Penny for my thoughts? Here’s a dollars worth

Home Column Penny for my thoughts? Here's a dollars worth

By Steven Feldman

We are approaching the finish line to what has to have been the most challenging year that most of us have ever experienced. We navigated through the worst pandemic in 100 years, lockdowns, racial tensions, protests and the most polarizing election in history.

Yet, somehow we survived. We as humans are pretty resilient.

Yes, the pandemic has claimed more than a quarter-million U.S. lives thus far. And, yes, many businesses were unable to withstand their respective governors’ orders to go on “pause.” For all these people and businesses that are no longer with us, say a prayer. But remarkably, as challenging as 2020 has been, many of us in the floor covering industry have thrived.

We have discussed some of the reasons ad nauseam: people locked down and staring at their old flooring that they could not live with any longer; available disposable income that would have been earmarked for lavish vacations; a mass exodus from crowded U.S. cities to suburbia; and the need for larger living spaces due to telecommuting and remote learning. Make no mistake: If you are reading this, you are fortunate to be in the flooring business—now and for the foreseeable future.

Given that my traditional end-of-year poem will own this space in the last FCNews edition of the year, this is my final chance in 2020 to share some thoughts on which I’ve been sitting. Throughout the year, I have had long conversations with many retailers and manufacturers about this temporary normal. So, I thought this would be a good time to share my thoughts on a broader scale, especially with the world-saving vaccines coming soon to a CVS near you.

First, I think most of us know someone who either passed or became quite sick from COVID-19. This thing is real, and I am not buying into any of the conspiracy theories. My thoughts center around the way different states have handled this. Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last nine months, you know that Republican governors tend to put fewer restrictions on their constituents than Democratic governors. That’s because Republicans tend to put more emphasis on the negative economic impact of strict measures such as lockdowns. Blue states like California, New York, Minnesota, Washington, Michigan, Illinois, etc., have imposed some of the most stringent measures. It’s strange; I go to my gym in New York and the steam room is mandated to be closed; I go in Florida to the same gym and the steam room is open. Makes no sense.

I am going to come clean here. I do not believe in lockdowns or restrictions that impact the economy. Never have, never will. My guess is most of you don’t, either. I have been studying what has been going on in the state that imposed some of the fewest restrictions: Florida. I spend many a weekend there. I look after my 83-year-old mom, who has pretty much been locked down since March, and I have friends there. And, yes, I do enjoy what seems like a pre-COVID-19 world. I enjoy sitting at a bar and having dinner again. And not having to stop chewing by 10 p.m. I enjoy talking to the random person sitting next to me. That is my social life. I enjoy listening to live music again.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted almost every restriction on Sept. 25. He even barred mayors from setting capacity limits without due cause. So, what has been the result? With 1,040,727 cases, Florida ranks third in COVID-19 cases by state. However, if you look closely at the numbers, 65% of the cases fall with- in the 15-to-54-year-old demographic. But that group accounts for only 7% of deaths and 2.4% of hospitalizations. Compare that to the 65-to-85-plus-year- old demographic, which accounts for just 14% of the total cases but a whop- ping 82% of the deaths. The governor has attempted to protect the economy along with the most vulnerable, advising that the elderly take extreme precautions while allowing the rest of the population to approach normalcy. The COVID-19 survival rate for those under 55 in the state is 99.8%. The governor has assured no more lockdowns that will hurt fami- lies who can’t afford to shelter in place for six weeks. Especially for a virus that has a 99.8% survival rate. And the Florida economy is improving while it is not in restrictive states.

The day before Florida recorded its one millionth case, Gov. DeSantis told reporters that states in lockdown mode are faring worse than Florida. “So I hear people say, ‘Florida is open, and they’re having increased cases.’ Well, the states that are locked down are increasing at twice the rate we are. If you look at the per capita cases, in a lot of these states that have closed schools, businesses shuttered, some of them even post stay- at-home orders there, you see a huge increase in these cases.”

An independent third party checked the numbers. Sure enough, 10 states qualified for this group with high coronavirus-related restrictions. Broadly speaking, it was found that Florida’s record compared favorably with most states across the country, including those with tighter restrictions. Specifically, in comparisons of coronavirus cases deaths and hospitalizations per capita, Florida ranked among the best—and better than some of the more highly regulated states.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But it appears to me that severe restrictions are doing more harm than good. Businesses shutter, there are many cases of mental illness and spousal/child abuse and fear. I think five years from now we will look back and wonder if the restrictions that negatively impacted the economy were the answer.

OK, I’ve said my piece.

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Dec. 7/14, 2020

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