No matter if you decide to get the COVID vaccine or not, there is no doubt that the post-vaccine world is going to be different.
My husband and I were some of the people watching what was going on in China well before anything hit the mainstream news. As the situation continued to unfold, we started making sure we were prepared to stay at home for an extended time just in case. On January 31, 2020, I went into the grocery store, and I have not returned since.
Perhaps our reaction was early and more extreme than some, but at the time, everyone knew very little, and a lot of conflicting information was being spread. Just like now, it is hard to know what is true and what is not. We are responsible for my father’s care, a Vietnam Veteran in his 70s suffering from a range of health issues related to shrapnel and Agent Orange. He is also an amputee. We did not want to bring an illness with what at the time looked like a very high fatality rate home to him.
Around this time, we started watching Chris’s daily COVID update videos. He seemed to be the only person gathering a lot of information and analyzing it without turning it into a political circus.
I believe COVID-19 started out being more contagious and lethal than it is now. That is how viruses work, especially if the virus is not naturally occurring. While no one has 100% confirmed that COVID came from a lab, there is mounting evidence that it did. Any virus with too high of a fatality rate will burn itself out eventually. It is not in the best interest of a virus to be so fatal that it kills its host before the host can spread the virus more.
Spanish Flu never really went away either; it just became less lethal as people developed natural immunity, better treatments, and the virus mutated to survive better within the population.
I think that a lot of people are still in denial about the changes that have occurred. There are still a lot of people that believe we can get back to normal. Well, it is impossible to go back. We have to move forward and learn to properly and thrive in a post-COVID vaccine world.
Strauss and Howe and the 4th Turning
I think it is safe to say we are in a 4th Turning. The good news is that it doesn’t last forever. The bad news is that we probably have ten years before things start to look up a lot. That doesn’t mean it is all going to be miserable. There will be winners and losers like any age. It is just going to be harder to win, and people may have to reduce their expectations and standards of living more than they would like.
Are you going to get vaccinated? Is it worth it to you to give up some freedoms to remain unvaccinated?
With vaccine passports already a reality, those who have not been vaccinated will have to make a very serious decision. Are we willing to give up travel? What about going to sporting or music events? Just how much are you ready to give up?
The lifestyle my husband and I lead is different. Both of us work from home. We do not travel because we have a small farm that we are constantly making improvements on. With a child on the way, we have a house addition to build. Even before COVID-19, we didn’t enjoy shopping. We have saved a ton of time and frustration by ordering Instacart or via online retailers. It allows us to get more work done and provides a job for someone else.
We do not plan on taking any vaccine. At the time of this writing, I am currently 28 weeks pregnant with my first child. I have no desire to get a vaccine that has not been adequately tested, especially on pregnant women. There has not been nearly enough time for scientists to say what the long-term effects on a baby will be. It will be many years before we know that. As a healthy 38 years old, even if I get COVID, the chances of a good recovery are high. I trust that more than a vaccine that was developed and tested in less than a year and never adequately tested on pregnant women.
I hope that things do not progress to the point where you cannot do basic things without a vaccine passport, but there are plenty of people who think that you should not even be allowed to grocery shop if you don’t take the vaccine when it becomes available to you.
At the moment employers cannot legally mandate the vaccine because it is not yet FDA approved.
Plenty of people either do not know or they ignore the fact that COVID-19 vaccines are still considered experimental. They are not FDA-approved because they have not gone through the testing protocols that are necessary for approval. It is way too soon.
Some employers are offering financial incentives to get vaccinated.
While $100 is not much, it is what some employers are offering to employees that agree to get vaccinated. A local nursing home offered this “bonus”. A close relative that works at a large regional brick and mortar chain store in the Pacific Northwest was offered $100. I have to wonder where the money for these bribes is coming from. $100 per employee adds up fast at bigger companies. Is some other benefactor helping finance these “bonuses”?
Prepare for potentially even more isolation, especially if you are not vaccinated, and vaccine passports are required.
A lot of people don’t do well when forced to isolate themselves. Single people, in particular, suffered a lot during the pandemic. Marriages also suffered, particularly those who were already having problems or used to lead somewhat separate lives or have a little more space.
Supply Chain Issues
Sporadic shortages are the new normal.
Our society is used to being able to get practically anything and specific brands with no problem at all. Before COVID, the only rationing and shortages remembered by most Americans was the gas crisis during the Carter Administration era.
During toilet paper shortages, I noticed that people were often upset because they couldn’t find “their brand.” The level of brand loyalty in the US is remarkable. Advertising sure works. There were plenty of “empty shelf” photos where people were complaining about not being able to get things even when there was an option left on the shelf. It just wasn’t what they wanted.
Be prepared to be more responsible for your well-being and security. The safety net is stretched and breaking. This is hard for many to see with so much money being printed and sent out to the American people. 22% of the circulating USD was printed in 2020 based on figures that are accurate as of December 19, 2020.
