Women and the Impact of COVID-19 on the Workforce

The current economy results from many factors, the most significant of which is the impact of the closures in March due to COVID-19. While the economic recovery sputters along, Americans are differentially impacted, with working mothers and Black Americans falling significantly behind.

Of the over one million Americans who stopped working or even looking in September, almost 80 percent were women, erasing many of recent years’ gains. Virtual learning for families with children and the closure of group child-care has caused the burdens the child care to fall on many working mothers.

The impact of industry and hospitality closures and state and local budget reductions have fallen heavily on government and educational services. Continued virtual and alternating in-person education has resulted in unusually high teacher retirements related to health concerns and part-time school personnel reductions. Many parents have opted to home-school children as uncertainty exists concerning the impact of COVID-19 on children, leading to many leaving the workforce permanently.

Grandparents can supplement but not manage the full-time load of caregiving and educating our grandchildren.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/10/02/september-jobs-inequality/

COVID-19 Vocabulary #5: Herd Immunity

The continual use of the term “herd immunity” in the media has been troublesome. Not being a farm girl, I have been unfamiliar throughout my life with the discussion of herds and what happens to the group as a whole.

According to http://www.mayoclinic.org, herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community, in this case, a herd, becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected.

The debate within the COVID-19 experts relies on competing epidemiologists determining if there is sustained immunity after contracting COVID and how is immunity achieved…is this achieved through exposure across a large portion of the population or a vaccine? If 60% of the population is immune to the virus, then three out of every five exposed people won’t get sick. But should this virus require a higher level of immunity to determine a safe level and declare the virus under control? COVID-19 is highly contagious, and therefore a much higher level may be necessary, particularly in combination with the flu. The most recent estimate for the United States’ level of immunity to COVID-19 is 10%.

Health experts have little experience with this virus, unlike polio, mumps, and measles, once very common but now relatively rare in the United States. Vaccines were essential in establishing herd immunity, particularly in communities with lower vaccine rates and more significant vulnerabilities. Many vaccines, such as the flu, have short periods of immunity, sometimes as little as 3 to 6 months.

The risks of COVID-19 represent a more significant factor for life and long-term neurological and physical disabilities.

Friendship While Quarantined

These months have passed quite slowly. For the longest time, I kept thinking I had stepped into another plane of the universe, as in the movie Contact. Perhaps if I looked closely enough I could find the wormhole to return to pre-March 14, 2020.  

What didn’t happened was actually a life-changing happening. The quarantine extended and persisted, despite my soul’s longing for it to end, thereby setting me free to pursue adventurous travel and routine friendship encounters. 

After all the trips were canceled and the refunds secured, I became acutely aware of the lack of personal contact, particularly with my friends of many years. What followed was a period of emotional and social drift. The majority of my friends were over 65 years of age, limiting in-person contact between us. Some were a card a year friend, and that seemed just fine.  

But then there were the “sisters-by-a-different-mother” friends. I slowly realized that how to keep up contact became critically important to my emotional well-being. Through the years and proximity, shared commitments had sustained these friendships, what Vellos describes as “seeds of connection,” bonding us through these many years.  

So instead we found time to meet for a walk, masked, along the ocean walkway. Daily calls became our ritual, substituting for leisurely social engagements in our homes. Surprise cards and remembrances of those special dates in our lives and our families have had to suffice.

These worked, for now.

How to Deal With a Friendship ‘Quiet Season’

COVID-19 Vocabulary #4

While each day has brought an increase in my COVID-19 vocabulary skills, I am becoming more “with it” each day! Today I will share my new technology words, Instagram MomentsZoom Meetings, and Cancel Culture. Of course, technology has been an integral component of my life since I purchased my first Apple IIE in 1983. I have steadily become a dual platformer and app savvy as the decades moved along. So while the names were not novel to me, their practical usage was. 

