Of all the scares that COVID-19 has wrought, probably the most fearful one of all is uncertainty about the future. During the lockdown, the country experienced a staggering rise in anxiety. On May 4, William Wan of The Washington Post reported that “The country is on the verge of another health crisis, with daily doses of death, isolation, and fear generating widespread psychological trauma.” The anxiety eased by about 40% a month later, as the country began to roll back lockdowns, reported the Medical Express, but now that the number of cases is rising once again and states are reissuing stay at home orders, anxiety is bound to rise again.
With all that has been going on in America over the past few months, uncertainty about the future is the last thing the country needs. Since this anxiety stems from a real fear that people will have no job and no way to make a living, there is only one way to deal with it: American authorities at all levels must draw a clear plan that will secure basic livelihood for every person, and enhance the social ties of individuals into communities.
People must know what is going to happen to them, to their children, and to society as a whole. Therefore, as soon as possible, authorities must initiate open virtual sessions that explain how all the systems work. People have to know that contagion is not limited to viruses; we are an integrated society and affect one another on every level. The closing of one small business has a negative impact on many people who are seemingly unrelated to it: suppliers, delivery personnel, accountants, manufacturers, property owners, etc.
Likewise, one person’s depression affects not only that person’s kin and friends, but the friends of the friends, friends of the kin, healthcare workers, coworkers and the people they know, and so forth. The same chain of infection that applies to COVID-19 applies to everything we do, say, or even think. If it is positive, we are transmitting positivity. If it is negative, we are transmitting negativity. Only once people internalize this, they will begin to feel responsible for one another, and that responsibility will pull them out of their down and mobilize them into constructive action.
In the near future, travel and tourism will drop sharply, as will sports and entertainment, trade in accessories, and countless other industries that thrived until a few months ago, leaving tens of millions out of work. These people will need help fast, and the only things that will help them are 1) basic sustenance, 2) grasping our mutual connectedness, and 3) enhancing their social ties and connection to the community.