The M1 Chart above is a measure of the most-liquid assets in the U.S. money supply: cash, checking accounts, traveler’s checks, demand deposits, and other checkable deposits. Notice how dramatic the rise was in 2020 and how it continues to go up astronomically in 2021. Source: FRED
First Things To Stock Up On
Preparedness articles that include lists of supplies can seem overwhelming. I have attempted to create a list to help you prioritize the things you need to stock up on.
The cost of food is going up, and with inflation and supply changes stretched, it is just going to get worse.
Bottled water is a rip-off. A good family-style water filter should be considered a household essential even if you don’t stock up on many other things.
Medical Supplies including Prescription Meds
While some medications are limited to a 30 day supply per refill, there are a lot more that allows for a 90 day supply to be dispensed. You can ask your doctor for larger refills. Unless there is a specific medical reason, they will usually grant your request.
During the pandemic, pet food factories were not receiving products to process into pet foods. Fewer employees due to either a positive COVID test or social distancing restrictions also affected production. In the future, shipping and packaging costs could make the price of pet foods rise, and food distribution may be affected.
Remember that pet food production is tied to the meat and butchering industries. Major grain production also plays a role. Any lack of output at meat processors or a bad year for corn, wheat, soy, or rice will affect pet foods.
Personal protective gear such as gloves and masks are going for a premium already. If cases start to rise, the cost will go up, or supplies may not be available.
During any crisis, it is essential to maintain personal hygiene to prevent major diseases and minor health issues as well—stock up on toothbrushes and paste, soap, razors, etc.
Most of the clothing in the USA is created using foreign labor. While it may seem like there is a ton of inexpensive clothing now, that could change quickly. We like to keep some extra basics on hand that everyone can wear.
- Packs of athletic socks that stretch to accommodate different sizes
- Inexpensive packs of cotton t-shirts
- A few extra pairs of new jeans for each family member
It didn’t cost much to put together a kit of these basics at the pandemic’s beginning. My husband and I know that these are items that we will definitely use one day as well. Living on a farm means we are hard on clothes.
A good emergency radio offers some ability to get news and weather forecasts if the internet is not available. Walkie Talkie style radios, short wave, and HAM radios are other options.
Batteries and Emergency Power Supplies
Rechargeable batteries and a solar-powered method to keep them charged are good investments for getting through events of varying severity. A quick online search will show you a ton of inexpensive options.
Consider investing in a more robust backup power system, such as a power center, if you have the budget for it. We have a few Jackery power centers on hand that we use often.
Something for Entertainment
Everyone needs something to take their mind off things. I turn to books, music, and writing. Make sure that everyone in your home has something that they can do to stay entertained at home.
The Order of Shortages or Increased Prices
Some items are more likely to become unavailable or go up dramatically in price. How important they are to you will vary based on how willing you are to make substitutions. Convenience is something that a lot of us are used to.
Recently Scott announced that starting in June, they would be increasing the cost of their products in the range of the mid to high single digits due to rising costs in raw materials and shipping. This means that toilet paper, diapers, baby wipes, paper plates, etc., are all going to increase in price. All other major manufacturers will be forced to increase their prices since they are exposed to the same rising costs of production.
Anything that is made from or packaged in plastic is likely to go up in price. The Texas deep freeze led to a decrease in oil production. Plastic is a petroleum byproduct. Plastic wrapping covers the majority of products, including paper products that are going up in cost. Get ready for more than single-digit increases in paper products’ cost if plastic goes up more than what is expected.
It is not easy to switch from one type of packaging to another.
Large manufacturing facilities are set up to package products a certain way. For example, switching from paper packaging to plastic would require a huge investment on a company’s part. It is easier to pass on higher packaging costs to the customer while using existing equipment. The hope, of course, is that costs will go down. I wouldn’t bet on the costs to the consumer ever going down even if commodity prices improve.
COVID protective measures increased the cost of growing and processing food. Fewer workers were allowed in facilities as well.
Less migrant labor also adds to the cost. Unfortunately, if food prices were to remain low, a steady supply of migrant workers willing to work hard for less pay than others was required, and it just didn’t happen. Although it is often overlooked, the United States has always had a poorer migrant class that took on the low-paying and less pleasant jobs. Before Mexican migrants, it was the Irish. When I worked in a fish processing facility in Ketchikan, AK, laborers were brought over from Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and Mexico. It was tough work, and the starting pay was low, but as my friend from Romania said, she could live very well back home on $500 per month, so working in the US for six months meant she had a higher standard of living when she returned.
COVID infection rates were very high among migrant workers too. These workers often live in highly tense situations. Employer subsidized housing is often not well maintained, and shared heating and cooling systems mean everyone is breathing the sale air.
Many of you know that the microchip shortage is causing issues for a variety of manufacturers. The price of computers is on the rise, with many people turning to repair shops rather than replacing them. Not long ago, unless you had a high-end machine, it was often cheaper to throw away your comp and get a new one.
