There are more COVID-19 losers than winners

Published 9:07 am Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Thus far, Carter County and Elizabethton have been blessed to have had only 12 COVID-19 cases reported, with one death. Last week after testing, Ivy Hall Nursing Home reported three employees tested positive for the virus as did a resident a day later.
As more testing is done in the community, we can expect more cases of COVID-19. That Ivy Hall decided to do the testing to ensure the safety of both its residents and staff is commendable.
There are more losers than winners in this pandemic. The real winners are those who have contracted the virus and beat it. The real heroes are those doctors, nurses, EMTs, policemen and firemen who are on the front lines every day treating COVID-19 victims and taking care of our residents.
Among those businesses, who are going to be on the loser list, are independent restaurants. Barbers and hairstylists are on the loser list as well since they are deemed as non-essential businesses. Three or four weeks of no revenue hurts. A lot.
The City of Elizabethton is going to feel it, too, and one way or another that puts all Elizabethton residents on the loser list as somewhere, somehow, there will be some reduction of city services. Like every city in Tennessee, Elizabethton depends on sales tax revenue to help pay for everything from police and fire services to roads and parks. If retail spending is down, so is a main source of the city’s revenue.
We do not have any big department stores, but we do have a lot of mom and pop and small businesses that pay sales tax.
Other losers include Sycamore Shoals Hospital, whose revenue is down because of the ban on elective surgeries. Emergency room visits are down. Our local Urgent Care Center has closed.
Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, and the deadly disease it causes, COVID-19, doesn’t intentionally inflict greater harm to one set of victims over another.
Talk to the record number of Tennesseans seeking jobless benefits — most for the first time — about how they fare compared with those still able to work. Some are winners, as federal relief approved by Congress adds $600 a week to unemployment benefits from states and extends benefits to 39 weeks. Some of these workers will be making more than if they worked on their jobs.
Finally, don’t forget the shell-shocked first-time patrons of food pantries, suddenly finding themselves waiting in long lines just to feed their families.
A simple fact is becoming heartbreakingly clear: The many hardships now traceable back to this virus that was virtually unheard of just a few months ago are being felt much more acutely by those who were already on society’s margins.
As we learn more about this disease daily, let’s hope that we also are gaining new appreciation for how fragile life is for people who just get by during good times.
While many higher-income Tennesseans are fortunate to work from home, those at lower rungs of the income ladder could lose their homes. Least able to weather the pandemic’s economic hardship, for them social-distancing restrictions mean they can no longer cook and serve restaurant meals, clean homes and businesses, drive delivery trucks, or sell retail goods to the rest of us. Data tell the story of the health impact of coronavirus but also shine a light on the collateral damage it is causing even in the lives of people who have not and will not contract the virus.
But whether workers accustomed to living paycheck to paycheck receive financial help in time to stave off bill collectors and landlords is a big concern of advocates for the poor. A weak link is the state’s ability to deliver the promised new benefits. ODJFS is building a new system for distributing the federal unemployment bump and hopes to have it up by the end of this week.
When health issues abate enough for businesses to reopen and life to assume a new normal, public officials will be tempted to listen to squeaky wheels that typically grease their election campaigns. Relatively well-off contributors might bemoan lost stock market gains and business downturns, but the voiceless will continue to struggle just to get by. Attention must be paid to reducing disparities that widen economic, health and cultural divides. All will benefit when a more cohesive society means each can contribute to their full potential.

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