This entry to Change Pittsburgh was created by the students of “Writing for Change” in Fall 2020, amidst the Covid-19 global pandemic. These introductions offer some context for the pieces to this project.
March – May 2020: The Beginning of the Pandemic
The Coronavirus pandemic is the largest pandemic the world has seen in a century. What started as an alert to the World Health Organization in 2019 from China turned into a global pandemic with more than 54 million cumulative cases worldwide, more than 10 million of those being in the United States.
Most people will mark March 13, 2020 as the day it was clear that the United States would shut down. Businesses started closing, masks and social distancing were mandated, and the only things that were open were grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. Lines at supermarkets extended around blocks and shelves that used to house toilet paper and cleaning supplies were empty. By early April, all 50 states were sent into a lockdown and the United States had close to 400,000 cases.
The initial lockdown was meant to last about two weeks. Epidemiologists and public health officials assured that this lockdown, paired with mask wearing and proper cleaning, would get the virus under control and society would be back to normal. The country became taken with things like TikTok, Tiger King, outdoor exercise, and crafting. Over the last eight months, American society has experienced more history than some people experience in a lifetime: a climate crisis, a global pandemic, a civil rights movement, and a historic election. Eight months later, the United States is no closer to normal society.
June – August 2020: Protests and Black Lives Matter
September – November 2020: The Election & COVID-19
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Johns Hopkins University, and the New York Times, as of November 17, 2020, there have been about 11 million cases and 247,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States since January of 2020 (1, 2, 3). India and Brazil follow close behind with ~8.8 million cases and 130,500 deaths (4), and ~5.8 million cases and 166,000 deaths respectively (5). For once, it is not so great to be in first place.
The only thing that has been playing on the TV and running rampant through the news other than the Coronavirus is the election. In debate after townhall meeting after press conference, the 2020 election candidates have been pressed about their plans to gain control of the pandemic.
The country has watched in horror as the 45th president of the United States has denounced COVID, discouraged the use of masks (6), tried to deny science, gotten COVID himself, and continued to tell people to be unafraid (7). He encouraged the use of cleaning products in the body to remove the virus (8). He claimed he was immune after recovering from the virus (9). He has convinced the American people that, whether or not wearing a mask works, wearing one at all impinges on their basic freedoms. There is no empathy left in the oval office.
On November 7, 2020, Joseph (Joe) Biden became the 46th President-elect of the United States. As such, he has already created an extensive plan to combat Coronavirus. He claims that he will ensure free preventative care, testing, and treatment, encourage the development of a vaccine, make sure the correct supplies, people, and facilities are in place, and ensure emergency paid leave for those affected (10). He also calls for the “restoring [of] trust, credibility, and common purpose” (10). Misinformation and lack of action have created the situation we are currently in. His victory offers hope that the oval office can, once again, care about the people it serves.
Economic Impacts of Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has had long lasting economic impacts in the United States in 2020. Several industries, such as the travel industry, declined greatly in a world with shelter-in-home mandates and travel restrictions. In April 2020, the unemployment rate in America rose to almost 15 percent. By mid-June 2020, over 44 million Americans filed for unemployment according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Stimulus checks of $1,200 were given out in April to help mitigate the pain many Americans were going through.
In fear of the economy collapsing more, government officials and citizens began the push to slowly “reopen” America and get things moving once again after months of quarantine. However, while some were suffering, billionaires continued to grow and profit from the pandemic. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, had his net worth increase by $13 billion. While slowly recovering, the United States is still facing the economic impacts of Covid-19 almost a year later.
Rumors of a second stimulus check are circulating, but no details have been set in stone. Unemployment rates are going down as most people have returned to work, but Covid-19 cases are exploding throughout the country in November 2020. The United States will be impacted economically from the pandemic still for many more months to come.