because everything is quiet.

As local authorities first issued stay-at-home directives in southern California, the wide-open freeways of Los Angeles known for their near-constant bumper-to-bumper traffic were clear. Shopping malls, restaurants, and cinemas across the country; seemingly everywhere that people elected to spend their time when not at work, were shut down. During those two months, many Americans lost their jobs, while others immediately found full-time work as some businesses were suddenly overwhelmed.

With more than 60% of Americans working from home at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, hardware stores across the country became swamped with customers who were finally ready to take on the home improvement projects they had been putting off for years. As April turned to May and the weather outside got warmer, lawn furniture and gardening equipment were a must-have.

Ulysses Linder, an 18-year old wrapping up his senior year of high school when the stay-at-home orders began, was looking for a job. Not long after he put in an application at an Ace Hardware store in California, he got a call asking him to come in for an interview at 2:00 pm. Two hours after the interview, Linder got another call. He had landed the job and his manager asked if he could start the following day. Linder has been working nearly 40 hours per week ever since.             

Grocery stores such as ‘Trader Joe’s’, a popular U.S. chain, began hiring as well to keep up with the increase in demand. Amazon halted advertising and encouraged customers to shop less because their distribution and delivery services could not keep up with the sudden increase in online shopping demand. Clothing stores that had closed to the public eventually reopened for curbside pickup only. ‘Old Navy’, a popular clothing store throughout the U.S., brought back their workers who were shocked by the number of both delivery and curbside pickup orders they received.

It was not just stores that had to completely change the way they operated as a result of COVID-19. Animal shelters across the country prepared to take in pets belonging to hospitalized COVID-19 patients who could no longer take care of them. So far, though, most shelters have fortunately not been overwhelmed. More overwhelming for many shelters, in fact, was the outpouring of public interest in fostering animals. When people are at home with no plans, a pet can be the perfect companion. One shelter leader said she expects to see a high rate of “foster fails” by the end of the pandemic, meaning pets initially placed as fosters will end up getting adopted by the foster parent.

Education saw some of the most profound changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some schools simply called off the remainder of the year due to logistical complications, others quickly transitioned to online learning platforms. The schools where students have access to this technology as well as an at-home internet connection, the transition to online learning was not too challenging.

U.S. universities’ approach to reopening varies widely. Some schools, like Northeastern University in Boston, are planning to reopen with additional dormitory spaces so students can spread out and maintain a safe social distance on campus. Others, like the entire California State University system, which is made up of 23 individual campuses, decided to keep the doors closed come fall semester, moving all their courses online. 

Essential service workers such as grocery store clerks, take-out kitchen staff, and emergency department medical personnel in highly impacted areas are systematically working harder and faster than ever before. One study found that roughly 78% of Americans are saving money by eating at home rather than dining out. While ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber may be taking a hit because people are going out less, the need for delivery drivers for food delivery services such as DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, and Uber Eats has skyrocketed. Busy restaurants struggle to fulfill take-out orders while the delivery drivers worry they will not be able to get food out to those who ordered it fast enough.

Tensions are high, people are worried, and Americans are eagerly awaiting the end of the COVID-19 era. Nobody can fully understand what exactly is happening. There are intense political divides over seemingly every pandemic-related issue, as people argue on social media about whether the virus is real, and if wearing a mask makes sense. As people argue about the COVID-19 response in the U.S. however, as a national issue the only fact is that there is no real federal government response. Stay-at-home orders enacted by state leaders are then policed by local officials, meaning that most of the changes impacting daily life for people in the U.S. come from mayors and county officials. Setting the politics aside, it is clear that no time in history has ever made the world feel more united. From California to Florida, from the United States to Taiwan, everyone is dealing with the same problem: we’re all trying to figure out how to deal with a worldwide pandemic.

 

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