Only a few months ago the expression “moving from red to yellow” would have had no significance for Americans. Today, as I drive or walk through our town of West Chester, Pennsylvania and travel through Pennsylvania and surrounding states, the term means a great deal. There is no chronicler as such of what is occurring in the US now and there probably should be because the events that have affected us over the past months might not be believed or understood by future generations. The expression “moving from red to yellow” means that the world begins to look a bit more like what we were accustomed to and probably never fully appreciated before – at least in the conduct of business and socializing but we are still aware and will continue to be so. We have become used to wearing masks, practicing social distancing, a term our grandchildren or great grandchildren might not understand, avoiding crowds where feasible, washing hands frequently and other hygiene practices in order to minimize the spread of the Covid-19 virus. These are good things to save lives and act responsibly. Being Americans, however, there are also major lapses as people rebel against restraint and also sometimes when we believe in a cause passionately and come out, masks and all, with risks.
There is a push/pull between safety and the need to conduct ordinary business. It has been left to the states and to some extent local governments, largely to decide what can be done safely and what cannot and the stakes are high. The federal government that helped business on the one hand especially with Payroll Protection Plan loans and related CARES Act and other legislation, has largely left the stage when it comes to health issues, issuing regulations and guidelines on the one hand and then disputing the same later. States have taken on unexpected roles. A mistake in one direction could result in many more thousands dead. A mistake in the other can destroy businesses, especially small businesses and employees are left caught in the middle, many unemployed or waiting to see if they will return to work. Regional coordination may help since COVID-19 does not respect state boundaries. It will be interesting to see whether the regional relationships continue.
Areas of our country and of our states have been divided into red with the most restrictions limiting business activity and movement, yellow with restrictions but the beginning of return to whatever normal might seem to be, and green with the greatest degree of free movement. All of Pennsylvania that was not already green moved to yellow by the end of last week. The effect was immediate.
As I walk and drive through my town I see tables outside restaurants, socially distanced and served by waitstaff with masks, and a few people at each talking and enjoying their food together. I see small shops open with masked customers allowed in a few at a time. At a crisis time such as this it becomes apparent how the illness and the restrictions do not fall with even weight on everyone. What could be an inconvenience for one group can be a mortal wound for another. Some businesses will never come back. Some will be handled in completely different ways even after the crisis may be over either with fewer employees or business handled remotely or both. We learned to do things in different ways. Many lives ended with no chance to say goodbye, especially parents and grandparents and spouses. We became more self aware.
We are a resilient and diverse country and we will come back but we will return differently. This should not have happened but once we work our way through this hopefully we will have a better understanding of who we are and who we should be. Hopefully we will carry that renewed understanding to make a better country and to remember how interdependent we all are. We are not in this alone as tens of thousands of people have shown us. The outpouring of charitable giving has been impressive. Still there is a good chance we will never quite be the same.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.