Labor Day for second year impacted by COVID
Published 4:10 pm Friday, September 3, 2021
Labor Day weekend represents the “unofficial” close of summer and the “unofficial” start of fall. It is the first big college football weekend.
We are still in the midst of a pandemic with a new surge which has filled our hospitals with lots of sick people. The numbers continue to climb of those infected with COVID, and locally, the death rate is climbing.
Earlier this week, Jamie Swift, infection prevention director at Ballad Health, at a news conference noted: “Our health care workers are tired.” It came at a time when hospitals in the state and region are juggling a bump in hospitalizations due to COVID.
Yes, we have a rapidly spreading virus. But we also have vaccinations that are widely available and the more people that get vaccinated; the more we lessen the risk of spreading the virus. We just need more people locally to see the need to get vaccinated.
Last year we only had a handful of games on the slate for Labor Day weekend. This year, there will be plenty of games, and some really good ones, plus fans in the stands. We’re not talking about scattered fans in large stadiums; we’re talking nearly full or full stadiums. It’s football time in Tennessee!
Last year we were being told to limit gatherings to just a few friends and family, but this year it’s wide open. You should still approach large gatherings with caution, but at least you can enjoy the weekend with those you love.
The labor market is not without its challenges. During the last two years, we’ve gotten an entirely new perspective on what it means to be a worker and how critical workers are to every aspect of our lives. Maybe this year Labor Day will have a different and perhaps more significant meaning.
We have determined that all workers are essential and have learned how disruptive it is when a workforce sector is strained, especially when there are enough substitute teachers and there is no one to drive the school bus.
During the pandemic, we have had the opportunity to see what life is like without a robust workforce. It wasn’t so rosy. Some of the impact was obvious. With restaurants forced to close for nearly seven months to dine-in customers, many workers sought other opportunities and were not available to jump back into the jobs they once held — even as the busy summer season got into full swing. We can’t blame them. After all, people want to work despite anecdotes to the contrary and the jobs that were restricted in drastic ways saw workers leave in droves. So far, they are slow to come back.
Job losses have been heavily concentrated in the sectors on the economy where goods and services are delivered in person and where close contact with customers or other workers are essential to getting the job done. Beside hospitality, this has also significantly affected retail, education and healthcare jobs.
Labor Day weekend isn’t just about cookouts, swimming, going to the lake, college football, and partying like it’s 1999. The roots of Labor Day date back to the labor movement in the United States in the late 1800s, and the day was set aside to recognize the contributions to this country that the American worker has made over the years. People have enjoyed Labor Day weekends for years as it is the last big hurrah for the summer. But this year is different from past years in other ways. The labor shortage has put a huge burden on businesses of all makes and models, and on the employees that have made the decision to keep on working. Think about that this weekend when you’re standing in long lines at the grocery store or having longer than usual wait times at a restaurant. The people that are trying to serve you are giving it their best shot, and are probably overworked and will be giving up their Labor Day weekend. They could be home, but they’re not. Maybe this Labor Day weekend we should all pat someone else on the back for their hard work. It may not mean much to you but it could be the world for them.