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Worried about the fall season

I find myself increasingly worried/stressed about the upcoming fall and winter, and for a bunch of different reasons. So I thought I’d make a list, and see what others think of it:

  • Extended unemployment is running out
  • Eviction moratoriums are ending
  • Even if we get another round of PPP, inventories in many retail outlets are still very down, so there’s not much to buy even if there was foot traffic. So commercial retail looks grim right now.
  • New jobs numbers are very very bad. (We’re still bleeding jobs, and the “gains” in the previous stats were from seasonal adjustments and not from reporting).
  • Flu season + COVID = overloaded hospitals, possibly in places like NYC that thought they were done with all that.
  • The November election
  • Classes in many school districts are going online-only, and that is going to wreck social cohesion (parents in my extended network are FURIOUS at this). It’ll also be bad for the economy because some won’t be able to work, or if they do productivity will be lower.
  • Finally, the pandemic is well and truly back on, at least here in the South. If we’re destined to go the full Wuhan in Texas, the timetable for that would probably be right around back-to-school or a little after.

All of these things seem to be converging in a kind of vortex of awful that will make landfall sometime in or after September. Even if just half of them turn out to be real bad, that is enough to make social cohesion and instability even worse than it has already been this summer.

Thoughts? Am I being too pessimistic, here?

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  • Comments (47)

    • 8

      You’re not being too pessimistic. From a planning perspective you are spot on. We all need to be prepared for the “vortex of awful” you describe. I operate a Small Wireless Infrastructure Company out of Houston. We have already been experiencing supply chain issues. These issues include severely backordered critical components ranging from common coaxial RF connectors and CAT6 to Cellular Small Cell Radios. There  have already been major back-end networking problems with Cloud Based Remote Monitoring & Management and  ISPs. Large Enterprise Businesses are beginning to cut back on their Commercial Real Estate footprint, making some work from home initiatives permanent remote positions. Leases are not being renewed as they adjust to what is becoming our new reality. While I truly hope that this turns around and we recover quickly, I will continue to plan for the worst in order to be ready for whatever comes next. Godspeed y’all.

    • 5

      I also feel pessimistic but that’s because I read your twitter feed each day. 😉

      I think Congress will pass more relief of some kind. [Sentence removed by moderator due to no politics rule.]

      Lack of movement on covid is worrisome enough, outright regression from the few steps taken and the effort to deny and deflect at the federal level and in some states is appalling.

      Parents may well be furious but the effect of dozens or hundreds of sick and dead teachers, students and their social circles would also be bad for social cohesion.  There are solutions but they involve government aid and a united community. It’s an un-virtuous cycle: parents need to go back to work, doing what?

    • 7

      Not too pessimistic. The government will likely extend more financial support to families and businesses, but my sense is that it most certainly won’t be enough to really stop this.

      Another complicating factor – the season. Luckily the spring time is pretty low key in many areas of the country, but fall/winter brings both the holidays and storms. Imagine the sheer devastation and confusion if the 2020 version of Sandy, Harvey, or Maria smashes into a surging South with little/no hospital capacity and dodgy food inventories. The holidays are also going to mean that many will try to stock up on supplies earlier than usual, and will likely buy more than usual (in anticipation of more shortages or lockdowns). All it will take is a week or so of low inventory on holiday essentials like baking supplies and the panic buying could start all over again. And since many food companies went through their stockpiles back in the spring, the resulting shortages could continue well into 2021.

    • 12

      I’ve been waiting for this thread for a while, but didn’t want to start it cause I thought maybe it was just me.

      Too pessimistic? I don’t think so, since you say “vortex of awful” and I predict “tirefireshitshow”.

      We’ve irrevocably seen how our society exists mostly as a house of cards, and COVID is chewing through various layers simultaneously. I mean this entirely non-partisan, but the way, but if you read an undertone of lefty nutjob, guilty as charged and apologies in advance. Despite the unpleasantness of past months and how it seems like we’ve sort of stumbled along, I feel as though most folks are just hanging on by a thread, at least from my perch in NYC. Families I know with jobs that have allowed remote work and steady paychecks are losing their shit mentally from the stress, which is nothing compared to the stress of families suffering unemployment, facing eviction, and so forth. And that’s nothing compared to those facing all that AND getting sick with COVID or something else at this time. Cinderbox feels like the right metaphor, especially with the roiling racial equity protests (which have simmered a bit but aren’t going anywhere).

