Letters from Home: 'The Economy Is Not Worth Any Lives Lost'

May 20, 2020

WOSU's Letters from Home collects stories about day-to-day lives during the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we heard from Ohioans answering the question: How do you feel about the reopening of businesses and services?

Read responses to this week's question and other reflections from Ohioans below.

Nick Bednar from Westerville

I'm a little scared, to be honest. I absolutely understand that so many small businesses and individuals are struggling financially right now, and that we can't stay closed forever. However, all signs point to this still being too early to reopen anything.

Columbus is expected to have a surge in cases very soon, in no small part due to reopening some public activities and functions. For all of this stay-at-home stuff we've been doing to be worth anything, we need to follow through and see it to the end. Otherwise, more people are going to die. It's as simple as that. The economy is not worth any lives lost, at least as much as we can help it.

If we could absolutely guarantee that everyone who is able to is wearing and appropriately using masks, that all business are accurately following all disinfecting and operating protocols, and that social distancing guidelines are still being observed consistently, then fine. But to assume such things would be to ignore the vast amount of evidence that we have so far about what people really do once bars, restaurants, and gyms are available again.

To some extent, everyone should have the ability to make the choices that they think are right for themselves and their family, and that's something that lifting stay-at-home restrictions does allow. I've got Type 1 diabetes, and I'll certainly be staying at home a bit longer while I can, but not everyone with conditions like me has that luxury, unfortunately. At the very least, please, for the sake of protecting the vulnerable, wear a mask and give others some space. We've managed to politicize basic health procedures, which is really a shame because the little things we do now can make a big difference in who can see the other side of this pandemic.

Anonymous

Every time I hear about something reopening I cringe, but I also understand we all can’t live in the shadows waiting for a silent, deadly figure to creep into our nasal passages and wreak havoc on our unsuspecting bodies for the rest of our lives. I am worried for my family, for my mother that has survived cancer, my husband that is close to 50, for me who hasn’t always made great choices especially in my youth (sometimes now) for my health, and of course for my children.

I don’t want to get sick, not only because getting sick anytime sucks, but if one of us were sick enough to be in the hospital, I can’t imagine the financial consequences. I think that many businesses are facing terrible financial consequences as well and I feel for them, I understand they have to make money and open up for business. I understand that people have to work, or they are forced to go back to work when they possibly feel unsafe and scared.

I also listen to science. I read everything I can that helps me understand the biology of the disease and viruses, the little zombie invaders with an ancient history with all living organisms of the world changing the framework of our DNA tiny bits at a time, either for good or bad. I’m not a scientist in any way; in fact, I have worked in the service industry for years and I feel for all of my fellow service industry workers. I can’t imagine the work and stress going into the cleaning, the sweaty mask wearing, the demands for refills of diet sodas all with the fear of contracting a potentially deadly virus while not possibly having health insurance to help cover the cost of a regular doctor’s visit, let alone a hospital stay.

I will continue to cringe as things reopen: pools... cringe. Bars... cringe. Massage... cringe. Malls... cringe. I cringe, but I also literally cry thinking about all of the small businesses and people who own them, that I love and cherish that may not make it through all of this. I cry for all of the people who have died, their lives ending prematurely for a stupid, stupid reason.

I understand the need to reopen. I understand the fear, sadness that people may be going through. I understand the importance of it being done safely and responsibly. I will not be participating in many of these activities for a while, except for a dentist visit, but if you do go out, if you have to go out, if you want to go out, if you feel it’s your g-d American right, please, please don’t be an a**hole.

Anonymous from Bexley

I am a barista and I won't be returning to service industry work if I can help it amidst the crisis, especially without a mask mandate. I have at-risk family members and I'm not interested in risking my and my loved one's health so that someone can have a specialty coffee drink. Oftentimes people demand a lot and offer little appreciation of service industry workers, and that is part of the job that we learn how to overcome. The idea of encountering customers who refuse to wear masks and being obligated to maintain a happy demeanor with them and pretend that I'm not afraid and hurt and angered by their actions outweighs the benefits to me.

Adolany from Franklin County

I think the opening is very fast. I totally disagree that they put children's lives at risk, because they don't know how to take precautions.

Stephanie Barnes took this photo of herself the day before she developed a dry cough and fever that led to her being tested for COVID-19.
Credit Stephanie Barnes

Stephanie Barnes from Dublin

I may have a different perspective on this issue than most people. After Gov. Mike DeWine announced the shutdown of the K-12 schools where I teach, I self-isolated because there was a high probability that I had been exposed to the virus. A few days later, I developed symptoms and received a positive test result. After a brief illness, I recovered and have been symptom-free and healthy ever since. 

Based on the precedents in epidemiology, and that fact that the man I have continued to date during the shutdown hasn't gotten sick, I have every reason to believe I am immune. If I can't give or get it, I feel there is no logical/scientific reason I need to wear a mask. I know this is an unpopular stance that has inspired ridicule and finger wagging. 

I don't want to appear to align myself with the extreme protesters who don't believed the virus is a threat or have other extremist views. I'm just someone who has coronavirus fatigue. From where I stand, it seems like fear, not science, is driving popular public sentiment and some parts of government policy.

As many people do, I miss shopping peacefully, sitting down and people watching, and meeting up with my friends. I wonder when my friends will feel comfortable visiting with me again. New stories about police breaking up small, private parties in homes and kids' playdates make me wonder when we will start trusting each other to make smart decision again. Re-opening restaurants, retail and other services is a much needed first step in that process. I am going to take advantage of it! It is time for a change.

The situation we are in is complex. That is why I am in favor of refining the current one-size fits all approach that has limited some of our personal freedoms and has hurt our economy. 

Anonymous from Delaware

Too soon! Stats are already goin' up here in Ohio. Opening back up the stats will go higher

Stephanie Aurora Lewis from “my solarium”

I strongly believe that all who can do their job at home should be allowed and encouraged to continue to do so. This is also a time for ingenuity. We saw images of everyone in Wuhan wearing masks, but I wonder how mask technology might evolve. Even though I am technically young and don't know of any underlying medical conditions, I don't want to be lying in bed hoping I survive if I should be exposed and get COVID-19.

Many managers, I believe, are having a difficult time understanding that protecting their employees is more important than making good use of the building they own. As a society, people should have been allowed to work from home decades ago. A lack of trust is partly to blame. Although, innovative companies like Apple, for example, have shown that there are alternative ways to work - other than what was established in the 1950s.

Nicholas Bednar and his family have been playing Scrabble - which they've found is harder than they think. They discovered many of the words on the board weren't playing by the rules.
Credit Nicholas Bednar

This week, Letters From Home is asking the question: Where have you found distraction and relief during this time?

Answer this question using the form below, and try to keep below 1,000 words. Your response may be edited for length and clarity.

WOSU brings you Letters from Home in partnership with the Columbus Museum of Art.