If someone were a follower of astrology, I suppose they could argue that we are all now under the sign of the “black swan.”

According to the website, Investopedia, a “black swan” is “an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences.”

Investopedia further explains that “black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, their severe impact and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.”

This term, one I hadn’t heard until this week, apparently arose from Wall Street and refers to devastating financial occurrences. This would include the Great Depression, beginning with an unprecedented stock market crash in 1929, and the “great recession” that began in 2008.

Both financially and medically, the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, has caused a black swan situation.

All 50 states—and the world in general—have enacted various degrees of work and societal shut-down. Medical resources in hard-hit areas are stretched beyond the breaking point, with no immediate relief in sight. Unemployment is being experienced at a rate not seen in modern times and economic numbers reflect that.

Beyond places of employment big and small, schools will be closed for weeks to come. I have serious doubts that students will be back in school until the fall unless extensions are made into the summer months.

Churches have been shuttered for in-person services and other public events have been cancelled, including the hugely popular MerleFest. Restaurants have been closed except for take-out or delivery.

Because of the potentially deadly nature of this virus and its virulent contagiousness, citizens are being requested to avoid public places except as necessary.

“Social distancing” is a term with which we all are familiar. It means to stay six feet away from people and lots farther than that if humanly possible. It means don’t be in gatherings of more than 10 people, don’t shake hands and don’t hug.

It’s an introvert’s dream and an extrovert’s nightmare.

I’ll bet that practically nobody had heard of social distancing until less than a couple of months ago.

The result of not obeying these new societal standards is that the coronavirus will continue running unchecked through our cities and communities.

It’s a “novel” or new virus, meaning there is no human immunity. Until a vaccine becomes available or medications are produced to limit the seriousness of the illness, social distancing will have to be practiced.

“Better safe than sorry” is something most of us were told by our parents as we grew up. It applies to this virus, which can result in serious respiratory complications and death. We don’t want to end up like Italy, where all hospitals are overwhelmed and people are dying at an alarming rate.

Like the Great Depression and World War II, everyone in America is affected by this situation.

I was pleased that the U.S. Senate passed a historically large emergency relief bill Wednesday and that it appears to be on the way to passage in the House of Representatives. The president has said that he will sign it into law as soon as it’s on his desk.

The $2 trillion measure, which injects cash into the economy, provides loans for small businesses, financially shores up certain industries and gets money out there for medical needs, has bipartisan support. In a time of absurd partisan politics, it’s good to know that Congress can still come together for the good of the people. This bill won’t get everyone through this tough time unscathed, but I believe it will stabilize the nation for the time being.

This is a tough situation for everyone, but good things can emerge from it. Perhaps this will be a time when selfishness is overcome by concern for others. Maybe citizens will begin to value cooperation over pointless arguing and name calling around political matters.

We are better, more decent people than we have shown in recent years. Hopefully this situation will allow us to see the humanity in each other.

We’ll get through this. Together.

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