      We’re close to running out of testing capacity in some areas, and PPE is already running low (again). The lack of coordinated response federally is appalling, no matter how you slice it. It’s not going to magically get better as cases rise and deaths are only a couple weeks behind.

      Regardless of how schools do or do not reopen, a giant chunk of this country will be simultaneously scared shitless and furious as a honey badger. And don’t get me started on teachers, of which I’m one and I and my colleagues across the country are terrified at the dice-rolling push to reopen. Let’s keep in mind that kids weren’t really exposed because schools were closed, so I’m not buying the “oh it’s fine!” bullshit.

      I’m trying to secure a place outside of the city while also attempt to transition to a fully remote job, if possible. I honestly want nothing to do with this city in the next six months. We barely didn’t break in April, and things are not any better now, and many folks are just over it. Zero optimism.

      • 3

        Hang in there brother.

      • 5

        When we first moved out onto 17 acres about 30 minutes north Austin, my wife (a city girl) was pretty unsure if she could take it. She and I have been in the city our entire relationship (Chicago => San Francisco => Berkeley => Austin). She has never lived in the country.

        This was a huge shift for us back in 2015, but lately we often remark on how happy we were we made the jump. We just feel way, way safer out here among a handful of neighbors we know and trust than we would in the city.

        So I think you’re headed in the right direction. While it comes with its own challenges, IMO nothing beats it at a time like the present.

    • 7

      Keep in mind you’re going to get a biased sample selection when looking to a prepping forum for opinions about how the state of the world is looking in the future.

      I’m worried… but I don’t know that worrying is productive past a certain point.  At this point I’ve “prepared” about as well as I can under the circumstances, all thats left is to keep the pantry full, hope the power stays on, and see what tomorrow brings.

    • 4

      Also…what kind of Christmas shopping season will it be this year? Think of all those Black Friday videos of shoppers crammed into narrow store aisles, getting into fistfights while trying to grab that last flat-screen TV off the shelves. Not too much social distancing going on there. Would you brave that kind of thing? If enough shoppers say “screw that,” it’s going to be a very good Christmas for Jeff Bezos and a very bad one for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Come January, how many stores that are just barely hanging on today will decide to turn out the lights for good?

      • 9

        I wouldn’t brave that kind of thing in pre-covid times. It’s the grossest example of our national excess consumerism.  If covid sounds the death knell of that ridiculousness, great.

      • 6

        Agreed! I love REI’s #optoutside Black Friday campaign

      • 3

        Here’s a fun and practical gift idea: buy the biggest package of toilet paper you can find (now) and wrap it. Tape a Christmas card with your preferred amount of $1 bills on top. 

        Of course, this works best for an in-person gathering or when you can safely drop off the package on the porch or outside the apartment.

      • 4

        I had heard that some (many?) stores have already announced that they’re cancelling Black Friday, but yes, there will still be people looking for last minute gifts. 

      • 4

        I’m stocking up on baking supplies so I can give gifts of cookies, rye bread, fruitcake, etc.

    • 8

      Unfortunately, I think it’s realism, not pessimism. I’m right there with you.

      Like you said, it’s many different (yet related) problems converging to create a whopping mess. We’ve got economically desperate people, politically unsatisfied/outraged people, masses of disgruntled “essential” workers, widespread mental health crises due to increased stress and isolation, and a largely uncontrolled pandemic. Any one of these factors on its own is enough to incite chaos. And we are dealing with all of them concurrently.

      I am counting on more unrest. Protests, demonstrations, looting, rioting. Perhaps more intense/prolonged than we have seen. Also, I have noticed, on more than one occasion, words like “civil war” and “revolution” being thrown around – not just by strangers on the internet, but by people in my own social circles. Not trying to get political or fearmonger here – but I think it’s reasonable to say that, on the off chance those words have ANY bearing on future events, perhaps it is worth taking that into consideration from a prepping standpoint. Not that I have any idea how to prepare for something like that, specifically.

      Either way, I am genuinely concerned about the ability of our society to function in a meaningful way moving forward, given the challenges we are facing. As much as I’d like to be optimistic and believe we will pull it together as a society and improve our collective situation, our inadequate attempts at handling… well, anything… this year don’t inspire much confidence. So, yes, I am concerned. The past few weeks, I have had the overwhelming urge to run from what feels like an increasingly bad situation. It seems crazy to feel like that. But as much as I want to be “sane” and not give into a vague, unfounded sense of fear, I think that there are valid reasons to be concerned and even afraid right now.

