America at half-occupancy
It's not just restaurants and bars: The reopening of America will be centered around reducing our pre-virus conceptions of how many people can congregate together indoors.
The big picture: Social distancing and spacing is strongly encouraged by the CDC in its new guidelines for reopening various parts of American life.
- It leaves the "how" more up to local government, but you can easily imagine the scale of this challenge.
The 6 sectors:
- Workplaces: Even keeping at-risk staffers at home will require creative planning to allow social distancing.
- Restaurants and bars: The service sector was built around thin margins, and many businesses will fail if they can't run at full occupancy.
- Child care: America already lacks availability for affordable daycare. That won't get cheaper if providers have to tighten capacity.
- Schools: Those that do open in the fall will need lots more space — or creative scheduling. Richer districts might be able to figure it out. Poorer districts — especially while states are bleeding funding — might be on their own.
- Youth programs and camps: Parents were already sweating summer plans. Now the guidance tells camps to spread out and distance. This won't be easy for the barracks-style housing for campers.
- Mass transit: New Yorkers and Washingtonians know that it's way easier to suggest distancing on trains — not to mention the platforms — than to handle it during rush hour.
Between the lines: The virus is also unleashing a supply chain issue for taking care of kids — much like restaurant closures messed with the food supply.
- Social distancing for schools could easily mean that some kids stay home on certain days — leaving the parents scrambling for care.
- The virus will also leave many former providers unwilling or unable to work because of health concerns.
- Finally, parents with concerns about putting their kids in either school or day care will face agonizing choices this fall.
The bottom line: This doesn't need to be our reality forever, but until this virus is fully under control, get used to this new normal.