RALEIGH – As we watch the epicenters of COVID-19 in New York City and Louisiana, it helps us appreciate that North Carolina is not suffering a similar fate with such an unknown virus. Yet, while the viral spread itself may not be as bad in the Old North State as it is in the Empire State, we are still suffering from the pandemic panic more than most other states in the nation. According to personal finance site WalletHub, North Carolina has been plagued with the second highest spike in unemployment claims as a result of coronavirus shutdown policies.
Ouch. This, after perhaps one of the better decades of economic growth and prosperity in our state’s history.
The virus itself is not a direct cause of these job losses, of course; the shutdown policies implemented by reactionary local and state government officials is almost exclusively at fault for the economic spiral.
Is it worth it? That is the question many will ask. Fear of the virus and fear of the government’s reactions in fear of the virus are not mutually exclusive things, so one can be appropriately cautious and personally responsible regarding personal and public health, while also opposing the forced closure policies that may do more harm than good.
Each locale is having a different experience, though, so the answers to ‘Is it worth it?’ could be different in different places. Here in North Carolina, the discrepancy between the socioeconomic hit and the viral hit to our state is glaring. We have registered the second worst unemployment surge in the nation, outdone only by Louisiana. The Cajun state being hit hard economically parallels the public health situation, as they battle one of the worst outbreaks in the country.
This is hardly the case in North Carolina; we are among the bottom five states for coronavirus death rates and in the bottom 10 in terms of the number of coronavirus cases per one million residents. And yet, we sport the second worst surge in unemployment attributed to the epidemic.
Schools are still closed until May 15. Stay at Home orders are still in place statewide until the end of April. The toll on the livelihoods of North Carolinians will only increase, even as the infection rate, and the fear the virus generates, subsides. We will keep wondering if it was worth it, and many will answer ‘Yes!’ with sanctimony, even as the costs continue to climb.