While the government and business interests debate what constitutes a “life-sustaining business,” people who are losing their jobs know that, whatever their job had been, for them it had been life-sustaining. Governor Wolf does not mean what they mean, but Governor Wolf should mean what they mean. This battle against COVID-19 is more than a battle against an insidious virus; it is also a battle against economic ruin. The American economy is not something evil, it’s not the province of the 1%. The American economy is the means for Americans to put bread on their tables. A functioning economy saves lives, too.

COVID-19 is not going to go away any time soon, unless the Lord Almighty steps in and causes the virus to disappear. I don’t anticipate that, but I’m praying for it. You should, too. 

Human efforts are slowing the spread of COVID-19, but they will not stop it. Shutting down everything for a month will not stop COVID-19. We can push back against the spread until it looks like we’ve conquered, but when we relax it will spread again. It will not leave us until until an effective vaccine is widely available, or until we have reached “herd immunity”. The former appears to be 12-18 months away; the latter happens when something on the order of 70% of the population has gotten sick and recovered. Neither of these will happen quickly.

Our world is likely to be heavily influenced by COVID-19 for at least a year. Unless some wondrous discoveries are made quickly, we should all expect to become infected (even if some of us do avoid it). In the meantime, while practicing social distancing in every way practical, we need to function as a society. One focus should be on developing safe work practices that allow businesses to continue. People need to be working. If people are afraid to come to work, fine, they should be allowed to stay home, and they should be guaranteed their jobs until they return. In their absence, if others can be found to do their work, others should be employed. 

I do not mean to shame people into going where they are uncomfortable. There is plenty of reason to be fearful of this virus. It’s never a good idea to play in traffic. Furthermore, there are some possible justifications for hunkering down for awhile. God’s intervention is the fundamental one. Perhaps He will reveal to scientists a medicine that weakens the virus, or perhaps they will discover a medicine that helps people manage the virus’s attack of the lungs, such as a new kind of inhaler. I have read that it’s possible the virus could mutate to a less harmful nature. (I don’t know how this works unless the less harmful version somehow overwhelms the harmful version.) As more people recover from the disease and obtain immunity, the virus will have an increasingly difficult time finding new hosts.

On the other hand, we know that the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 first hit in the spring, slowed in the summer, and then returned with a more severe effect in the fall. It returned with a third wave early in 1919.

There are many unknown factors. While I believe what I’ve written above about the need for our society to get to work, I also want to underscore that, like everyone else, I don’t really know what I’m talking about. It’s all about trying to make the best decisions in an environment of unusual risk. It’s easy to make decisions when the problem seems theoretical, but this problem is going to come near to all of us and those of us who live will have to live with the decisions we make.