This coming winter is going to prove to challenge for many. At the same time, you can do things to make it a little easier for you and your family. In this article, I will discuss some of the challenges and then provide some manageable things you can do to prepare for the second winter of COVID-19, one of the biggest subjects ruling over our daily lives.
During the Fall there is an important change in people. The age-old instinct to hunker down for the winter leads often leads to a change in spending patterns that can cause such things as shortages and stock market crashes.
Regardless of how you feel about COVID-19, this is the second winter that has affected your life somehow. Even those out there that call it fake cannot deny that it has changed some aspect of life for them or someone they know.
Last winter was rough but this one is likely to be rougher due to a variety of factors that could create a perfect storm at all levels of society.
The Federal government has printed a lot of money. While this undoubtedly causes some inflation, there are other factors that are causing a steep rise in the prices of items you need to maintain your lifestyle. Remember that many basic necessities, including food, are not used to calculate the official government rate of inflation or CPI published yearly. Going by those official numbers results in an optimistic picture compared to the true inflationary numbers.
When inflation becomes a factor, people with liquid assets tend to start rolling it into tangible goods. As supply levels dwindle prices rise and goods become unavailable. Without good price signals, producers cannot set a future price for orders so they don’t produce enough to meet demand so there are gaps in supply. Simply put too much money chasing not enough goods equals shortages
Food Inflation and Lack of Production
Crops have taken a heavy hit due to drought in the West. Rising transportation and labor costs have also played a role in food prices on the rise. A lack of labor across a wide variety of sectors, including harvesting, packaging, and food safety due to the fallout of pandemic-related lockdowns and programs, has been devastating to the farming and food manufacturing industries.
People are fed up. The COVID-19 lockdowns resulted in a significant percentage of the population experiencing a decline in mental health and overall wellbeing. A lot of people that were already struggling with addiction just sank deeper into it.
Many people have decided not to receive any COVID-19 vaccines, which makes some folks pretty darn unhappy. Now some small and large businesses are requiring that workers be vaccinated. In some cities or businesses, unvaccinated individuals dine in at a restaurant or go into a grocery store. Plenty of the unvaccinated is asking what is next. Will they be allowed to shop for food? Will it really go that far? In the future, will the unvaccinated even be allowed to receive grocery deliveries from some merchants?
Regardless of how far it goes, it is clear that some want to make life as hard as possible for those who want to choose what goes into their bodies. Many of this same crowd also say “My body, my choice” when it comes to other health issues. This comes across as hypocritical to some of us.
Of course, there is already a black market for COVID-19 vaccination cards. The result is a push for vaccine records and “passports” to be electronic so that they can be accessed anytime someone needs to check vaccine status.
One of the more disturbing trends is the number of people, including doctors that think that someone that refuses the vaccine should be denied medical treatment for any illness. This is appalling and a clear violation of the Hippocratic Oath. Perhaps if you don’t want to work with people that might be carrying a range of diseases, you shouldn’t be in medicine?
Doctors that are willing to provide care to everyone regardless of vaccine status will have no problem booking appointments if trends continue.
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People will be upset when they realize that we cannot vaccinate ourselves back to normalcy.
Israel and Scotland have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world but they also have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases. When people realize that the vaccines are not working against the many COVID-19 variants they will increasingly blame the unvaccinated. The sentiment of “if we had all just got vaccinated at the same time” will proliferate not that it will do any good. We are not going to vaccinate ourselves back to normalcy. Especially not when COVID-19 can reside in animal hosts. The reality is that the genie cannot be put back in the bottle.
Getting a booster jab every 5-8 months is not realistic or sustainable.
Some are floating around the idea of charging a fee in the future for shots. $35 per shot has been thrown around as the cost. That cost will be passed on to you. Insurance rates will go up or you may find yourself paying for the vaccine out of pocket. At $35 per shot, that means a family of 4 could be shelling out $140 every 5-8 months and dealing with the side effects of the vaccine at the same time. Plenty of people have missed work after their shot. During times like these, lost work is not something everyone can afford.
Shortages and Limits
Some items seem to always be in short supply or, at the very least, occasionally not available at local stores. We have used Instacart for groceries orders quite often, and the shoppers always say that it is smart if you get your orders shipped and delivered in the morning time. By evening time, the grocery store is out of some items. Sometimes items are available the next morning, but they can be longer.
