Notes from a California “Shut In”
It has been almost 8 full weeks since the San Francisco Bay Area initiated the “shut in” rule that most states have followed since. To date, though Governor Newsom has initiated “Phase Two” of his reopening of the state on May 8, the Public Health Department officials in the Bay Area have refused to obey Governor Newsom’s minimal decree. When they will allow any reopening is anyone’s guess.
Since March 17, I have obeyed the shut in orders except for trips to the grocery stores and going for walks morning and night with Gigi. The furthest I have ventured from home has been no more than 3 miles. As a result, I have only witnessed what is going on in the immediate area around my home, and what is reported on news broadcasts, the media and through friends.
On May 8, I had a treatment scheduled in a city about 30 miles away. Going to the treatment at that hospital required first getting a blood test the day before, and then a freeway drive to the hospital. I found the trip highly illuminating and disturbing.
Here are my observations and mullings about what is going on here.
- First off, traffic was incredibly light, whether early morning or late afternoon. Traffic points that would be heavily congested or even bumper to bumper and backed up for 3 miles had little traffic. Traffic on the road was at least down by 80% and perhaps by 90%.
- Passing by shopping centers, I could only shake my head at the closed storefronts. 90% of the stores were closed with only “big box” retailers like Walmart or Lowes being open. Retailers like JC Penneys, Macys and others were closed.
- Mall parking lots were deserted. Only “security” vehicles were observed in them.
- Mom and Pop restaurants were all closed. Only big chain restaurants were open for either drive through or pick up, and fast food. Nothing else.
- Theaters and other types of entertainment facilities were closed.
Upon arriving at the hospital for my treatment, I was equally shocked. What I saw was unexpected to say the least.
- The regional hospital I go to had parking lots with few cars in them that would otherwise be full. I was able to park right next to the main entrance.
- In the parking lot, tents were set up for testing of people for Covid 19. The tents were empty of anyone but employees. No one had been going to them for testing.
- Entering the facility, I was subjected to questioning about C-19 exposure and subjected to a temperature check. Then I was allowed to pass.
- Each time I go to the Infusion Department, it is full of patients and nurses. This time, there was only one patient on hand and 9 nurses will nothing to do. The good news was that I received excellent care, not that I don’t get the same each time I go.
This was, in general, a very strong “reality” check for me. I knew what was going on, but to see it first hand, there is just no description of what I was feeling.
Sorry President Trump, but there is no way that California is going to recover from the effects of the state closure in any type of rapid time frame. It is simply not going to be possible.
The restaurant industry in the state employees so many people, both as servers and support people, that even upon restarting the economy, far too many will be left add. Add to that from 50-70% of the restaurants will not reopen and the scale of disaster is off the books.
Other service industries will be equally harmed. The hospitality industry, airlines, entertainment to name just a few will take years to recover.
Housing will take a huge hit. Even with reopening of the economy, there will not be enough jobs available and those that are will not pay wages enough to keep the middle class and lower class in their homes. So defaults will occur. Foreclosures initiated. And evictions started. Renters will not be exempt either.
Both Home Improvement and Building Contractors will be similarly affected. If there are no qualified buyers or a glut of homes on the market, then those industries will take many years to recover.
Brick and mortar stores are finished. Whether it is retail or grocery stores, the trend to online purchases and delivery is being accelerated greatly. (The older farts like me are using them more and more.) This trend will grow more pronounced as the next couple of years go by.
Cinemas will find less and less attendees with the popularity of streaming online movies and programs becoming more and more accepted.
Schools are going to be majorly affected as well, particularly the high grades and colleges. Expect to see a proliferation of online classes and the reduction of classroom attendance when students reach high school grades. Colleges and universities may become greater than 75% online at some point.
What is more and more worrisome to me are those people who will be not be able to return to their jobs, nor have the assets to go without work for an extended period of time. At some point, unemployment benefits will run out and then where do they turn when their families are unable to offer support to them?
America and the rest of the world find itself at an inflection point in history. Unfortunately, there is no ability to see how the world will change after the C-19 crisis has resolved, but it will change. We can only hope that the changes will be minimal in disruption, but that is very unlikely.
All we can do is hope for the best and hunker down in the coming years.