Published On: Sun, Jun 21st, 2020

Long Term Impact of COVID-19

By: Robert S Weinroth

Over the past few months, we’ve come to realize how our lives can be impacted by what occurs half way around the world. The heretofore little known city of Wuhan China (capital city of Hubei Province), will be forever linked with the misery caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.      

With our daily routines shattered by multiple orders to self-isolate and suspend non-essential activities, we have adjusted to what can only be termed the “new normal” as we slowly resume activities while incorporating new safeguards to protect our health.

The real question is what impacts this episode will have on our lives. 

Near term, the economic disruptions caused by putting the economy on pause will continue to reverberate as people who had been living on the edge (paying their bills but lacking a financial cushion to protect themselves from an unforeseen emergency) have been forced to seek a lifeline to maintain basic necessities of food and shelter.

Notwithstanding the infusion of trillions on dollars into the economy by the federal government to forestall economic gridlock, employment, income and spending peaked in February and then went into freefall as the pandemic shut down businesses across the country, marking the start of the first US recession after a record breaking eleven years of economic growth.

Our social services network has been pressed to the breaking point. Hospitals were unprepared for the onslaught of patients (lacking adequate personal protection equipment, respirators, staff and rooms). The state unemployment compensation program was ill equipped to deal with the unprecedented influx of new claims even with the supplemental funding provided by the federal government.

Food insecurity, already an issue within our county, has become more critical. Were it not for the helping hands of our con-profit agencies, the urgent needs of our residents could not be answered.

A future tsunami of mortgage foreclosures and evictions for tenants who have been protected by the Governor’s executive orders is likely to become a grim reality before the end of the year.   

But evidence of the rebound from the pandemic is already apparent. Businesses are beginning to reopen, albeit under a new set of guidelines being implemented to avoid creating a new surge of infections impacting people vulnerable to the complications associated with the virus. 

The question is how the pandemic will change our lives. Some changes (wearing face coverings and eschewing handshakes and hugs) will likely disappear, as people become more comfortable emerging from the government-imposed quarantine. 

Other changes (Plexiglas dividers, heightened attention to the need to sanitize common surfaces and “social distancing”) are likely to remain a part of our environment — at least until a large portion of our residents develop “herd immunity” (after recuperating from the disease) or receive a vaccination, once developed.

The disruption COVID-19 has caused to our lives is likely to have long-term consequences. Distance learning, virtual meetings and working remotely have been embraced for their efficiency. 

Schools and universities will be challenged to develop a hybrid of distance learning to use facilities more effectively while reintroducing personal contact between student and instructor.

Employers and employees, having recognized the benefits (and shortfalls) of allowing employees greater freedom to work remotely, are more apt to embrace the continuation of this practice as it reduces the stress of commuting while prompting greater efficiencies in the allocation of business resources (e.g., space, equipment and real estate). 

People will be less willing to accept crowded cityscapes in the future. Being jammed into a bus our train is going to be a disquieting prospect for many after the rampant transmission of the virus linked to those modes of transpiration. 

Attendance at venues with a large number of people (e.g., theatres, stadiums, amusement parks and convention halls) will need to be reengineered to address people’s desire for greater social distancing.

Shopping is also an activity that was already seeing a migration from in store to online purchases. The pandemic has only accelerated this move. The recent announced demise of several national retailers will likely be but the beginning of a continuing line of store closings and consolidations.

Another industry that will need to address health and safety is hospitality. From the recreational amenities to the rooms, hotels will need to address concerns about maintaining a germ free environment. 

Likewise, airlines, which have been notorious for squeezing as many seats as possible into the flight cabin will now be confronted with the need to ensure adequate spacing between passengers.

Even cruise lines will have a Herculean task of attracting passengers back to their decks. The prospect of being denied permission to disembark due to an onboard virus outbreak will cause many to avoid cruising until they can demonstrate a record of safety. 

Much has been written about the disruptive force autonomous vehicles will be when they predominate the roadways. However, the disruptive power of the experience we have endured during the current pandemic will likely have far greater long-term impacts on our society.         

About the Author

- Robert Weinroth is a 27 year resident of Boca Raton where he is an attorney, businessman, former member of the City Council (where he served for four years) and currently serves as an elected member of the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners. Commissioner Weinroth went to Boston’s Northeastern University where he earned a BSBA in Management. He went on to earn his Juris Doctor at New England School of Law. He is admitted to practice law in Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and the Supreme Court of the United States. Weinroth served as president and general counsel of Freedom Medical Services Inc, an accredited medical supply company in Boca Raton. FREEDOMED® represented the realization of an entrepreneurial dream. Weinroth, and his wife Pamela operated the company for 16 years, eventually selling the business in 2016. Weinroth takes great pride in his past work as a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for the 15th Judicial Circuit, advocating for the needs of abused and neglected children deemed dependent by the Court. After serving on multiple community boards and committees, Weinroth was elected to the Boca Raton City Council in 2014. During his tenure, he served as CRA Vice-chair and Deputy Mayor and was appointed to a number of county boards including the Boca Raton Airport Authority, the Palm Tran Service Board, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency, the Treasure Coast Planning Council and was elected a board member of the Palm Beach County League of Cities. Commissioner Weinroth serves as County Vice-Mayor and has been appointed Chair of the Solid Waste Authority, a board member of the PBC Transportation Planning Agency, and alternate representative on the Treasure Coast Planning Agency and several other county and regional boards. Robert, Pamela and their two dogs, Sierra and Siggy, are proud to call Boca Raton home.

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