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Tragic economic devastation from COVID – it could have been prevented

While things continue to change by the day and the stats are fluid, this week I heard some estimates that over 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed due to COVID (according to an “unofficial” Yelp.com tracker). That is tragic. Tens of millions of Americans have filed for unemployment over these last few months, and while millions of those people have found new jobs (from companies that were hiring during the COVID pandemic such as Amazon, Wal-Mart, etc. or they were “recalled” to their employer), the net effect is still about 17 million people are still filing continuing weekly unemployment claims.

I mentor to try to help small businesses, and I hear stories of how they are suffering. It is tragic. And it makes me angry to hear these hard working people, who put everything into their businesses and took huge risks to start a business, it makes me angry to hear them struggle, because almost all of this economic tragedy was preventable. Many people (as well as businesses) will, or soon will be, facing even more economic and financial hardship if/when government stimulus programs are not renewed.

Suicides are up, poverty rates are more than likely trending higher, kids are not learning as effectively at home and many kids may not be going back to in-person school this fall. That only scratches the surface of the tragedy in our country. It is safe to assume that even more personal as well as financial devastation has occurred and the full score of this pandemic will not be known until much later. While it is tragic, what frustrates me exponentially more is that almost all of this could have been minimized and most of this tragic economic (as well as health care) results could have been prevented.

All of above does not even touch on the health care tragedies, the vast majority of which could have also been easily prevented. There have been (to date) ~140,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of additional people have been so sick from COVID that they have been hospitalized. Even as I write this, as of this moment over 50,000 people are so sick they are in the hospitals.

Here is the real time hospitalization tracker: https://carlsonschool.umn.edu/mili-misrc-covid19-tracking-project

Note most people for some reason focus on the death count, which is tragic (and was mostly preventable), but I think people seem to lose sight of the hundreds of thousands of additional people who get so sick from COVID they needed to go into the ICU or into hospitals. Those patients who went to the hospitals were extremely sick and can even have long term health consequences as well. Especially considering doctors still do not know much about COVID or the long term impacts to the body, as all of this is still TBD. Almost all of this could have been minimized and these tragic results could have been prevented.

COVID – Worst of America and Americans

I think this is the most frustrating time I can recall in my lifetime and I bet history will look back on this year and say COVID has brought out the worst of America. It has brought out the worst of its people and its politicians. Why is that? It is because almost none of this needed to occur. If China really did create COVID in a lab (and accidentally or intentionally released it), they have now found an effective way to tear America apart and bring out the worst of its citizens.

I actually thought back in March that we as a nation could have both limited the economic damage and saved lives by more thoughtful approaches. A time has shown, it was possible to do exactly that (limit deaths and economic tragedy), as that is now being done successfully by almost every other advanced country. I even wrote about this back in mid-March.


But I now realize that in the US it would be impossible to do this. Who knows the exact reason, but I think America is too polarized with a tremendous lack of political leadership as well as an most of an entire political party that does not believe in data, logic, math or science. Note I say there is a lack of political leadership as many/most corporations and the business community leadership has now stepped up to the plate to try to control COVID, even including Wal-Mart and countless other companies. Somehow everything in this country turns into a political issue that involves emotions/propaganda and there is a terrible lack of logic and use of data.

There is a lack of people who use data and facts. Note most of those Americans who do not use logic/data/math identify as Republicans, as study after study and survey after survey shows that the Republican party has a pronounced lack of educated voters. Democrats have over 50% more people with four year degrees and Democrats have 110% more voters with advanced degrees such as a masters, PHDs, etc. The fact is the majority of the Republican party is white people that have only high school degrees. Maybe that huge disparity in education accounts for the inability of many Republicans to use data, math, science, logic, etc. in formulating decisions?

America is really an embarrassment and the laughing stock of the world. Other countries have banned Americans from even entering their country as our response to COVID is so terrible. We have more people dying in a day than other countries have lost during the entire pandemic. We are tragically now needing to deal with the upcoming school year and what to do with it and children. But do Americans even know that most other countries, like Germany and Finland, are opening their schools with no concerns or at all. Doing something as simple as opening a school in other countries is not politicized because the countries are safe (no or little COVID), and people are selfless and they have strong political leadership at the PM or presidential level.

Opening schools, and really doing anything, is not a big deal overseas because their people (and political leadership) did the simple things of being selfless, wearing a mask, following data and science. That allowed those countries to mostly defeat COVID, which then allowed them to safely reopen their schools as their is almost no virus in their countries period. (As opposed to US which is trying to open schools in the midst of a raging pandemic.) Many countries have their economies back on track too, as the people and politicians used science/data, and were selfless.

It is so strange how many Americans do not even think about this. Don’t Americans ask themselves why is everyone else in the world mostly back on track except our country. Don’t people ask themselves why are other countries current death rates (and death rates even going back months) on a per capita basis are significantly less than America’s at the same time their economic hardships have been prevented? We have lost the “war” on COVID as we could not lower the deaths and also could not save the economy.

