Who Could Have Guessed?

By Lyle R. Hill

At some point in the future, the history books will write about the worldwide pandemic of 2020 and there will be all kinds of data and analysis included in the “historical” perspective. Depending on the bias of the person doing the writing, I’m guessing we’ll have differing commentary on what went wrong, what went right and whose fault it was that things didn’t go better.

Surrounded by Opinions

In the here and now, we are constantly being bombarded by reports, statistics and opinions by everyone and anyone given a chance to share theirs with us. The “experts” often have changed direction and criticized each other’s interpretation of the situation. There are those who think the nation’s shutdown and crippling of the economy was not warranted and others who think the shutdown should still be in effect. I’ve seen people driving alone in their own cars with the windows up wearing face masks. I’ve seen others not wearing any masks while talking in groups of people all very close to each other. I’ve also read the comments from the conspiracy theory people who have ideas all their own on who is behind the pandemic. I guess this comes as no surprise to most.

This column is being written on Thursday June 25, 2020. Yesterday I received a notice stating that the health center where I used to go three days a week to participate in an exercise program is reopening next week. The restaurants are opening up in my state tomorrow for indoor seating and serving. My church has been open for services for two weeks now. Last night’s news included a report that seven hand sanitizers currently being sold on the market are either ineffective or, because of chemicals in the mix, will do you more harm than good. This morning it was reported that an apparent second wave of the virus, although some are saying it’s still the first wave, is being observed in some parts of the country. More new cases were reported yesterday than in any other single day since early April. Of course, it is quickly pointed out that more cases are being reported because more testing is being done and therefore there is no wave at all. Either way, the problem is still with us. I have neighbors who have died from this disease and my own doctor died from “complications from pneumonia” right before we were made aware of the coronavirus having arrived in our country. My guess is the virus got him.

I have not missed a Sunday church service for at least 20 years unless I was out of town or ill, but I have not gone back yet and I’m not sure when I will. I have no plans to go to a restaurant for at least a few more weeks and have not made a decision yet on returning to the health center in spite of all the precautions they say they are taking. I have never been accused of being a risk-averse person, but when it comes to my health, I guess I am.

Business Matters

On the business front, the government’s PPP loan program is saving hundreds of businesses. I personally know of three that could not have survived without those funds, but many will still fail. Yes, there have been incidents of fraud and manipulation, but the benefit to small businesses cannot be denied. I personally handled the application submittal for one of my clients and assisted on two others. The way some banks handled the process was confusing and frustrating. The rules for getting relief from the “loan” are seemingly changing almost weekly and equally confusing. But I’m guessing that’s because we have never done anything like this before.

And if the virus problem was not enough, we have had incredible societal upheaval and unrest sparked by a policing incident with what appeared to be racial implications. Peaceful protests were followed by riots and looting, leaving some cities terribly scarred. I’m guessing that the arguments and accusations about the way all of this was handled will go on for months, maybe years. I’m guessing here, too, we will have to see how history records all of this.

We study history so we can learn from it, presumably to help us not make the same mistakes that our forefathers made. History, however, seems to regularly repeat itself, so it’s hard to see the benefit from studying it. And, history sometimes gets rewritten. Sometimes that’s because we discover something we didn’t know before; other times it’s because we didn’t like the way it was recorded the first time.

We are in the middle of a very dark and troubling time in our country. Some are predicting it’s all going to get worse before it gets better. They refer to the civil unrest issue as well as the economy, both of which are more linked together than some realize. Others claim the worst is behind us and all indicators are pointing up. Who, a year ago, could have guessed that we would be in this position today?

In business we are often told to control the things we can because there will always be things that we can’t control. Good advice … I guess we all need to heed it.

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of Glass.com, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

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