Instagram Moments: Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app available on the phone on all platforms. Photos or videos are uploaded and shared with followers and friends. It is entirely visual. Instagram photos can also be posted directly to Facebook. Instagram followers are usually accumulated by regularly posting content and forming partnerships to post your content. Instagram does not track who views the content. If you can view someone’s post, they can view your post. 

An Instagram Moment is the opportunity to create photos and Instagram them to friends and family. It is accomplished through the Stories Highlights feature. Usually, unless saved to your feed, photos and stories disappear after 24 hours.

Zoom Meetings: Not that I was unaware of Zoom, barely, but I had no inclination to learn to use it until the pandemic! None of my regularly scheduled events and meetings could occur, yet everyone seemed to insist on having the meetings once COVID-19 appeared to become a fact of life. So, while I have yet to schedule a session myself, I have attended health conferences for my cousin for whom I am a health guardian. I am “attending” a never-ending series of committee meetings, now more frequent than before, when we all had to drive to the location! I have had Zoom cocktail hours. I have attended religious events and coffee hours. I am having telehealth appointments, which I don’t like. I can attend the symphony for the price of a live-streaming ticket. And, surprisingly, I am doing consulting presentations through Zoom. Who knew life could adapt so quickly? Will we ever go back?

Cancel Culture: Cancel culture is the new public flogging post. It is the technique of withdrawing support for a person or company who has done something deemed offensive or objectionable to a particular group or society. Social media is the predominant form of shaming and seems to have originated in 2014 with the phrase, “You’re canceled.” In this country, the act of public contrition or apology has become overused and, therefore, does not redeem the offending individual or company. Reputations have are lost. Jobs forfeited. With the internet, conformism has suddenly become suspect. Facts have to be source-checked, and truths are not valid.  

The significant side-effect seems to be the value of thinking before you speak or act. No crime goes unreported, and racist or religious slurs are the staples of talk show rebukes. Celebrity status and money are no protection. And Twitter is the recorder of drunken rants and brief nonsensical statements.  

What a very strange world we live in!

COVID-19 Vocabulary #3

Day 3 of reflecting on the new vocabulary common to the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the desirable social distancing, our almost painful new reality, and the politically sensitive face mask.  

Social Distancing: Once upon a time, this was a phrase implying the appropriate distancing when carrying on a conversation or standing in a public area. Social politeness required the respecting for the personal space of others, mainly when talking. When personal space is invaded, most people automatically back away. No specific distance has been the standard since personal space was person-specific.

During this public health crisis, officials asked everyone to practice physical distancing of at least 6 feet from people not in our bubble (usually the family group). As a standard health practice, this makes sense. Implementing this strategy is difficult in life situations. Suddenly little discs have appeared outside of stores for waiting to enter. Checkouts have floor feet indicating to stand on them to checkout. Since it is impractical to be 6 feet away during checkout, clear barriers substitute for social distancing. Reminder signs appear to remind us to reduce face-to-face contact through social distancing. Restaurant seating has been reduced indoors to accommodate table groupings, and outdoor seating has sprung up, even in high-end eateries. 

New Reality: Listening to the news adds pandemic terminology each day to our new world. A concept called the “new reality” has overtaken common sense. Suddenly the death of 200,000 + Americans is labeled “a shame.” Telehealth appointments are paid for by insurance. The loss of 4 million jobs is the price we pay for our health. Children are now encouraged to use their laptops, sometimes for up to 5 1/2 hours a day!  

The expectation that we must adapt requires agility of thinking, continuously rethinking how we live our lives. Information is revised repeatedly by previously trustworthy sources, such as the CDC and FDA, sometimes in the span of a few minutes with little or no context. When the nation closed down March 14, it appeared this was a short-term strategy. Now, we anxiously await the day schools will be reopened and restaurants safe. State employees are still teleworking all over the nation. Coffee shops and cafes are shuttered, and businesses closed or their capacity is limited.  

The use of social media as a substitute for personal contact and face-to-face meetings is the norm. Visiting relatives in long-term care is limited to FaceTime. Hugging friends has become virtual, and hand-shaking is now an elbow bump.  

