It seems to me that the correct response to this pandemic is to have everyone simply stay home for six months.
Of course, not everyone can stay home — people would die if they did, from starvation, from ordinary, everyday diseases and injuries left untreated, from failures of infrastructure — but if the vast majority of people simply stayed home for six months, I suspect we could beat this thing.
Sure, someone from each household would need to shop once a week and some people would need to man the grocery stores and hospitals and garbage trucks, but most people could stay home for half a year and society would survive.
A fair number of those folks staying home can actually work from home — I’ve been doing it full time for years — so it’s not a big deal. And the rest of the folks, well, everyone needs a vacation, right?
So what’s the problem? Everyone is supposed to have six months’ salary in savings, right? Sure, it sucks to use it, but this is the sort of catastrophe it’s there for, isn’t it?
Except that it isn’t there. It isn’t there at all, for most people.
You see, one of the problems with paying people barely enough (or not even enough) to survive on is that they don’t have anything left over after paying for food and rent and other bills to put in savings. So when something like COVID-19 hits, the economy collapses because all those people who have no savings end up on unemployment and small businesses go under and, well, people die.
It seems to me that we’re really learning the hard way (or will be learning soon, for the especially thick-skulled) that we should be paying people — especially those furthest down the pay scale — enough so that not only can they pay their bills but that they can also put some money aside for a rainy — or virus-y — day.
Very few African-Americans can work from home, and very few have six months of reserves. This is a race-linked proposal,
That is my point — most people simply don’t have the reserves to take six months off, even if their lives (all our lives) depend on it. Yes, this disproportionately affects people of color but everyone should be paid enough that they can put aside six months’ salary for situations such as these. Either that or the government should have a rainy day fund to pay everyone their salary for six months if something happens. Or, better still, both.
Basically, we need some fundamental changes to our societal infrastructure. We may (hopefully) be lucky with this one and survive as a species, but we very well may not when the next one hits. We need to make sure people are paid well enough that they can thrive even while saving, that everyone has healthcare, and that we recognize everyone as an important part of a complex civilization, not as unrelated, disconnected individuals.