With more people than ever working from home, it is important to have a good backup computer option. If you are on a budget, a refurbished desktop is a good option. At the moment, you can get a fast desktop for under $300 without a keyboard, monitor, and mouse.
Medical Supplies and Prescription Meds
The cost of nitrile and latex gloves has tripled in the last year, if you can find them at all. Good quality N-95 masks are still hard to find. Most people are forced to turn to the Chinese version, KN95. I bought a few of these to use when I have to go to prenatal appointments, and I will tell you that they do not seem as well made. There are places on the mask that are not as thick and do not stay on.
Some prescription medications are sparse. The US relies heavily on overseas manufacturing for many medications.
Fuel and shipping costs will continue to go up.
There is no reason to assume that fuel and transportation costs will go down anytime soon. The signs point to them going up.
US Retail Diesel Prices November 2020-April 12, 2021. Source: YCharts
It is increasingly hard for some employers to find qualified people that are willing to work. Even if you don’t employ people yourself, labor shortages are going to affect your life. Getting the services and products you need will start to take more time and cost more. Tensions with China and higher shipping costs to get products from foreign manufacturers mean that we cannot rely on foreign labor to ease the stresses of a labor shortage in the USA.
There are a lot of reasons for labor shortages. Some factors may affect some parts of the USA more than others.
Inability to pass a drug test and crippling addictions
Opioid addiction is rampant, and there are plenty of people that while they are functioning on some level, cannot pass the drug screen that is so often required for insurance purposes. Some can pass even when they have a major problem because some substances leave the body faster than others. Smoking pot on the weekend two weeks ago may show up, while the cocaine from a week ago is long gone. The hard drug user passes while the marijuana user doesn’t get the job. In some cases, this can lead to hiring someone only to realize that you hired an addict. In some cases, the employer has to jump through many hoops to rid themselves of that employee.
A feeling that it is not worth it to work. It is more lucrative to draw unemployment.
In some cases, jobs do not pay enough to motivate people to go back to work. If you are collecting $600 a week in unemployment and the jobs available to you pay $700 or $800 and require a commute and the associated fuel costs and wear and tear on your car, it is hard for some to get motivated to return to the job market. Add in the fact that many people don’t have to pay childcare costs when at home; this means that going back to work could cost some a significant amount of money.
Skills, training, or physical ability
Some of the available jobs require training and education that take significant amounts of time to get. Even lower-paying health care jobs mean getting a 6-month certificate. Some people may not want to dedicate that much time towards earning credentials in a world where they are not confident that a job will be available when they finish.
Some have plenty of skills, but they are not the right ones for the current economy. For example, if you had a job in mining or the oil industry, you cannot just switch to installing solar panels or doing another job that is in high demand but requires specialized skills.
Americans are notoriously out of shape. Jobs that require standing for long periods, heavy lifting, and continuous physical activity are not realistic for many. While employers are technically not allowed to discriminate, chances are you are not going to get hired if they look at you and know that you cannot physically do a job well enough for it to be a good financial decision for them.
People do not want to work food service jobs, including those that have been in the industry for years.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs in the foodservice industry. Those that stayed often reported crazy accounts of abuse from customers. Gone were the days when people were nice and just glad to get out of the house. Now food workers had to try to enforce mask rules and deal with people on edge more than ever. Capacity restrictions meant serving fewer people. Doing take-out or delivery only resulted in fewer tips for servers, meaning they were not making enough money to meet basic needs.
Let’s not forget the riots and protests that led to restaurant customers and staff getting abused and harassed, too—plenty of customers left without paying when trying to get away from the violence.
Eventually, even more, workers were laid off, and many found other jobs. Plenty of them remember all too well how they were treated and refuse to go back to their old occupation.
Aging baby boomers retiring.
Fewer baby boomers are working than in the past, and those numbers will keep going up. Baby boomers leaving will open up some higher-level management jobs as well as retail and customer service positions. Employers could experience difficulties filling these positions for many of the reasons previously discussed in this article.
We are in for a bumpy ride for a while, but you can do plenty of things to help make it a little easier.
- Stock up on essentials as your budget allows. Check out my article featuring tips for fighting household inflation for more details.
- Arrange for services and order supplies sooner rather than later. Things are likely to take more time, so you need to get used to planning for that.
- Find something to keep yourself and your family entertained that doesn’t rely on spending a ton of money or going far from home.
- Realize that some convenience items may become too expensive or not available. You may have to take time to do dishes and cook more often.
- Try to be more patient with yourself and others. People are on edge.
- Take steps to secure your home and property. During hard economic times, burglary and other acts of desperation become more common.
Never forget that plenty of people learn how to thrive and prosper during difficult times. The key is the ability to adapt and not get too caught up in the idea of a past returning that is impossible to achieve. There is no going back.