We should fear the ‘Coronavirus Effect’


You may have heard of “the butterfly effect.” The late Edward Lorenz, an American mathematician and meteorologist, suggested it some years ago. His illustration focused on how a tiny atmospheric change caused by a butterfly flapping its wings could alter the timing an course of a tornado weeks later. Bottom line: Our world is so interconnected in many complex ways that one small action can have dramatic effects.

Well, get ready for the coronavirus effect. A germ so tiny it can’t be viewed with most microscopes is about to wreak major, lasting damage ­- beyond the tragedy of killing thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people.

Normally, I write about politics, so let’s start there: Just a few days ago, the conventional wisdom was that Bernie Sanders was done for, and Joe Biden would be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president. But wait. There are still plenty of primary elections to go.

One is scheduled for Tuesday in Ohio. State officials are worried there may not be enough poll workers to conduct the balloting properly. Some people who had agreed months ago to work the polls have called to cancel.

Why? Because they’re afraid of coming in contact with the COVID-19 coronavirus. One need not be near someone who has the disease to catch it. The virus can live on hard surfaces for as long as two weeks.

Older people tend to vote more faithfully than young ones — and are more conservative in ballot choices.

What happens Tuesday, then — and in other primaries to come — when older voters stay away from the polls in droves? Do Bernie’s younger supporters carry the day?

What happens if the economy tanks and President Donald Trump gets blamed for it, much in the same way Herbert Hoover took the fall unfairly for the Great Depression?

And Trump could become the patsy for a downturn caused by COVID-19. It is in progress already, as evidenced by the stock markets. In just a few weeks, stocks traded on the New York exchange have lost one-fourth of their value.

That has a very real effect on tens of millions of people who are relying on investments, perhaps through 401K plans, to fund their retirements. Many will find the golden years they had planned to start soon have to be pushed back by years.

Private industry — and thus, those who rely on it for jobs — already is taking a hit. Both cruise lines and airline companies are suffering badly. Some may go out of business.

At the local level, government may suffer, too. Quite a few tax levies are up for approval or reauthorization Tuesday in Ohio. People who have low faith in the economy — or perhaps worry about their own jobs — are much less likely to vote in favor of tax issues.

Local and state government investments — often used to provide pensions and help cover health insurance for public employees — are being burned badly, too. That may mean cuts in benefits or, more probable, higher taxes to avoid them.

The coronavirus effect goes on and on. For example, with schools closed, how many parents will have to miss work because they’re home watching the kids?

This is getting bad, folks. It’s going to get worse.

Myer is the executive editor of The Intelligencer Wheeling-News Register. He can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.


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