the privilege of social distancing

COVID-19 has truly pointed out the inequalities that exist within America— and how many are willing to ignore them. BY SASHA RTISHCHEV

Social distancing for many means binge-watching new shows, doing way too many DIYs, adapting to online schooling, and spending lots of quality time with family or roommates. Some people even have a change of scenery, moving from their shoebox apartments into their vast suburban family homes to sit this pandemic out. However, this viewpoint is only applicable in affluent communities. Social distancing only denotes increased screen time and family walks for those who can work online, have enough money to sustain their needs, have mental wellness, and a loving home atmosphere. For others, social distancing can be extremely difficult (not just because of boredom), if not impossible.

An Economic Policy Institute study found that only 9.2% of workers in the lowest quartile of the wage distribution can telework compared with 61.5% of workers in the highest quartile. This division also lies between races and ethnicities. “Less than one in five black workers and roughly one in six Hispanic workers are able to work from home,” according to the same analysis. This exemplifies how many are not able to stay at home, despite it being the safest option. Orders in over thirty states have left several businesses open, including restaurants, post offices, factories, etc. This puts their workers in a precarious situation, which ultimately leaves them sacrificing their health to stay afloat while navigating this pandemic.

The nature of blue-collar and retail jobs have subjected many employees to unpaid furlough. This means for the duration of these social distancing measures, they will have no income. About 22 million workers claimed unemployment and are looking for the benefits that the government promised. In many states, such as New York, these workers have not even seen a penny. Despite calling the Department of Labor and submitting the proper forms, many are not receiving the relief they desperately need. On the other hand, many landlords and other necessary service providers have not suspended payments. The unemployed have no way to continually pay these bills, especially as social distancing measures lengthen. Others have suspended the bills, with pretty high-interest rates. However, no one is sure how long these stay at home orders will last and how long these payments will be pushed back. This leaves the financial stability of many up in the air for many years to come. Therefore, people everywhere are left wondering how long will these delays last and what their effect will be? How long will the country’s hard workers have to live without pay or federal aid?

In addition, food banks across the country have been temporarily closed. The schools that fed millions of kids across the nation have also shut down indefinitely. This leaves families questioning when their next meal will be. Approximately 17 million people are stifled with food insecurity, not including those who were suffering before this crisis. This issue has grown so large that the National Guard has been called into cities, such as Boston, to help distribute food. Lines for the open food banks are stretching blocks, but the food in the pantries can barely fill up the shelves. The CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank in Texas, Eric Cooper, said “Now in the midst of COVID-19, the demand far outpaces the supply.” He notes this as cars pack the parking lot in front of his giant warehouse, stocked with fresh fruits to nonperishable food cans.

Even for those fortunate enough to have food and rent security during this time, these stay-at-home measures can exacerbate existing familial issues. Social workers all over the US have already seen a spike in child abuse cases and calls. However, many are worried that the majority of the abuses are going under the radar due to online schooling. Child welfare agencies often rely on teachers to report suspected cases, but when the entire country is stuck at home, there is nowhere for these kids to go. In addition, there is increased stress on the matriarch or patriarch of the family due to the economic recession and anxiety. This can lead to more violence within a home, emotionally and physically.

Millions of Americans are unable to enjoy their “Coronacation,” and work happily in their homes for months. People’s safety is being put on the line due to their need to continue working. Food and rent insecurity is through the roof in America, and many questions surrounding this are left unanswered. In addition, abuse within households has been increasing, while reports of it are decreasing. Communities of color and poorer ones are disproportionately affected by this recession and are not receiving the help they need and deserve. COVID-19 has truly pointed out the inequalities that exist within America, and how many are willing to ignore them.

Sasha Rtishchev is a current sophomore in high school. At her school, she is a staff member of the newspaper who mainly writes features and reviews. Her interests include activism, writing, music, fashion, films, and astrology. She is stoked to be writing for HALOSCOPE and hopes to inspire her readers.



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