Face Mask:  These have become everyday attire for many Americans, yet remain to some a symbol of political affiliation rather than a health protections. The recommendation to wear or not wear has changed repeatedly, and the appearance of public figures has altered the perception of what their role is in the American culture. Online advertisements and sales of masks have initially become a cottage industry and are now widespread everywhere. Scientific studies emerge daily as to the safety of specific types of masks. Health workers rightfully complain of the shortage of PPE. Many coordinate their masks to their outfits. The public seems to wear them safely, while some treat them as earrings or chin warmers. My 4-year-old grandson wears one every day to pre-school, while my 8-year-old grandson goes to a camp with many kids without one, rather than being able to attend a class where he might acually learn.  

COVID – 19 Vocabulary #2

In an effort to keep up with the many new phrases and their uses during the pandemic, today’s words include data-driven, flatten the curve, and in an abundance of caution.

Data-driven: As an educator, since No Child Left Behind was enacted under the Bush Administration, data-driven as come to mean using the results of standardized testing to determine if students had meant grade-level standards, or if schools were “in need of improvement.”  

During the COVID pandemic, scientists introduced the concepts of data analysis to the general public to determine the specifics and scope of the pandemic. Forecasting the spread in a specific population and the characteristics of individualized traits concerning the virus have become the tantalizing daily leads of broadcasting networks. The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control report data regularly and use this information to make decisions on infection rates, world travel restrictions, lockdowns, re-openings, and access to potential vaccines.

Flatten the Curve: Much of the efforts for mitigation of the virus result from this ongoing data analysis. Governments, businesses, and schools need to determine the pandemic’s effects and use mitigation strategies to cope. The goal has been to “flatten the curve,” promoting a sense of containment of the virus and regaining economic stability post “lockdown.” What does this mean? Basically, fewer people will become sick, needing fewer hospital beds, and the number of cases will be spread over a more extended period of time, allowing our institutions to implement measures to reduce the impact and improve outcomes for individuals and the economy. The curve will not become so high, reducing cases over time, and infections will not happen all at once.

In an abundance of caution: This used to refer to such admonitions as not staying out after midnight, wearing your seatbelt, getting a flu shot, and using a condom. Now every phrase related to protecting us from COVID is preceded with “in an abundance of caution.” What does this really mean? Is this implying that if we don’t do “XXX,” we are doomed to become infected? Or does this refer to an emotional form of manipulation that while something isn’t absolutely necessary, but it is better for us to do “XXX?”

Many of us are susceptible to these types of phrases. It is likely safer for us to do many of the recommended actions to improve our chances of remaining healthy. The shock to the emotional system of this phrase is hard for parents, businesses, and government to balance when applying to humankind’s welfare. If we do not conform to the action recommended, are we engaging in risky behaviors with uncertain consequences in this time of complete uncertainty? 

With the potential for a catastrophic outcome for failing to comply “in an abundance of caution” to governmental and health agency cautions, perhaps to ensure personal tranquility, we should. 

The Intrusion of COVID Vocabulary: What are these words and phrases?

At the beginning…who knew? Over these months, I have been recording, sequentially, new phrases and words that, while “real words,” the concepts were either utilized in a different context or had not been previously in common usage.

COVID 19: The name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, now abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID -19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease.
http://www.cdc.gov About COVID-19 CDC

I am beginning with this simplistic explanation as a direct message to all non-believers that this is NOT coding for a Chinese intrusion into all humanity’s safety. It is particularly despicable that the disease as been politicized, creating an attack on Asian Americans, which is repugnant!

Sheltering-in-Place (SIP): Simply stated, this refers to the act of seeking safety in the building or place the individual already occupies. Initially, in the 50s, this referred to radiological or chemical incidents. In more recent years, this phrase was tragically associated with shooting incidents in schools or other public locations. This was related to active shooters, used frequently since 2015, and meant to find a safe place until the situation was resolved.

