WASHINGTON, DC, June 26 — Big cities across America are at risk as the COVID pandemic continues to fuel a workforce exodus.
According to economist Stephan Whitaker, ‘The net flow of people out of U.S. urban neighborhoods averaged nearly 28,000 people per month in March through September of the recent years 2017 to 2019. That number about doubled—to 56,000 people per month—in 2020 after the pandemic’s onset in March.
Cities like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have all experienced losses in populations. Some of the experts tell us that it is only a passing phase that we are going through, that it will take time, but things will return to normal as the pandemic disappears in our rearview mirrors. But that remains to be seen.
Some big cities will be hampered by costs of living that continue to rise at alarming rates. New York City is looking at $4 billion in new taxes that will be imposed on high-income individuals and corporations in a city with a large population of high-income individuals. It’s bound to encourage more residents to get out of town.
Even some Democrats are saying enough is enough. A couple of them who are running to replace Bill DeBlasio as Mayor in New York City have expressed their concerns.
Candidate Ray McGuire warns, “What the state is considering will push companies and higher-income families out of the city, which will cost us tax revenue and jobs.” And Andrew Yang says it will cause more Big Apple citizens to “actually vote with their feet and head to Florida.” This from a progressive who ran for the presidency on a promise to send each and every American a check for $1,000 each and every month if they would cast their ballots for him.
According to Bloomberg CityLab research, “Across the U.S., the number of people making moves that they defined as permanent was up a modest 3% between March 2020 and February 2021. Even with that increase, national migration rates are likely still at historic lows. But zoom in to a few of America’s densest and most expensive metro regions, and the picture is more dramatic, with the percentage increase in moves well into the double digits.”
The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland did an in-depth study of the pandemic migration and came up with a few logical triggers for the big city exodus:
- Living in a metropolis forces residence to live in close quarters, so to speak. It puts them at risk when you consider how easy it is to pass along the coronavirus in tight spaces like elevators and subways, and buses.
To minimize that risk, employers told employees that they could work from home to avoid the dangers of close contact.
- Workers didn’t have to commute, giving them an opportunity to find larger, more affordable suburban housing.
- Consider also that city living was not what it used to be as restaurants and entertainment venues were forced to close their doors.
- In addition, city streets were being taken over by violent protestors and the homeless at a time when funding for police was being reduced.
The question now is: what will the future bring?
Indeed, it is hard, at best, to maintain an optimistic outlook. The disease is still with us, and while human nature encourages us to be positive going forward, the reality is that the pandemic has infused us with pessimism.
There is a new normal for companies and their employees, thanks to the coronavirus. It requires businesses to pay attention to the needs of their workforce. For many of them, they’ll have to accept the fact that their employees will be working from home for some time to come.
And that means bosses will need to acquire the skills for managing their companies in a virtual internet-based manner.
As one business consultant put it: “The coronavirus pandemic has forced every large company to move knowledge work from their offices to their employees’ homes. Right now, everyone is wondering how long it will take for the virus to subside and for work – and the economy – to return to normal. But there’s another question that corporate leaders need to ask: What might not and should not return to normal? What new ways of operating in the time of the virus might be superior to the old routines?”
Good advice considering that it ain’t over yet. It seems that a new, potentially stronger variant of the coronavirus known as the Delta variant has surfaced. And according to a report in Forbes, “Officials say the variant is responsible for more than 90% of the U.K.’s Covid-19 cases (as high as 96% in England), which have soared since the variant replaced the then-dominant Alpha strain and pushed the government to prolong pandemic restrictions.”
This development underscores the need for those of us who have not yet gotten fully vaccinated to do so sooner than later.
It has already migrated to 70 countries, including the U.S. “Eighteen percent of cases in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming, and about six percent of cases nationwide” have been identified as the Delta variant. Preliminary research indicates that existing vaccines are still effective against this new variation of the disease, according to a report published on the National Geographic Website.
The study, which is still under review, “revealed that after both doses, the Pfizer vaccine showed 88 percent effectiveness against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant compared to 93 percent against the Alpha variant. Two doses of AstraZeneca vaccine were 66 percent effective against Alpha but only 60 percent against Delta. But with just single dose of either of the two vaccines, the vaccine effectiveness was only 51 percent against the Alpha variant compared to 33 percent against Delta.”
The news might be disheartening at first glance, but Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, put it into perspective in an interview with PBS. “The great news is, when you’re fully vaccinated, the vaccines work spectacularly well, as they do against the original. But you can tell that it has some superpowers because the first dose of your vaccine, which was 80 percent effective for Pfizer and Moderna with the original virus, now appears to be only 30 or 35 percent effective. So, you need to be fully vaccinated in order to stave off this variant.”
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