This transmission electron microscope image shows the coronavirus virus that causes COVID-19. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: Social distancing affects social classes differently, and not in a good way

While social distancing is crucial to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is obvious that this quarantine has had plenty of effects on our society, particularly the working class and below. 

Let’s face it: there are some of us who are better off during this quarantine, and others that are not.

Some of us are bearing the consequences of not being able to go to work full-force in the face. Some of us never had the stability to begin with. With no cure in sight, it’s not clear how long this will last.

Even when the stay-at-home order is lifted, life in the workplace will be much different. I’m not sure how many people this whole situation will knock out — not only through the hands of the virus but by sending millions of people into unemployment and causing stress-related illnesses. 

Oftentimes, though, the poor and young are at a disadvantage in their overexposure to COVID-19. In order to continue to put meals on the table for their families, those in the lower classes are still working in what little ways they can.

Wealthier people not only have more job security and benefits but also may be “better able to avoid becoming sick,” and although there isn’t much data about the relationship between the socioeconomic effects and the outbreak, “recent statistics released by public health officials in New York City suggests that the coronavirus is hitting low-income neighborhoods the hardest,” according to the New York Times. 

The New York Times interviewed Adarra Benjamin, who lives in Chicago, still cooking, cleaning and shopping for her clients that are older and suffer from health problems. She knows that she is at a higher risk for contracting the novel coronavirus, but there’s nothing she can do about it — she needs the money.

This is the sad truth about this whole situation. As a country, as a continent, as the whole world, the idea of physically distancing but not socially distancing, being apart but all being in this together, supporting one another, is constantly reinforced.

But are we turning a blind eye to all of the underlying problems that come with coronavirus? Are we knowingly walking away from the hurdles instead of jumping over them?

We also learn that the government’s Paycheck Protection Program isn’t exactly what its name suggests.

“But the program has been riddled with problems. Within days of its start, its money ran out, prompting Congress to approve an additional $310 billion in funding that will open for applications on Monday,” according to the New York Times.

They add that a myriad of small businesses was seemingly forgotten about, “even as a number of large companies received millions of dollars in aid.” 

It’s not clear where the government’s intentions lie during this pandemic, but they certainly aren’t in the best interests of the majority of our country. This quarantine is at the mercy of those in high positions with more than enough money as the cherry on top. 

California’s stay-at-home order and business closures will begin to have some restrictions lifted, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced May 1. A mother of two preschool children in Orange County said her childcare facility could open as early as May 11.

She stated that she won’t be sending her children back to school quite yet, but is worried about how everything will work out. The Orange County mother requested to remain anonymous due to privacy concerns.

People will be able to start going back to work soon after, I’m sure, but the logistics of how this whole reintroduction will work haven’t quite been worked out.

How will we support our society? How will we prevent this from happening again? How are we going to reach down and pull the working class and below up?

It will take a long time, if ever, for the country to return to normal. At this point, I’m not sure if “normal” is what we need to return to. We need to reset our priorities or the effects of this pandemic will just be reflected with extra pins and needles for the next few centuries. 

If there’s one thing that this quarantine has taught us it’s that there are several things about this country that we need to change. And we need to change them now.