      But I am determined to put that fear to good use. What, practically, are our options? Bug out and seek refuge somewhere more stable? Stock up on enough essentials to last the winter and hope for the best? Become mole people? Seriously, though… how does one prepare for a “vortex of awful?”

      All I can think to do, in addition to my “normal” prepping practices, is try to rearrange certain aspects of my life to better adapt to the situation. Mainly, my goals have been to lower my exposure risk, reduce stress and develop a strategy for dealing with potential unrest in my area. For example, I left my high-risk, highly stressful “essential” job for a lower-risk, less stressful position. I’m continuing to look for remote work, which would be ideal. Also, I’m in a densely populated suburb of a major city, so – unlike last time around – I have thought about where I could go if my area becomes unsafe. Beyond that, I’m not sure what else there is to do.

      • 3

        This thread is important, and both the first post and your eloquent reply bring to the forefront what more than a few of us are feeling, I think.

        Reducing stress is a topic that can’t be stressed enough.

      • 3

        Spacemoon gave voice to something that I, too, have seen and heard in meatspace (IRL).

        Some time ago, I stumbled across a podcast that discusses the possibility of a second American civil war.

        For those interested:

        ICHH-proxy-image

        “It Could Happen Here” by Robert Evans https://feeds.megaphone.fm/HSW7591467563

        Episodes

        1. The Second American Civil War
        2. The Revenge of Rural America
        3. The State Strikes Back
        4. How To Save America
        5. How The American People Can Beat The American Military
        6. The Good Side of the Second American Civil War
        7. How To Murder A City
        8. The Next American Genocide
        9. The American Refugee Crisis
        10. The End of the United States of America
    • 5

      Agree Jon. I feel perpetually on edge. What’s coming next, what am I missing in my preps, what do I need to focus on priority wise etc..? I feel like I’m in a constant state of over/hyper alertness, trying to stay a step ahead. To foresee what’s next, so as to not be surprised, taken unaware and likewise unprepared.

    • 8

      Continuing “jankification” seems like a given at this point, and a brutal downturn for employment in the near term.

      A certain irony is that once SARS-COV-2 is prevalent enough in a community that it stops being abstract and hospitalizes people in a high percentage of people’s personal networks, people seem to buckle down on preventive measures. (Everyone has to touch the burning stove, apparently.) So tipping the R under 1 is eventually possible.

      In the meantime, ripple effects are real and ugly. Pain will lead to bitterness, and it will overflow in wild and unexpected ways.

      But one thing I learned from dabbling in prediction market bidding is that even the inevitable can take a while and resolve weirdly (housing bubble, for ex.), and that improbable major events are as rare as they seem. Most things proceed stepwise, irregularly, as the actors react.

      So yes, plenty to prepare for if one has any resources to mitigate disruption. Lots of people are going to go a little bonkers as their priors get crunched (it me!), and lots of fallout as bad actors continue to poison the information wells. The destructive part of creative destruction is here in spades, and only the swiftness and depth of creativity is going to create the good.

      Be creative. Create. Be ready for your own, and for your neighbors near and far.

      ¢2

    • 9

      I’d agree you’re not being too pessimistic. As others have said, the U.S. was not in a good place before the pandemic. It’s orders of magnitude worse now. I also worry about national security. Hostile entities could take advantage of the weakened state of the U.S. Or a politician (aided by others inside and outside government) could start a war or conveniently fall into one. After all, didn’t the greatest period of economic prosperity occur while rebuilding after a major war? I’m NOT in favor of this approach, needless to say. Human beings should not be the means to the end of economic prosperity for the well positioned.

      “Under stress, people regress.” I heard that years ago. That’s another reason why you’re not too pessimistic. Even people who contributed to solutions more than to problems in the old days are likely to start contributing to problems in these days. What to do? I’m retired, which removes a lot of stress. I downsized when I retired, so I don’t have many belongings to worry about. My heart goes out to those who are working and/or raising children.

      To keep worry at bay and to keep productive, I’m trying to learn new skills or improve skills in a variety of realms, from computer matters to cooking to camping to things requiring manual dexterity. It’s never too late to learn how to tie a few knots. 😉 Learning something new has been a lifelong “go to” response since focus quiets my mind. I’m trying to strategize where to store additional preparedness things. A tiny upstairs condo doesn’t have much room.

