In less than a month, ‘social distancing’ has become the newest addition to our lexicon. In any other context, people would surely describe the term’s spread as viral, but that seems more than a bit insensitive. We have focused on trading handshakes for elbow bumps, offices for telecommutes, and campuses for laptops. This makes sense given the immediate priority to flatten the curve and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but it’s also important to understand why we are taking the actions we are and anticipate the upcoming discussions.
What we know about the coronavirus seems to be matched by what we don’t – it’s origins, it’s transmission, and it’s trajectory could each inspire a debate with conflicting evidence and opinions. While we can all agree on the basic recommendations – wash your hands, avoid crowds, self-quarantine if you are sick – we’re already seeing Congress debate how to best stimulate the economy, academics grappling with closed schools, and national security experts evaluating the cybersecurity and misinformation vulnerabilities.
Half of Americans couldn’t come up with $400 in case of an emergency. For years, we saw that headline and debates around it, whether it was valid or not. But now we’re seeing the real-life consequences of it, due to the coronavirus. And, although it may be a little bit late to prepare for this emergency, there’s a lot we can do going forward to learn from it. The first thing we can do is to teach young people about money. It’s actually been shown that most of our money habits are established by the time we’re seven years old. When you look at a slightly older crowd, Millennials – people going up to 35, there was actually a study done in February by TIAA Institute that showed that 84% were financially illiterate. More’s got to be done to educate people and better equip them to handle money and when you look at the crisis we’re in, there’s some pretty good real-life examples that we can learn from. The second thing we can do is to take our national debt and refinance it. We need to demand that leaders in Washington and around the country take action, because last year, we spent about $400 billion dollars on interest payments. To put that in context, the entire Medicaid program only cost about $440 billion dollars. If we can refinance the debt and reduce some of those interest payments, we can free up hundreds of billions of dollars that’s desperately needed.
In person classes have been canceled. The remainder of the students who have coursework are doing it online. All students, thus, have been requested by the university to leave campus. I myself, am living in an apartment off campus, so this does not apply to me. Those students have received [housing] refunds for the portion of the semester that they would not be living within their dorms. However, there’s still some animosity as to whether or not students will be able to retrieve their belongings from their rooms. So, there’s definitely some animosity surrounding that.
As per the ongoing environment here on campus: aside from the courses that are being done via Zoom and via other conferencing software, there is not very much activity on campus at all. Aside from some professors who are still occupying their offices and staff who are maintaining the infrastructure on campus, there really is not much life here at all. You could walk five blocks in any direction at any time of the day, and you’ll probably hardly see a single soul in sight. Maybe there’ll be the occasional automobile passing by, especially during rush hour. There are still individuals working within the district, but it’s definitely, pretty deserted to say the least here in central Washington, DC. As for the student experience, I’d say at this point most students aren’t expecting that. This ongoing pandemic has brought about a different set of circumstances then what you would expect. So, I don’t think any students are really expecting the full GW University experience. There’s definitely still some lingering animosities and I still think that a lot of students are transitioning into the next month and a half of courses and exams being submitted digitally.
As soon as the effects of the coronavirus began impacting the United States, many companies began shifting entirely to a work-from-home model. A few weeks after the initial reality of the crisis set in, a majority of the service economy had shifted to remote work. In the days to come, this quick, yet unexpected shift will put corporate cyber-security to the test. A unique element of this titanic shift in operations is how nearly every business activity and communication will now have the potential to be exposed to hackers. While cyber-attacks often remain undetected for years, companies may face more direct and brutal attacks designed to devastate operations entirely. Over the last month and a half, according to Check Point Software Technologies, there’s been a tenfold surge in the number of new registered domains, with a “major increase” in ones that include the names “Zoom.” And while only 0.8% were malicious, 19% were considered suspicious. Similarly, Fourth View has seen an uptick in attempts to login to its content management system. These attacks have not been and will not be limited to just businesses alone. Critical online health infrastructure has already been attacked from “unknown” actors with the intent of preventing the spread of crucial public health information. As more Americans are relying on the internet than ever before for essential health and income needs, internet security has become a national security issue.