This has been a truly memorable year, with both COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd happening within a few months. I think there is a very interesting relationship between the virus and the recent protests, and their intersection may be an important factor in the results. I think the protests were more intense because of the virus for two reasons. First, people are on edge because they’ve been cooped up for so long and may be feeling resentment against the authority figures who have forced them to stay inside and possibly lose their livelihoods.
Second, the fact that so many people are not working gives them time and focus to devote to protest that otherwise they would be using to focus on their work. They can stay at a protest all day because they don’t have to go to work. Also, volunteers have the time to help with the cleanup.
Another relationship on the positive side is that many of the street closings and expressway closings that became necessary during the protests did not create the traffic headache they normally would create if there were full employment.
One negative is that all these gatherings of large groups in close proximity will probably lead to more cases of the virus and force people to stay in more. Also on the negative side, so many businesses have been hurt economically by the pandemic and were looking forward to re-opening right about now. Many of them, however, have received damage or outright looting and may never reopen. Had it been normal times, they might have been able to weather the downtime that it takes to rebuild, but because of the pandemic it’s that much harder.
Especially problematic is the loss of pharmacies and grocery stores at a time where people are more likely to be sick and may be afraid to take public transportation because of the pandemic even if they were well enough to do so.
Another negative is that Trump has used the double distraction to do things such as work on building the border wall while getting minimal attention.
Finally, many people are feeling extra depression and despair because the combination of these two major events and all their negative associations, such as death, violence, and a greater awareness of discrimination in our society, have come together to make the world seem rather bleak.
Let’s hope that the opening up of the city, the peaceful turn the protests have taken and the steps toward police reform are a positive turning point for all.