COVID Costs

Originally published in the 2nd quarter 2020 edition of the NCSI Scoop, published by the National Council of Self-Insurers.

The costs of COVID-19 are obvious to those paying attention: more than 122,000 deaths (as of June 22), a historic rise in mental health problems (depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide), more than 45 million newly unemployed people (as of June 18), and a 52.8 percent contraction in second quarter U.S. gross domestic product.

Each of those are aggregate numbers with intensely personal stories embedded within them. The term “unemployment” is an unfortunate statistic until you are the one suddenly without a job or a small business owner whose life savings have been lost. As tragic as death is to the individual and those they know – including the healthcare providers that were likely the last faces seen – it is even more tragic when it is someone you know.

Every cost, or more accurately “loss” in this scenario, involves a grieving process. The five steps are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While the above are big issues, the process of grieving encompasses everything, great and small, tangible and intangible. For example: no sports, no in-person church or movie theaters, masks (or not), limited access to friends during shelter-in-place, no handshakes (maybe forever), restricted access to government-defined non-essential services and medical care. It can seem as though your locus of control has been eliminated as normalcy has been upended.

But there is one positive loss to come from this pandemic – the loss of assumption.

So much of daily life, both for individuals and businesses, assumes a status quo. While change is constant it is usually incremental as what happened yesterday likely will be repeated today. Some, like sunrise and sunset, are assured even with COVID. But every individual and business has been disabused in 2020 of the idea that what you’ve always done will always work. In many cases since March, none of what we’ve always done will work now (and maybe into the future). Those able to move through the stages of grief quickly will find a way to survive, if not thrive, in whatever is to come. Those stuck in any stage prior to acceptance must move on or forever be left behind. In that sense, your locus of control remains as you evolve into the new reality.

In a world full of cost / loss, if we all learn to not assume anything it will be a positive step forward. Let us all act as though there is no such thing as status quo because we now know there isn’t.