While it might feel as if we are nearing the end of drastic measures implemented as the global COVID-19 pandemic reached our borders, and indeed we are starting to slowly re-open our economy, I fear that the real pain from this ordeal is yet to come.
The virus had a major impact on medical services, particularly in large urban centres, and as a result many became sick, and some died. Smaller rural areas have seen much less of an impact on the health front with far fewer cases. Here in Meaford we've seen just one case reported thus far, and in our county the numbers have also been low. Thankfully we haven't seen any deaths from this nasty virus.
But the health and wellness of our citizens is just one aspect of this pandemic, and the real pain, for all, including areas that have not been hit hard by the virus itself, will show itself in the months to come as the economic reality sets in.
With a forced shutdown of operations over the past two months many businesses are struggling, and we've all heard the predictions of experts that as many as 40 percent of small businesses might never recover and will close permanently. Some will try to fight on, and some will survive while others might find the mountain to recovery too high to climb.
As a result I expect we will see much higher than normal unemployment for years to come.
Business struggles aside, the millions upon millions of dollars that our provincial and federal governments have been pumping out to try to support both businesses and citizens is adding up, and those funds aren't magic money, they come from our own pockets. The governments will need to recover those funds somehow, so I see some significant tax increases on the horizon, which will further add to the economic impact of the pandemic.
I think it would be fair to suggest that the majority of us want this ordeal to be over. We want to get back to work, and get back to living our lives as we had done in the past. We want to gather with friends and family, we want to attend concerts and plays, we want to enjoy a meal in a restaurant, and all of those wants will slowly be fulfilled. We will find new energy and hope as those 'luxuries' are returned to our lives, but that hope and energy will be masking the looming financial reality. And though there is little any of us can do to halt the coming economic hit, I think we all need to at the very least be aware of the potential economic hardships ahead, and to be prepared for some tough times.
Not that the months ahead will be fully doom and gloom. We as a community, a province, and a nation have collectively endured one of the strangest periods of any of our lives, and we have done so together, rich and poor, old and young. We have endured this crisis, and one of my hopes is that, if nothing else, this ordeal will have reminded us of just how interconnected all of our lives are, and perhaps we will find more compassion and understanding for the challenges of others, realizing that any one of us can be a split hair away from enormous hardships ourselves.
The doom and gloom aside, this pandemic has seen movements aimed at caring for our neighbours, and helping out when we are able, and I hope those movements continue.
In the infamous words of John Donne (made even more infamous by Ernest Hemingway):
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
Those words have not rung more true in my lifetime than they have during this pandemic.
So we might feel like we got off a little lucky in our neck of the woods with very few cases in our county, and we've had none of the horror stories that we have seen in larger urban centres, but the economic impact will hit all of us, and I think it will hit us hard.
Governments will no doubt try to minimize tax rate increases, and those efforts will likely result in cuts to services and programs which might lessen the financial impact somewhat, but when government services and programs are cut, everyday people, particularly lower income folks, suffer.
We are all in this together, and now is a time to come together and to do our best to help each other through the hardships to come.