Once Upon a Pandemic
Written By Austin Hall (@ADWAustin)
Once upon a time, an evil pandemic struck a powerful country. They prided themselves on being the strongest, smartest, richest country in the world. They had an upper class that boasted these very attributes, but they didn’t know that the middle and lower classes, the workers whose minimum wage barely put food on the table, were the lifeblood of it all. They would learn that the hard way.
The pandemic didn’t start in this country, but it made its way there soon enough. Things people once took for granted were no longer possible. Schools, churches, businesses deemed “non-essential” were closed. Even friendships and family were strained, where, due to “social distancing” a simple get together was too dangerous because of the virus and its contagion.
Soon, people that were taken for granted became “essential” workers. For minimum wage, these workers supplied much needed food from supermarkets and restaurants. There was a short supply of healthcare workers and pharmacies, but they did everything they could to save people in need.
The problem was, this country, with all its splendor, was ill-equipped for this kind of thing. Medical supplies were finite. Health care was costly. The jobless had little leeway with finding a new job in time to keep themselves alive. An entire ecosystem of competitive capitalism had led to leaving a vast swath of countrymen behind. This time, this country needed those left behind more than ever.
So they worked long shifts, using masks and gloves if they were lucky. They were hailed as heroes, but they knew the truth: they had no choice, whether they worked in a grocery store or as a doctor or a nurse. As the positive tests came, as the bodies continued to pile up, they worked. The healthcare workers chose this life, but they needed more supplies, more people, less death. The retail workers worked to survive, but they needed sick pay, better wages, reduced hours.
Then, one day, the peak hit, and each day after that, the death toll went down, the sick started to recover, a cure was found. The ones who never got to stay home wondered, what’s next? Because, they knew, there were only two possible outcomes to this story.
In one ending, the people of the country enact a minimum wage based on actual living expenses, adjusting for inflation each year. Universal health care provides everyone the same opportunity to get and stay healthy. Paid sick leave becomes the norm. People stop taking things, and other people, for granted.
In another ending, nothing changes. Everyone goes back to the way things were, and the “heroes” are forgotten, left to work long shifts for low pay. People don’t get universal health care. The end.
So, which ending do you want to see?
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