      Besides trying to learn new skills, I try to see or create beauty in some small way each day. When my spirit crashes, beauty turns me around.

      Thank you, Jon and everyone, for your important work related to the importance of preparedness.

       

      • 6

        Do you own your condo?  I have some ideas if so.  I had a closet with a large wasted space at the back of it.  So I took out the back wall and got about 20 cf of storage.  Even if you don’t have any strangely constructed spaces like this you can still remove drywall from the back of a closet and put up some 2×4 shelves (like the one the boxes of kleenex are on) and store an amazing amount of stuff in that space.

        Icloset

        Also my water heater and furnace are in a closet on a platform.  Under that closet is a huge wasted space.  Of course I have to keep it unblocked because its the intake for the furnace blower but there is still a lot of room under there.  I can fit multiple small boxes in that space through the vent cover.   Also don’t forget any vaulted ceiling spaces at the top of a closet or cabinet if you have them.  I also recently converted a “coat closet” near the entry to a pantry.  I can store coats elsewhere.

        Best of luck to you.

      • 5

        And if things are really janky don’t forget you have the entire interior of your car (if you have one).  Many people have a lot of wasted garage space.  They have shelves that can be hung from the ceiling if all the wall and floor space is taken.  My garage walls in El Paso TX have no insulation in them so the remove the drywall trick would work there as well. Some people don’t have garages or uninsulated ones.

      • 5

        Thank you for the ideas and for the photo. That looks like a good solution! I can consolidate closets and turn one closet into a pantry. I don’t have a garage. In trying to avoid having all eggs in one basket, I’ve been thinking about whether to have another fixed storage site. I don’t think so in my case. I do want to make my vehicle more versatile. I may see if I can have a roof rack added to it. Thanks again for the ideas.

      • 3

        I am in an apartment, so the idea of converting my entry “coat closet” to a pantry is great.

        I already use the under-bed area.

    • 7

      Thank you for organizing your fears. I’m feeling similarly bad/anxious/fight-or-flighty. What I want to know is: since I can’t change how the rest of the world is going, how can I do best for my family? We live in a major  suburban area adjacent to San Francisco, so add earthquakes to the anxiety too. As we are able to work/school remotely, conversations in our house are centering on where the hell we should ride out this coming storm

      • whether/how to fortify our home:
        • we’ve made friends with neighbors on our street, and suspect we could work to support each other in some ways in hard times
        • looting/violent crime is a distinct possibility in our area, which has a lot of income inequality
        • we have a productive little food garden and chickens
      • If we should sell our house/cash out our assets
        • to give us maximum flexibility
        • to buy a home/property out in the country where there will still be irrational and desperate folks but with lower population density
      • AAAAAAAAAAAAAHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
      • 6

        FYI we’re close to publishing the ‘beginners guide to hardening your home’ — keep an eye next week

    • 3

      I was already fairly pessimistic about whether the social fabric would hold up this coming fall, well before COVID showed up on the radar, but now my sense of impending doom is much higher.  Despite prepping and saving as long as I have there’s still a lot of unknowns that could catch me flat footed.  But such is life in interesting times. 

      • 2

        I hear ya. 

        I think there’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to prepping, as far as triggering incidents/events goes. You can only do the best you can do with what you’ve got at the time shit happens.

        Interesting times indeed.

    • 5

      Jon, just want to say “thanks!” for broadcasting my list to everyone. Sheesh. Get out of my head, man! 😉

      Joking aside, I think you’ve hit nearly every single point on my list. I don’t think any of this pessimistic (or overly so); I think it’s realistic. And while it could be argued that we’re all just echoes in a silo here, I can say with great certainty that those I’ve spoken with outside my team/pod (friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc), we’re not the only ones thinking about all this.

      Tensions are already high. For me, the temperature feels warm, but feels like it’s slowly rising.

      The pandemic continues unabated; unemployment and financial instability/uncertainty is rising; relief packages are at a standoff while people lose benefits; and prices for food, consumer goods, and hygeine supplies are also on the rise.

      Every event so far has added to escalating tensions. More and more people are unsettled, stressed, anxious, angry, and fearful. Uncertainty is steadily creeping in. In my opinion, it feels like we’re a tinderbox just waiting for a spark. What that spark might be is anyone’s guess, but unless we can cool things off, fire will breakout.

      BTW, Jon, I’m stealing that “vortex of awful”. 🙂

      • 4

        I like “vortex of awful” too.

