“But, you know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with saints. Heroism and sanctity don’t really appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.” ― Albert Camus, The Plague
The following post is not to be taken as an endorsement of any political person, solution or endeavor to bring an end to unemployment and the pandemic during this time. Remember, do not use this as an opportunity to discuss any current political figures.
.For the next 7 days, my husband will be the cardiologist covering the local Duke hospital. The coronavirus often causes cardiac complications. It is highly likely my husband will have direct contact with patients who have the virus. He said that the problem with this virus is that it is highly infectious, more so than the flu.
This being the case, he will be self isolating in our house for the next week. Thankfully we have a room on one side of the house with a bathroom. I can tell you that the infectious nature of this virus is a cause for concern amongst medical people. You can be sure that most health professionals are concerned about their personal safety.
However there is another concern that is gaining the attention of medical folks as they deal with this virus. We talked about this extensively over the weekend.
Today, I listened to two people who discussed their employment status on various talk shows.
Person #1 is a PA (Physicians Assistant)
She has lost her job. She’s been working for years in a practice which does a number of kidney transplants. You may be surprised to learn that there are only a scattered few transplants occurring. All major hospitals have issued a halt for *nonessential* or non emergent care coming into a facility. This is due to the intense preparation based on the idea that hospitals will become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Would it surprise you to learn that most hospitals are not full as was anticipated? Most physicians have switched to telemedicine, seeing and discussing the patient’s concerns remotely. They have been told to hold on most testing that is not emergently needed. Sounds pretty good, right? For many practices, this has caused their income to plummet. So what, right? But think about it … that means there is little need for ancillary personnel during this time. Many are being furloughed, like the kidney transplant PA. A practice which has 7 busy doctors can have between 70-100 employees.
This is happening even in Boston which has risen to #3 in the nation for people with COVID-19. Other patients are being told to avoid coming to the hospital except for a dire emergency. Except…many beds are not filling as expected and that is at one of the leading hospitals in the area. Some nurses are being asked if they are willing to fill in in other areas that are not their specialty. Many nurses who worked in clinics are furloughed. Clinics are often considered nonessential during this pandemic.
Person #2 worked for a well known, high end clothing store.
This person was a unexpectedly furloughed and has been told that his job may not return due to the sharp decline in sales. This business had run for some time with a slim margin of profits over costs. Not only will this person be out of a job, the entire business may not be able to recover if the *stay at home* orders continue for a length of time. This person was quite emotional in discussing his severe depression being caused by this situation.
Just in time supply chains
For many years, most companies have not keep a large supply of items in their warehouses. They discovered there was no need to keep vast quantities of things such as paper towels in warehouses *just in case.* You can read about this in the Atlantic: The Modern Supply Chain Is Snapping: The coronavirus exposes the fragility of an economy built on outsourcing and just-in-time inventory.
We’ve built a global supply chain that runs on outsourcing and thin margins, and the coronavirus has exposed just how delicate it is. “I guess we’ve done a good enough job within the health-care supply chain of getting pricing down to the point that the vendors don’t have a lot of extra margin or slack to play with,” Watkins said. So when demand spikes, everyone feels it.
This is partially why we have scarce toilet paper and hospital personnel do not have enough gloves and masks. This morning, while moving some cleaners on a shelf, I discovered a huge, unopened container of Lysol Wipes. I’m sure the neighbor heard me whopping it up like I’d won the lottery. Google Lysol Wipes and your will see what I mean. One large container is currently selling for about $75 on Ebay.
Unemployment claims are off the charts.
The claims, for the week ending April 4, flooded in as confirmed coronavirus cases approached 300,000 and as nearly every state ordered its citizens to stay at home. Economic forecasts that predict unemployment will exceed its historic 25 percent peak during the Great Depression are becoming routine, and the number of jobs lost in a mere three weeks now exceeds the 15 million that it took 18 months for the Great Recession to bulldoze from 2007 to 2009.
It is being compared to the Great Depression… So what happens when such a shift is seen?
It is highly likely that the suicide rate will skyrocket.
Here is an article from the highly respected Scientific American: COVID-19 Is Likely to Lead to an Increase in Suicides: The psychosocial repercussions of this crisis could make the tragedy even worse.
Just like a pandemic became a reality for the first time in more than a century, in a destructive “life imitating art imitating life” way, news of suicides linked to the COVID-19 crisis have swept the globe and sadly show no signs of abating.
…a British 19-year-old, is likely the youngest suicide victim of this epidemic. She hadn’t been diagnosed with the virus or reported any symptoms. Rather, the announcement of the lockdown and the impending isolation petrified her.
The article compared this to Albert Camus’ The Plague. (If you haven’t read this, plan to do so.)
Camus fictional account of an outbreak of the bubonic plague in the town of Oran now holds eerie similarity to reality: the gates of the city were closed, quarantines were imposed, the citizens were isolated from each other. He aptly compares the plight of the inhabitants to imprisonment
The article compared today to the Great Depression.
The economic crisis may not cause as many deaths as COVID-19, but the high rates of unemployment, poverty and homelessness will all cause the suicide risk to surge. And indeed, suicides tend to go up during periods of economic downturn: the suicide rate rose to a record high of 21.9 per 100,000 people in 1932, in the depth of the Great Depression.
So what do we do to respond to the pain of that many are experiencing during this time?
- Call your loved ones regularly. Calling isolated elders folks at least twice a day is a recommendation by Dr Marc Siegel. I watched him discuss how his 90+ father contracted COVID-19 and survived. He expressed concern for the effects of isolation on the elderly which can lead to severe depression. I am not allowed to see my elderly mother in her independent elderly community unless I am filling her pillbox for the week. Thankfully, no one has gotten sick in that community due to the quick thinking of the director. But, they are all confined to their apartments except to don masks to spend a few minutes in the sun. My mother and I speak at least 3x day.
- We need to reach out to those we know who are isolated and offer them hope and love. Camus questions, through his main character, physician Bernard Rieux, whether in the aftermath of so much suffering, humanity can find a peace of mind. Offering a glimpse of hope, Camus concludes that we can, as “if there is one thing one can always yearn for, and sometimes attain, it is human love.”
- Reach out to those who are often overlooked. I got an idea from someone else. I have a basket ion my doorstep with a note to those who deliver my mail and those who still cut my grass. In the basket are paper towels, toiled paper, water bottles, hand sanitizer along with a note expressing my appreciation for what they do.
- Do not ignore hints of suicide. That is considered an emergency and medical care is available to those who are suffering.
Here is an important number.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Finally, my husband and I have been most grateful for our church which has continued services online. We have been sitting out on our back porch, following the liturgy and listening to the sermons and Scripture readings. We’ve found much peace and strength from this outreach and are grateful to our pastors.
Their thoughtfulness has helped me to understand how Mark Dever/9Marks missed an opportunity to show love and hope in their refusal to do services and, instead, reflect on God’s chastisement…alone. They have made up rules upon rules and none of them are found in the Bible. Frankly, he just seem lazy to me. I’m so glad to be amongst those pastors who know how to bring support their own during this time.