By Don Keelan
Once we get through the present pandemic — hopefully by late summer across the country — we will still not be in a position to let our guard down. There will be another surge that will threaten our medical and manufacturing institutions — the crush of babies been born.
Given the length of the “stay at home” order now measured in months, it might be fair to say that the country could very well be facing an unusual amount of infant deliveries by year end and beyond.
It was once rumored that the New York City Black-Out in November of 1965, that lasted less than 12 hours, caused an inordinate amount of babies born nine months later. Similar circumstances have been mentioned after blizzards, hurricanes, and other weather-related phenomena. Frankly, I have no way of actually confirming this but maybe we should just be prepared and not caught off-guard.
My first suggestion in dealing with this possible surge would be to maintain all of the hospital beds that have been built both inside and outside our existing medical facilities. It would also be a good idea to keep the USS Comfort and the USS Hope in port, as the naval ships have over 2,000 beds, if needed.
Of course, there will be a great need for obstetrical medical personnel, doctors, and nurses. Therefore, an immediate retraining of the huge number of medical folks who answered the call for the COVID-19 emergency should be undertaken.
Once the giant manufacturing companies such as Ford and General Motors have completed their assignments of turning out thousands of ventilators and respirators, they should immediately retool and begin the manufacturing of cribs, strollers, and baby carriages. The Defense Production Act should, if necessary, remain in place.
But there will be need for more. Paper product companies will also need to retool and instead of supplying medical quality face masks, be now turning out the tens of millions of diapers that will be required.
They surely will be overwhelmed and most likely not be able to manufacture the necessary baby blankets, pajamas, and teething rings that will be also be in great demand. Therefore, companies will either have to voluntarily step-up as they did during the present emergency, or be forced to do so — hopefully, the former.
Congress will need to be called upon to provide the necessary grant funding that almost every town will need to construct new child care centers. Even before the present crisis, there was a serious shortage of not only child care facilities, but staff in which to run them. It is conceivable that it would not be unreasonable to expect that the hourly wage rate for child care workers will be at least $20 per hour and well-deserved.
A major goal of the current recovery will be to get as many Americans back to work as quickly as possible. This effort, later in the year, will have a major setback when the massive number of new arrivals come upon the scene. The invoking of the Family Leave Program, recently adopted by many states, will be tested. The fact that it is now available for both parents will get to be implemented.
If in fact, there will be a surge in newborns later this year and into the next, it will be a blessing for many states, especially here in the northeast. For a long time now, this part of the country has seen a steady erosion of its population, especially its younger population. Just think for a minute what this all means for our declining school enrollment, lack of volunteers, and of course workers for our industries?
I can’t imagine where all the godparents will come from. Maybe this is something we can also work on now while we have the time.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.