        You mentioned how stressed/anxious everyone is, which I agree with. How do you think that contributes to decision making? Like, a lot of us have been under duress for months now. What effect do you think that has on being able to read a situation and act? 

      • 3

        Stress and bad decisions:

        I think stress and anxiety aren’t conducive to clear thinking. If you’re too focused on $whatever, are you truly capable of seeing the bigger picture? If you aren’t seeing the bigger picture, are you sure you’re considering all your options as you make potentially critical decisions?

        Stress and situational awareness:

        I think its important to find a moment or two of quiet calm. It’s important to give your brain a rest. Hypervigilance is taxing on the brain and body, which manifests as stress. If don’t give yourself a break, your brain and body will force you to break. I don’t think anyone’s efforts are best served by sleep-deprived nights of watching from the wall. Having a clear head avails us to reading situations.

    • 5

      So Jon, you posted this 4 weeks ago, and I think time has proven that you weren’t being too pessimistic. The K-12 school opening arguments, colleges and associated sports program decisions, as well as professional sports seasons are demonstrating this pandemic is no where near over and that isn’t really citing the pandemic case data which remains appalling. Plus as @chicksnhens and @Runcible points out the natural disaster additions have come along as well: Storm damage in the central states, hurricanes along the entire Eastern seaboard, out of control wildfires in California and likely many others I’ve missed. There were also wakeup calls like an earthquake in Charlotte, NC. And these won’t let up until winter when other parts of the country will get serious blizzards and ice storms.

      This vortex of awful is like an approaching storm with really lousy meteorological data and therefore very poor predicts.  I think we all sense it but we have no radar to actually see it or track it well because it has so many variables and nuances.  That is why we struggle in how to stay prepared for it. 

    • 5

      My latest (not sure how likely) concern is considering what happens if the postal service runs out of funds & stops working.

      • 5

        It appears that the blowback from all corners is going to be strong.  Too many people, especially in rural areas depend on the USPS.  And now, even more people depend on the mail to avoid going out during the pandemic.  This is an ill thought out blunder….I hope. 

      • 4

        The USPS brings Rx meds; paychecks, unemployment and stimulus checks (if there is another one)  for those without direct deposit; and Christmas cards.

    • 4

      Starting to see more headlines about colleges opening & closing within a week or so. Notre Dame is going remote for 2 wks. UNC is going full remote. If the trend continues, I’m wondering what the impact will be this fall.

    • 4

      I’m a union Boilermaker. Dispatch hasnt had a job for me in 8 months, before there was absolutely always work. The other hundred-thousands of high level tradesmen are very much in the same boat. Despite a certain world leaders claims, I think we are destroyed our job market, our economy and got F’d in the A for the next couple of years.
      of course politics rule so I won’t make any big claims as to why this all happened.

    • 3

      Wondering if anyone’s feeling better/worse about fall since we’re officially a week away?

      • 3

        Not feeling optimistic. 

      • 4

        I feel worse; not optimistic about anything. 

      • 4

        I feel slightly better since I changed jobs and now work fully remote and my kids are remote. Also slightly better since finalizing some defensive preps.

        My brother is a former operator and in his words, “November to January are going to be the most dangerous months we’ll see for some time.” 

        So overall, more optimistic about my chances navigating a situation about which I’m entirely not optimistic. 

      • 5

        Seeing the bizarre behaviors in my home state of Oregon during the unprecedented demonstrations and wildfires has me quite gloomy about the future.  Honestly, I almost feel safer being in California right now, believe it or not.

      • 2

        My state is going into the fall with low numbers and a high rate of testing – so better than I thought we’d be. However, I’m not holding my breath and anticipate numbers will start to go back up as the temps drop. I look at right now as bonus time I didn’t think I’d have to finish any last minute preps so I can stay at home as much as possible for the winter / spring. 

      • 2

        Not very optimistic as the fires all along the Western states and hurricanes in the South and East are not helping an already problematic situation.  An uptick of COVID cases is inevitable as we must re-open the economy at some point.  I’m hoping the human awareness and subsequent preventative actions improve.  

    • 2

      Hi Jon, 

      I see that you wrote that 2 months ago, as it is now late September, I think that you have your answer pretty clearly now. Are you aware of any well-grounded prepper groups in the Austin area?  Hopefully you know what I mean by that. I’m on my own and think that it would be wise to find others nearby to join as an emergency network. I just joined this site and haven’t figured out how to reach people directly, but you and I have some friends in common.