The vast majority could have been prevented

All people had to do was the simple, 5 second act of wearing a mask and show some consideration of others by leaving a little distance (aka social distance). As those countries that have defeated COVID did this and proved that simple action works.  And sadly study after study shows that about 50% of Republicans still refuse to wear a mask. American too could have also prevented the economic tragedy and health care crisis.

The reason why Republicans do not want to wear a mask? They seem to say they do not want the government, businesses, or people to tell them what do do and it is an intrusion on their personal freedom. Or, even worse, some Republicans think COVID does not even exist and/or it is a big hoax. Or they think that masks are not effective for containing a virus. Or they think the mortality rate is “only 1%”. Really? (to all of those reasons!) I feel like I am living in the twilight zone.

I keep going back to it, but I keep needing to shake my ahead at the total lack of logic to all this.

  • But Republicans do not complain that they need to wear a shirt or pants into a store, which businesses and/or the government tells them they need to do. Isn’t that an intrusion on their personal freedom?
  • Why don’t Republicans stop paying taxes? After all, the government tells them they need to pay taxes. Aren’t taxes an intrusion on their personal freedom?
  • Republicans do not seem to complain that they can’t drink or drive, which the government tells them they need to do. Isn’t that an intrusion on their personal freedom?
  • Republicans do not seem to complain that they need to abide by the rules and regulations of their employer. Isn’t that an intrusion on their personal freedom?
  • Republicans do not seem to complain that they need to wear a seat belt, which the government tells them they need to do. (and of course not wearing a seat belt is much less dangerous for society as it just kills the stubborn, ignorant driver with no belt).
  • Medical professionals have proven for decades that a simple surgical type mask is an effective form of protection against viruses. This is why doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc. have worn masks for decades. Next time you need surgery done, tell the surgeon to take off their mask or they do not need to wear one…lets see you (the patient) get infected.
  • Republicans seem to say mortality rate is low, such as .5% or 1%. While exact mortality rates are TBD, lets say it is .5%. That is about 1.7 million Americans who could potentially die. Or if it is 1%, that is 3.5 million Americans could potentially die. Once again, basic math. 1% of call it ~350 million Americans means up to 3.5 million could die. (Once again, that would not also count millions more who would be in the hospital)

I really can go on and on and have done so before. It is so strange to me as their is zero logic in all of these arguments.

So here we are. Republicans complain about economic shutdowns and the economic tragedy (rightfully so), but the sad irony is Republicans actually have and HAD the ability to open the economy by taking a 5 second act. And the ability to save lives by doing that. It is so strange and sad the time we live in.


Note this post is also political and reference one party, as not sure how else I can go about it as the data is what it is around educational levels, party affiliation with masks, mindset to personal freedom.

Also, when it comes to personal freedom, which is a major the justification of why Republicans refuse to wear a mask, I love this thought on whether anyone truly has freedom or not.

Do we really have freedom?
No! You are constrained by obvious limitations, such as obeying the laws of your community/society. As an adolescent you must attend school at set hours. Act according to the “rules” established by school authorities, show respect to teachers, behave appropriately in class, You must, as an adult pay taxes on time; fill out forms requested by government departments. Have a job with established work hours, be punctual. Behave in a manner required by your bosses, be deferential, show respect. Drive within restricted speed limits, not break the road rules, and pay fines when you break these rules.
As a social creature you are restricted by habits, whereby you are constrained from acting out in a disorderly manner. There are normative behaviors which are expected of you, like respect for elders, acceptable behavior in school/ work environments, behaving in an orderly manner; not being a bully or a thug. To oppose any of these rules will cause you to suffer a penalty of some form. From physical restraint, to financial costs, or penal servitude.
There are many normative rules that we do not even question. Like staring at someone, walking on the right side of the sidewalk, not jay walking, stopping at lights till they turn green. not pushing in to a line of waiting people. being deferential to authorities.
All of these are aimed at social cohesion, so they are not “bad” in themselves but they are restrictions on your personal freedom to do as you choose. Of course you can reject these “rules” but there are consequences. So you are free to do, as long as you stay within the written and unwritten rules of being a social member.
There are also “freedoms from” Freedom from bullying, harassment, sexual exploitation. So you have some rights, as long as you “play the game”.
So do you have freedom? Not really, and because you are a social creature and need to live among other beings, we all need rules and enforcement to maintain these rules; from a frown from an adult at perceived bad behavior, to a fine for speeding or incarceration for more serious crimes/misdemeanors.
Freedom is an abstraction. You might say that some societies allow their members more freedom than others, but it is always a relative matter and never an absolute. In fact an absolutely free human being could not survive very long (except in fictional movies and videos). As social beings we must give up a degree of our freedom in order to live with the unknown number of citizens you pass each day on the street. You may never know them and yet, you allow them and they allow you a degree of freedom to go about your life without harassment or injury.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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