Exercise online, check.
Business meetings online, check.
Happy hour online, check.
Virtual learning, check (although virtual happy hour sounds more fun).
Doctor’s visits online, check (aka: telemedicine).
Virtual everything. That’s pretty much what the world quickly shifted to due to the Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic / social distancing guidelines / rules (not sure if some are laws?). From brick and mortar businesses, to social and networking groups, to companies that already offered some services online, all of them that could, swiftly pivoted to mostly online offerings in a matter of days it seemed to not only help stop the spread of the virus, but in an attempt to keep their business on life support until a cure for their lack of income surfaces....and stat.
And there’s an epic reason that people have been so quick to shift online to help generate new income. The latest unemployment numbers released were more staggering than expected. And any business owner or manager knows that having to lay off good employees is painful. One business owner did it via conference call because she said, in tears being interviewed on NPR, that she wanted to ‘see’ each of her employees. A record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits as the coronavirus slammed the economy. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. unemployment rate has likely risen to 5.5 percent already -- a level not seen since 2015. And Martha Gimbel, a labor economist at Schmidt Futures, estimates that this is likely just the beginning of the layoffs. I’m no economist, but I do know that if you don’t have a job, you can’t spend money, no matter what the discount being offered.
But Americans have decided not to stand by idly. Our collective entrepreneurial spirit had reared up like a stallion and every type of business you can think of has not only shifted, but has taken full advantage of everything the internet has to offer. Some services were already available virtually, now they’ve been shoved (think someone trying to get to the last roll of toilet paper in Walmart shoved) into the spotlight. A Holly Hill, Florida brewery hastily shifted from making alcohol (the drinkable kind) to hand sanitizer. An Ormond Beach, Florida sportswear company started making face masks, and restaurants, although having to let most of their waitstaff go, either launched or kicked up their curbside take out business. Places that sell camping equipment, firearms, exercise equipment, home improvement supplies, and of course toilet paper, are benefiting from record sales.
This is the first pandemic in history with social media in the picture. When this passes, and it will - just hang in there - we won’t soon forget the pictures / videos / memes / boomerangs on social media of everything from 40,000 piece puzzles (yes, put together) to some of the funniest memes that will literally have you LYAO (laughing your a.. off). The true creativity, humor (what better way to deal with a pandemic than to make fun of it?), cooking skills, home improvement projects, gardening talent, and of course cleaning techniques, are showcased all over social media.
How many businesses will survive? There’s no way to estimate. A few people I spoke to liken the economic backlash of COVID-19 to how the economy reacted after 9/11. According to Wikipedia, approximately 18,000 small businesses near the World Trade Center were destroyed or displaced after the attacks. In New York City, approximately 430,000 jobs were lost and there were $2.8 billion in lost wages over the three months following the 9/11 attacks. Those of course are only backlash numbers from right where the attacks happened in New York. COVID-19 is nearly everywhere, so to compare the two would be unfair. But anyone that was around in 2011, remembers the effect of 9/11 on business. It pretty much came to a screeching halt.
In every dark moment there is a bit of light. A bit of light from COVID-19 may be that plenty of side hustles are turning into main gigs. Which is good because you hope people are following their passion (albeit by force), and will be happier in life. Another bit of light is that our pets seem to be thrilled that we’re home all day (although be sure to look up the memes of dogs hiding or looking exhausted from being walked by everyone in the house multiple times a day). And, with any event that keeps people in the house with nothing else to do...anticipate a baby boom in about nine month. The social isolation and distancing bit of light will hopefully be that the virus will come to an end quickly. And hopefully the flu, which according to the CDC killed an estimated 80,000 Americans in 2018 - the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades - will be considerably lower. Hopefully the aid packages directed toward families and businesses that the government seems swift to roll out will lesson the blow. And that may just be the key....hope. And prayer. And thinking outside the socially isolated metaphoric box we are all in. We will all just have to be patient and wait and see. While we do, we can continue to enjoy the apricot sunrises and amarillo sunsets, and precious time with our families and pets.