By: Alex Mangie. Every worker is essential—this has always been true until the media and government has told you otherwise. Nurses, teachers, police officers, custodians, waitresses, mechanics, barbers, retail clerks, fitness instructors, bakers, manure spreaders, and every other possible kind of job in existence is essential. Every person working today is working for a paycheck so they can continue providing for themselves and their families, and as a result their jobs are essential to their existence and their way of life. Since the advent of COVID-19, this has changed in the government’s eyes as they have added misery for many to an already miserable situation.
This has really irked me throughout 2020 as state governments have told people to make do with getting thrown on the unemployment rolls in the name of safety for indefinite periods of time. To be told your job is non-essential is denigrating, and forcing you to shut down your business for months results in financial damage the government will not compensate you for regardless if you close or find a way to reopen. Sure if you are a bigger company there is more financial assistance available to you, but your average mom and pop establishment is not getting even a bone thrown their way for the trouble these shutdowns have caused. Many small businesses have shut their doors permanently and money and time invested over years have gone down the drain.
The fact of the matter is through all of this, many people continued to work and the vast majority of those people have not gotten sick. Precautions have been put in place, companies allowed to remain open adopted strategies to reduce contact with customers, and PPE equipment was used effectively to prevent the spread of COVID despite these places remaining open. Anyone who works in the healthcare industry, emergency services, law enforcement, and grocery stores deserve praise and accolades for being on the front lines in difficult times. It should go without saying that anyone working in a hospital or private practice had a grueling spring this year, and healthcare workers especially deserve our thanks.
In contrast, there was a large swath of the population that was not even afforded the chance to try and adapt to this situation resulting in financial hardship and job loss. Surely if grocery stores could adapt their practices to accommodate large amounts of people during this time, a barbershop and hair salon should have been allowed to make the same kinds of accommodations to stay in business. Restaurant owners have adapted their establishments quite well given all that has happened, but it took two months to get there when these kinds of changes could have been adapted in a much shorter time period.
As time has gone on and states have started to reopen, cases and deaths have begun climbing again, bringing about the question as to whether states should lock down again. California has already announced new plans to shut down and many people are going to be tossed onto the unemployment rolls again. Small business owners will for a second time take the brunt of the financial hits that are surely to follow, and if those owners found a way to survive the first time, they may or may not be able to survive a second round of lock downs.
Taking precautions and making things as safe as possible for people is important, but if the end game is to shut down until a vaccine can be developed, we may be waiting a while for this to happen. The Spanish Flu of 1918 went through a few different waves ending in 1919 with sporadic outbreaks into spring of 1920, and this was with the best modern medicine available 100 years ago. This virus eventually died out without a true vaccine. Thankfully in 2020 medicine has far advanced since then and a vaccine for this particular virus may be on the horizon soon. But in the meantime, states will begin deciding whether or not to shut down again until such a vaccine is developed, and many people will suffer financially for it while waiting for a virus vaccine that may or may not come over some indefinite time period.
Legendary coach Lou Holtz said on Fox News this week, “To the government, please don’t keep me alive by keeping me from living”. By deeming who is and who is not essential, the government is effectively doing this. People need to work. People need recreation. People need to make a living to provide for their families. The term “non-essential worker” is one of the worst kinds of lies that can be made, and even in 2020 with the dangers we face, every person should be allowed to work so they can support their families—nothing is more essential than that.