During COVID-19, in March of 2020, the government issued restrictions meant to reduce the disease’s spread. While many state and local governments implemented orders varying in their scope and limitations, these were generally understood to require individuals to remain home and to limit businesses to close their offices except for “essential workers.” Workers were expected to work from home, “remotely.” Americans were told to leave their home only when necessary, grocery shopping, and critical health care. Outdoor activities with “social distancing” were allowed. People were encouraged to have a family bubble consisting of individuals with whom we only had close contact.

Initially, these orders were limited to a month. As the pandemic’s persistent and catastrophic nature became evident, these orders extended through the spring, summer, and now the fall.

Appreciating My Ancestors

All of my cousins and I are in the same age range, older but not entirely ancient. During this enforced stay at home period, we have been sorting and sharing. Among the many treasures have been family pictures.

This is a picture of my grandpa’s barbershop in Rochester, NY. He was born in 1884 in San Cataldo, Sicily while Victor Emmanuel III was the King of Italy, and grandpa immigrated to the United States in 1909 on the vessel, Regina D Italia. At that time the Declaration of Intention to immigrate required that he declare “I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy, and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of American.” He became a citizen in 1921.

He worked as a barber his entire life and owned the barbershop, the Sanitary Barbershop above. If you notice he is cutting hair and babysitting one of his children while he barbered. He and my grandmother raised nine children to adulthood, and he was married for nearly 50 years to my grandmother until he died.

What a special man he was!

Traveling During COVID…or NOT!

When the news began to solidify that there was something unusual happening, I was in Southern California visiting my son and his family. We usually visit with them until about April 1 and return to endure the usual blustery East Coast spring. Deciding we were not going to get quarantined away from our home base, we flew home March 10 to be trapped instead in our condo since, although at least with a view of the water.

Our family trip in June to Hawaii was canceled since flying was out, and Hawaii was not allowing mainland visitors anyway.

Our fall leaf-peeping trip to New England to visit friends has been canceled since our friends don’t really want visitors, and we are afraid to fly anyway in a tube, trapped with the possibly ill.

Our trip to Columbus Isle in the Caribbean for the first two weeks December was canceled by Club Med already. We have gone every year since 2011, along with relatives and four other friends. Even when Hurricane Joaquin devastated the Bahamas, we still got together for an only one time trip to Cancun instead.

We bravely rescheduled the trip this year for Turks and Caicos Islands with Club Med. Turks and Caicos Islands are part of the EU. Today the EU announced Americans could not travel to EU countries. Turks just issued such complex requirements related to proof of negative COVID testing 72 hours before arrival, a 10-page questionnaire, requiring face masks on the beach…no buffets…no point in going there even if we could deal with these rigorous changes.

So, we are still planning to visit our son and his family in Southern California for Christmas, but we are driving instead! We’ll be on the road again 🙂

Slow Motion Time Management

During the lockdown, time has intermittently sped by without regard to my activity level or crept by, lost in aimless screen-time and resting on the deck.  My view is exceptional so that is not necessarily a waste of time but more of a spiritual experience.

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Admittedly, I had a To-Do list when the lockdown began.  I somehow forced myself to complete the physical tasks, painting the hallway, painting the bathroom, sorting for Goodwill, redoing the pantry, etc., however, I had other more deliberate tasks, including working out, blogging, my trip-log, etc., that required focus to accomplish.

In reading this article this morning, I had an ah-ha type experience.  I am retired and the lack of a daily schedule has become more apparent as these months have dragged on, producing feelings of never having had a meaningful contribution to life and that life has become inherently meaningless.

The Pomodoro technique described in the article suits me, emphasizing short bursts of high concentration for 25 minutes, with a 5-minute break. I find it reduces my “task dread” while encouraging me to begin anew on things that really matter to me.

This Time-Management Trick Changed My Whole Relationship With Time
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/23/magazine/pomodoro-technique.html?referringSource=articleShare