The end of 2020 is almost upon us and we can see the light at the end of a long, dark, dangerous, and very boring tunnel. I picture us emerging like Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day, looking for our shadows to see if we have months more of pandemic yet to endure.
The 2020 Fallout Shelter
The more apt image, however, is survivors of a nuclear holocaust cracking the door of their fallout shelter and emerging, blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight, to discover what’s left of the world.
We have seen the changes happening throughout 2020 and more are coming. Covid-19 has decimated small retail shops and family-owned restaurants, mostly due to the lockdowns and restrictions put in place to control it. The landscape of local businesses has changed. It might not be as bad as in post-apocalyptic dystopian movies like I Am Legend but certainly closer than anything we have seen since the Great Depression.
Gone, Baby, Gone
Remember that little place where you liked to have breakfast and read the Sunday news or do a crossword puzzle? Gone. Planning a birthday dinner out at the upscale restaurant with gourmet food? Closed. Looking forward to trying the new place that just opened in February? Dark a year later.
I have seen some of this in my town but more in the few times I have gone into Boston. I walked past what used to be a Panera Bread on Boylston Street, then turned to see how I could have missed it. The answer was simple; it’s not there anymore. Neither is the Au Bon Pain on the next block. Both of these “fast casual” restaurants had done a strong business day after day but Covid-19 killed them.
The independent owners of the North End’s Italian restaurants are staring down the barrel of a shotgun they have been ducking for 10 long months, and counting the days they can afford to stay open.
Honey, I Shrunk the Store
I haven’t been to the mall lately—don’t even know if it’s open—but the department stores are dying. These big anchor stores have either declared bankruptcy or shrunk down. The last time I went to a mall, in July, Nordstrom’s and other shops had merchandise in only part of the store; the rest was empty. The restaurant where a friend and I had planned to meet and eat outdoors had vanished.
If you have been putting off buying things that you need—socks, underwear, a replacement for your favorite sweater, pajamas—you may have to look for a different store to purchase them in. If, worse, you have been fattening Jeff Bezos’s already obscene profits by purchasing goods from Amazon, you got what you needed at the cost of business for your local retail shops and overpackaging going into the trash.
Nordstrom’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s may die, but there will always be Amazon.
The Day After the Year Before
The good news is that, like 2020, we hold the end in sight. Just knowing that has lifted our spirits and lured some folks into acting as if we have all been vaccinated already and achieved herd immunity. Thus, the Thanksgiving and Christmas travel surges that have spiked cases of Covid-19, overloading hospitals and their IC units.
Sure, we all wanted to see our families around the holidays. Both of our children live away from us. One is a long drive in another state and the other needs a plane ride. We thought about different options and approaches but opted to just stay home and stay safe. We will still be here to see them again when we can.
Dying in a State of Denial
Then, of course, we have the Virus Deniers, those who have all along listened to the siren song of the Great Hoax, or who believe that their faith will protect them. Thousands have sickened and far too many have succumbed because of their refusal to take such simple steps as wearing a mask, washing their hands and avoiding indoor gatherings. Not a few of those have been ministers, pastors, rabbis, priests, and other men of God who forgot that God helps those who help themselves. A Russian proverb says, “Pray to God but continue to row to the shore.” Indeed.
A lot of this denial has happened in the Midwest and I envision new ghost towns emerging from what used to be prosperous small communities, much like what happened after the Dust Bowl of the Thirties.
The End of 2020 is Near
Despite the calendar, we are still far from the end of this pandemic and must act accordingly. Let’s make sure the turn of the year is not also the Turn of the Screw. Herd immunity and the end of Covid-19 will be hard won.
They will require empathy and not judgmentalism, cooperation instead of denial, sacrifice rather than greed, and empathy in place of selfishness.
We will get there. Fewer of us will be around by the time this ends—over one and a quarter million worldwide and closing in on 340,000 as of today—but we will get there. Until then, follow the guidelines, get vaccinated when you can, and hold on.
I want you to be around for the holidays next year. Ya hear?