“Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world, yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky.” – Albert Camus.
Pandemics aren’t new to the world, but they happen with such infrequency that society doesn’t react the same every time they come around. Advances in science and our knowledge and understanding of bacteria and viruses, and the ever-changing way our world functions predict both the course of the disease and the societal restrictions and changes that will be implemented to try and control and contain it.
Given that, what’s the future of COVID? Can we expect more lockdowns, more mutations of this virus, or even a worsening of the economy? In this blog, we will explore where we’re at right now to understand the possibility of each of those, and we’ll discuss practical steps you can take now before things get possibly worse.
The short answer is never. This zoonotic virus is here to stay. Our ability to recognize it, protect ourselves from it, and treat it will become better, as will our natural immuno-strength against it. The sad fact is that it will continue to shroud the globe until humans develop some resistance to it and slow the spread and resulting impact.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, comparisons have been drawn to influenza. Both present the same, and both cause acute respiratory illness. Both viruses are transmitted by contact and proximity. One notable difference between the two is that the coronavirus that causes COVID appears to have a more extended pre-symptomatic period. That is to say that a person may not present illness for several days after becoming infected, yet they may be shedding virus during this whole time.
One of the reasons we don’t see more deadly viruses like ebola spreading globally, for example, is because the presentation of symptoms is so dramatic– diarrhea, rash, spontaneous bleeding internally and externally. When you see someone presenting such dramatic symptoms, you avoid them, quarantine them, hence stopping the spread. When the symptoms are milder–a runny nose, fatigue, loss of taste– you may not realize that the person sitting next to you is shedding virus.
Perhaps, the most significant difference between the two is that humankind has been fighting variants of influenza since at least the Asiatic or Russian Flu pandemic of 1889, and that is well over 100 years of people becoming infected with the influenza virus and recovering, developing antigens, and recognizing their symptoms that present earlier and staying in bed, isolated away from others.
However, working against us is that the spreadability of this virus is so much greater than that of influenza. When the spread is high, and the virus survives for a long enough period in a community or individual carrier, the chances of mutation become greater. That’s why we are already up to 4 variants of coronavirus: Alpha detected in the UK in December of 2020. Beta was seen in the same month in South Africa. Gamma came from Brazil in January 2021, and the Delta variant came from India in December 2020. It isn’t necessarily that this virus mutates faster than influenza. It is a combination of the newness of this virus and the higher level of transmission among people who have no built-up immunity. If you put 100,000 people who had never had influenza in their family history in a stadium and let them all get sick together, you would probably see variants of influenza come out of it. They would have to have no family history of influenza, though, because mothers pass on maternal antibodies, which is another reason influenza isn’t as strong or scary as the coronavirus.
Like influenza and its four strains, the coronavirus is here to stay even with the seasonal flu shot. It just won’t dominate our lives forever and will eventually be just like another flu bug.
While the initial response was to lockdown society, and several countries took this route, the United States probably isn’t locking down again. Some countries will. China has already, as a fast-spreading variant of the Delta virus reached over 20 cities. Millions of residents have been tested in Beijing while the Chinese communist government has cordoned off residential compounds and placed close contacts under quarantine. Whether a country locks down depends greatly on vaccination numbers, contact tracing, impact on health systems, and, frankly, the economy.
After last year’s lockdowns, the economy of the United States has yet to recover. It remains fragile, and though the government may vehemently deny it, signs of inflation are all around us. If you don’t see them, you’re probably not shopping for groceries or driving a car or truck. Shortages of some things and out of stock or limit one signs are appearing more frequently. A lockdown could be the final nail in the US economy’s coffin. So, it isn’t likely to occur. The Whitehouse has even stated that lockdowns are not the route they want to go at this time.
That said, a lockdown of freedoms will probably occur. Already, New York requires all children returning to in-person learning to submit a parental consent form for in-school COVID testing. Masks will be required at all times in some buildings, except when seated, eating, or drinking. Capacity limits are set on some venues. That may all seem fine because you don’t live in New York City, but it’s an example of restrictions that will roll out across the country, depending upon local government and COVID numbers.
Some areas will require masks until numbers are lower. Occupancy levels will be restricted in some places. Proof of vaccination or a dated negative test may be required for some venues, as it was recently for the more than 385,000 attendees of Lollapalooza in Chicago. Healthcare workers, first responders, federal employees, and especially military personnel may be required to be vaccinated to work. Some companies are already readying policies to require employees who interact with the public to demonstrate proof of some level of immunity through an antibody test before working. Some travel will be restricted between countries, states, even on some public transit systems.
So, while a physical lockdown isn’t likely, a lockdown of the ability to travel and work may continue, even intensify.
The economy has been slow to recover from the effects of this virus. International trade slowed. Consumers rapidly changed their spending habits which resulted in some industries suffering a dizzying decline in revenue. Many people haven’t traveled or gone to a movie or concert in over a year, and it still may not be safe to do so. Revenue losses lead to mass layoffs and terminations, and the 23 million unemployed recorded in the Spring of 2020 have mostly returned to work; but is it too late? Consumer debt has risen considerably in recent months. The government keeps borrowing money to spend money. Though the Fed keeps kicking the can of economic reckoning further down the road, it appears that we are running out of road.
An economic collapse is preceded by shortages like what we see in several places: foods, gas, even coinage. An economic collapse is preceded by historically low interest rates along with inflationary indicators. Consumer optimism has fallen markedly in recent months. This leads to further decreases in consumer spending and further slowing of the economy. There are many warning signs that the economy continues to struggle. The added pressure of recent cyberattacks and a continually shifting landscape has left many consumers clutching their purses.