Paper Products continue to be on and off shelves. People have mentioned to me that they have placed orders online at Wal-Mart only to have their order canceled.
Shortage Example: Infant Formula
Amazon and other major online retailers are placing limits on how much baby formula you can purchase at once. For one brand I looked at, you could only buy about three weeks’ worth of formula at a time. I checked back, and you were allowed to order again about the time your previous order was delivered. While some may think, well, that just means you need to place frequent orders, it is hard not to find it disturbing when one cannot buy enough of an essential good to last a month. Wal-Mart offered more generous limits, allowing for a 90 day supply for the average infant.
Grocery stores have very few cans of formula. My first trip inside a grocery store in more than 16 months left me a bit shocked. A large grocery store only stocking maybe 40 cans of formula and very few brands was surprising.
If your infant needs a specific brand or formulation, then you need to be especially concerned and put back a supply to get your child through. I am not advocating buying up more than you need, but you should consider what you need to get your child through the winter at the very least.
Medical Supply and Medication Shortages
I recently delivered via C-Section at a large regional hospital in Western North Carolina after a failed induction at 42 weeks of pregnancy. I was there for three days total, and it was impossible not to pick up on the lack of some items. When I asked about what else they had trouble getting it, I got a few more details. What surprised me what that some supplies were just so basic! For example, the baby heart and oxygen monitor that was used during the induction needs a specific type of paper to create a paper printout of the monitoring. The nurse was happy when another came in with some of that paper. It turns out it was back-ordered for weeks. Sure they could do without paper, but what about monitoring equipment for complicated births and inductions? One nurse showed me a special monitor that uses a copper filament. This is attached to a baby’s scalp in utero during complicated births or inductions. While I did not need this, they did say that they had gone so far as to hide them at nurses’ stations and make sure they only got used when necessary.
Medications are another area of shortage. My father takes a small dose of Metformin for his Agent Orange-related diabetes. The Veterans Administration sends his prescriptions in the mail. He always calls in his prescription renewals well in advance. Even with his proactive habits, his medicine has been arriving on the day he is going to run out, and sometimes they only send a 30 day supply instead of 90 days. I expect that medication shortages will get worse. India supplies a lot of the medications that we rely on daily in the USA.
Lack of Labor
The labor shortage can be attributed to many different factors, even if some people try to blame their favorite one.
Heroin and fentanyl abuse, in particular, are to blame for at least some of the labor shortage. With millions of people out of the workforce due to the inability to function at anything close to a normal level, it undoubtedly has an impact on the number of workers available. Even those who can maintain some function cannot pass a drug screen to get some of the jobs they may qualify for on paper.
Generous and Extended Unemployment Benefits and Government Programs
There is not a lot of incentive to work if your unemployment benefits are close to what you would make at your job, or in some cases, more than what you would make. When you factor in commute times, childcare costs, gas and vehicle maintenance, etc., it is not hard to see that some people are simply better off financially not working. Ironically on Labor Day, these benefit programs ended. At the same time, President Biden told states that they could use federal relief funds to extend unemployment benefits if they chose to. As of September 6, none have chosen to do so.
Perhaps by the time, this is published, some states will have allocated some federal relief funds.
Of course, all the stimulus checks for each household member and the generous $250-$300 per month for each child under 18 in the home also adds to overall income without any work being done.
Lack of Laborers with Specific Skills
Some jobs take years of education or training. Even those that require a 6-month certificate add quite a delay in recruiting new employees.
In some cases, people with the qualifications and skills to perform some tasks have decided to switch occupations due to working conditions. Truckers are a great example of this. A few years ago, I did some investigative journalism on why truckers were threatening strikes. New regulations requiring truckers to use electronic logs caused a huge drop in pay. Truckers were restricted to how many hours they could log with their truck running. This led to a lot of them sleeping on the side of the road with no access to bathrooms or meals. Then there is the fact that when they are on the road, the number of gas stations and businesses that will allow them to park and shop or get a meal has gone down. Wal-Mart, for example, will not let truckers stop and shop or get some food. Many gas stations don’t have room.
The baby boomer generation was huge. Now a lot of that generation has retired or will very soon. Some of their kids may even be considering retirement at this point. Some people have to switch jobs as they age as well because the physical requirements are too great.
Again, the trucking industry is a good example of a lot of older drivers retiring, and younger people are not replacing them because they don’t want the job. In fact, a lot of the older drivers have spent the last year telling young people they don’t want to be truck drivers because the conditions are awful.
