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Breaking News: Not everything is terrible

Mona Charen on

The stock market made up all of its losses by August. That's not to say the economy is in good shape. More than 163,000 businesses have closed, almost 98,000 of them permanently. That represents real hardship for owners, employees and customers. But out of 32.5 million businesses nationwide, that's still a tiny fraction. Unemployment remains high at nearly 8%, but it has declined considerably from above 14% in March.

Prospects for a vaccine look promising. There will be setbacks -- Johnson and Johnson halted one of its trials over the weekend due to the unexplained illness of one volunteer -- but the outlook for a widely available vaccine or vaccines by the middle of 2021 remains good.

It turned out that ventilators were not as crucial in treating this virus as expected.

Fears about the pandemic increasing deaths from other causes appear to have been correct. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that in March and April, the U.S. experienced 87,000 excess deaths -- meaning deaths above what was experienced in those months during the preceding five years. About a third were attributed to causes other than COVID-19.

Thanks to the efforts of frontline workers (who deserve more gratitude than they get), public services like transportation, electricity generation, food safety inspection, trash collection, water purification and emergency services continued pretty much without a hiccup. The lights stayed on. The heat and electricity continued to function. Supermarkets remained open and remarkably well-stocked. There were shortages here and there of various commodities -- yeast! Dijon mustard! -- but nothing that could be called hardship. Amazon continued to deliver just about anything you wanted in record time. We did not experience a "Lord of the Flies"-style social collapse requiring armed defense of our pantries.

What prolonged school closings will do to children is a great unknown, and there is reason to think that teachers unions have exerted too much power in this matter.

 

As for depression, suicide and other psychological effects of the pandemic, the news is mixed. Significant numbers of adults have reported increases in depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Adolescents, on the other hand, are faring better.

According to a new report from the Institute for Family Studies, teen mental health has improved since the pandemic and associated lockdowns began. Compared with 2018, fewer adolescents described themselves as depressed, lonely or unhappy during the COVID-19 crisis. They reported better sleep. In 2018, only 55% said they regularly slept 7 or more hours per night. In 2020, it jumped to 84%. Teens are spending more time talking with their parents and sharing a family dinner. A solid 53% reported feeling stronger and more resilient as a result of the pandemic. Yet another IFS report found that the enforced togetherness of the pandemic has improved marriages, with 58% saying it has made them appreciate their spouse more.

As awful as it has been, this disease was not the apocalypse we feared. Many aspects of our society proved more resilient than we expected. That should inspire something we haven't felt much of lately -- hope.

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Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her new book is "Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense." To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate Inc.
 

 

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