It took until July 15 to feel almost normal. Thanks to the extended filing deadline, my taxes were finally filed. Picture perfect weather and beautiful live music in the early afternoon outdoors at the depot made it seem as if America was great again. After 90 short minutes, it was back to our new reality.
Unfortunately, we are still in the grasp of a pandemic. The virus-related confirmed cases and death toll continues to climb. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is no longer in charge of collecting and disseminating COVID-19 information. Some businesses are implementing mandatory face covering policies. Retailers and banks are in dire need of metal currency. School districts are feeling pressure from the president to reopen public schools leaving educators, students and parents in a holding pattern.
The federally supplemented unemployment benefit program is nearing expiration. Hopefully, Congress is putting the final touches on a second economic stimulus package. A scaled down version of the Republican National Convention is just over a month away and will be held in two states, Florida and North Carolina.
Other than that, all things are normal.
Since July 1, the national daily average of confirmed cases has been above 50,000. The country’s leading health agency had its virus data collecting responsibility usurped by the U. S. Department of Health andHuman Services. The justification given for the change was to utilize the HHS’s faster and complete system that will streamline and control the flow of information to the public and service providers. The effect of that policy change remains to be seen.
Some southern and western states, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, have become virus hot spots and are facing the possibility of shutting down again. Businesses that had relaxed its face covering enforcement will return to mandatory requirement for staff and patrons.
If that wasn’t enough, there is a nationwide coin shortage. Because of the reduction in consumer activity since the start of the second quarter of this year, and pandemic response measures that slowed production at the U.S. Mint, the circulation of coins has been reduced. Banks, stores and gas stations are feeling the pinch, with some stores resorting to accepting exact amount of purchase in cash only or pay by credit or debit card. Some retailers have begun rounding sales totals to the nearest dollar, with the overage designated to charity, with or without the customer’s consent.
In less than a month, the new school year begins. It will certainly look like no other return to school. The president is pushing for a return to normalcy but not all educators and parents are on board. Modified instruction plans have been established with safety of staff and students in mind.
Unemployed workers who have enjoyed the additional $600 per week federal unemployment benefit will soon see the end of the road. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is expected to end July 31. Unless, of course the Senate upon its return next week passes the House approved Heroes Act that would extend the $600 weekly benefit until January 2021.
Congress also has to work out the kinks of the proposed second round of economic stimulus. We can expect a little more fine tuning and fiduciary responsibility if it comes to fruition. The Oprah Winfrey-like, “Everybody gets a check” generosity we saw with the first stimulus should not be expected this time around.
Other than that, all things should be normal.
In the interim, the downtown depot lunch and music offerings and Friday Night Concert Series or local bars that offer live music will be appreciated for making my summer seem as normal as possible.
With the exception of the month-long fireworks, it has been too quiet around here. Until we are told differently, in the interest of health, wash your hands thoroughly and often, wear a mask and don’t stand too close to strangers. And be normal.