The effects of COVID on the economy aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon. The next year, maybe even two or more years, will likely reveal even worse economic numbers. With a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures possibly coming to an end soon, the economy could take a steep nosedive in the very near future. Combined, California, Texas, and New York make up 31.3 percent of the United States Gross Domestic Product, and all three states continue to struggle with COVID. Individually, they struggle with infrastructure failures, droughts, and even wildfires. If the struggles of these states are any indicator, it may get much worse before it gets any better.
Though the future remains uncertain as to how long the current infection rates will be high and how many new variants may arise, and though policies will vary between non-existent and seemingly draconian depending upon where you live, and though the economy may continue to wobble, there are several things you can do now to lessen the ripple effects.
STAY AHEAD OF THE PANIC
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that an event of any kind can bring about wide-scale panic and hoarding behavior. The hoarding behaviors can result in shortages in other areas that compound and exacerbate the scale of the initial crisis, or it creates a real crisis where there was only the perception of one before.
Knowing this, it is extremely important for you to stay ahead of both perceived and real crises. The infrastructure failures of the last year, the rising inflation indicators, and the cyberattacks should all make you want to take action now to stay ahead of those that will be swept up in the panic. To stay ahead of the panic, you have to focus on the critical preps that you will need: water, food, shelter, and energy.
FOOD & WATER
If you have no food set aside to endure a three-week lockdown, get busy building that up. Even though lockdowns may not manifest, you will be prepared for when the panic hoarding starts due to the possibility of a lockdown. Then, too, you will be prepared when some other natural disaster befalls you. Do the same with water. The water supply is increasingly showing us that it is unreliable and subject to failure. Make sure that you have a supply of water stored away, a means to filter, boil, or otherwise purify water, a means to collect water, and you aren’t entirely reliant upon a municipal system like most of your neighbors.
Secure your shelter. With the moratorium on evictions possibly ending and seemingly forever in the discussion, you need to make sure that you have a plan B if this will impact you at all. In this period of global uncertainty, I hear from many who have had enough and are pursuing a more secure, sometimes off-grid lifestyle. Some are retiring early into it, and some are finding their chances of getting rehired because of their age or occupation are slim, so they’re recasting themselves. According to statistics, many are refinancing their homes with historically low-interest rates to reduce their monthly mortgage payments. Unlike in previous years, fewer people are tapping into their equity. For some, downsizing has allowed them to gain a more secure footing in their shelter. I have even heard of some taking to the road and going completely mobile with their living arrangements. Whatever you do to secure long-term shelter for yourself, do it now. When the evictions or defaults on loans start with any great fervor, the opportunity to gain more robust shelter security will rapidly evaporate.
Beyond the physical shelter you are currently with, develop a plan B. Even if you are sitting in a fully paid-for home, what will be your plan if you are forced from it? At least in some scenarios like civil war, civil unrest, or a massive natural disaster, that could happen. What’s your backup shelter plan? What’s your personal security plan? Your personal security is the most basic of shelters for yourself. When everyone is panicking around you, it will be too late for you to secure any further means of personal security. The opportunity to train or practice with your chosen security measures will have passed as well.
Learn to function with minimal power and determine what your minimal power needs are. If you can function with a small solar battery to charge a few devices, great. If you need a small portable generator, consider a gas, propane, or even better, a solar generator. If you have the means, perhaps this is the time to consider some form of renewable energy and battery system for your home. The cost may be in the thousands, but it will be a capital improvement on your home and will level you up in regards to self-sufficiency.
Beyond electrical energy, make sure that you can start and use fire to your advantage. In an actual SHTF situation, fire may be the only form of energy you’ll be able to harness and wield. Learning how to and having the means to start one, cook, heat, and work with fire will all be to your advantage. Fire is your primary form of energy, which is why I include it in the energy category. Make sure you have it as part of your prepping plan.
SKILLS & KNOWLEDGE
Many people who consider themselves preppers stop at those core preps: food, water, shelter (both physical and personal), and energy. To truly stay comfortably ahead of the panic and anxiety, you need to cultivate your skills and knowledge. Did you start a garden during the last lockdown? If you did, take it a step further and learn to can, dehydrate, freeze-dry, or otherwise preserve all those vegetables. Learn to incorporate them into your diet. Did you learn a thing or two about foraging for wild edible foods? Go find some and try some recipes. Did you pick up a new skill or realize that picking up a new skill would have been helpful? Go put it into practice.
How bad any crisis or disaster becomes will largely depend on the skills and knowledge you bring to the table. If you lose your job, but you’re sitting on weeks of food and jars of pickles and vegetables, at least food concerns won’t overwhelm you. Whatever the skill or knowledge is, if it will sustain you or keep you from the worst of a disaster, you should be cultivating it in this lull and calm between storms.
There’s much we are still learning about this pathogen and much more still to know. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty about our future wrestling with it. American’s sense of optimism for the future is being eroded daily as the Delta variant is surging around the nation. Still, we can also clearly see some things emerging that we can be reasonably sure of happening in the future. While physical lockdowns may not manifest for you and your community, a lockdown of your ability to conduct your life may still occur. While you may not be forced to get a vaccination, proof of one might become your only option for some activities and travel.
Knowing this, it’s essential to stay ahead of the panic. Keep hard focused on increasing your self-sufficiency and independence. Don’t just read about it or desire it, but develop a plan and start working on that plan. Look at some of the other blogs on my channel, or take a look at the content at the cityprepping.com site to build a solid plan for yourself and a more certain future.
What do you think? What has the last year of this virus, lockdowns, shortages, and outages taught you? What do you expect to see in your area in response to the coronavirus? I love to hear what you are doing to prepare for what’s coming our way as much as I like to share what I’m doing and recommending.
As always, please stay safe out there.