Farming is an important job, but it is another area that young people are not taking over as older farmers age out of the workforce. For years kids were taught that occupations like farming were for ignorant or poor people and that they should go to college and get a cushy desk job.
Lack of labor will affect everyone because it means that things are not being manufactured, grown, or shipped, or sold at a rate that can feed the supply chain.
Be prepared for ongoing shortages of many everyday items and a lot of specialty goods. Increases in prices are guaranteed as manufacturing costs go up due to supply and demand and the lack of inexpensive foreign manufacturing and labor.
The CDC eviction ban ending will have some serious consequences.
The CDC eviction decree has been renewed multiple times. On August 27, 2020, the Supreme Court ended the CDC’s residential eviction moratorium. Some states have chosen to extend the ban themselves. For example, California had an eviction ban in place until September 30, 2021. Illinois has extended its eviction moratorium until October 3, 2021.
The eviction ban has resulted in many landlords and mortgage holders having no revenue from properties to cover mortgages, utilities, and general maintenance. In some cases, landlords have experienced tenets moving and leaving tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid rent.
When the eviction ban ends, people will live more densely. This means moving in with family members when they are evicted. More people will live with roommates. The less fortunate will be frantically looking for housing. Inevitably some will stay homeless for a longer period.
It is possible that the eviction ban ending will lead to some people selling properties rather than maintaining them as rentals.
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Loss of Confidence in Institutions
The general public has lost a lot of confidence in the institutions seen as the cornerstones of modern first-world society.
The Mainstream Media
Mainstream media have an agenda. They do not provide fair and balanced, or truthful information regularly and with the best interest of the public in mind. True journalism is rare in mainstream outlets. Independent journalists and news sites have seen a jump in traffic as more people wake up and find alternative ways to get news and information. Unfortunately, censorship, de-platforming, and kicking websites out of ad networks that provide revenue are tactics being used to fight free speech and people’s access to alternative media outlets. Peak Prosperity has experienced this many times. Most recently, Youtube took down some of Chris’ videos for violating “community standards.”
In the past, universities were seen as places to learn and experience various opinions and even cultures. Now our higher learning centers are becoming more single-minded and discouraging independent thinking and free speech. Anyone that dares say anything outside of the “narrative” is labeled a racist, homo, or transphobic, or simply not “woke” enough.
Hospitals and Medical Professionals
The medical community is divided. Opinions on COVID-19 have made many questions about how much a doctor or hospital can be trusted. Some doctors have even gone so far as to say they should not have to treat those that are not considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath. Perhaps if a hospital doctor is not comfortable working with potentially sick people any longer, they should find another profession or retire.
Over the course of COVID-19, the CDC was notorious for flip-flopping on important health information and data. They choose to ignore information that doesn’t go with the narrative and role they want to play to influence the health choices of a nation.
When some people voted in the last election, they chose their candidate with the hopes that they could lead us back to normality. Recent events have led to some voters losing faith in the administration they voted for. As more people realize there is no way we are going back to “normal” the loss of confidence will continue to increase.
General Preparedness Tips for Winter 2021-2022
Heating and Cooking Fuel
Now is the time to make sure you have the cooking and heating fuels you need to get through winter. The cost of any type of fuel is high, including firewood. A full cord of seasoned and split mixed hardwood costs around $300-$400 delivered in my area.
While there seems to be plenty of propane on hand at the moment, the cost has gone up. A shortage of delivery drivers could impact all types of fuel deliveries at any given time. Lack of labor along with bad weather can easily cause short to long-term shortages in some areas.
Take a look at your home and take note of any repairs or maintenance that are needed.
- Check for leaks. Even a small leak can cause a lot of damage over time. Leaks cost a lot more to fix the longer you let them go. Leaky taps and pipes can make water bills higher if you are on a meter in town.
- Look for cracks and spaces that allow cold drafts of air into the home. This will reduce your heat bill and the amount of fuel used.
- Clean your chimney. You may be surprised what is in your chimney at the beginning of fire burning season. Sometimes we get a bird in the house when we clean ours. Chimney fires are no joke. They are scary and can lead to catastrophic fires.
- Make sure walkways, staircases, and ramps are safe for the coming winter. Now is the time to fix any tripping or falling hazards. Medical facilities are very busy and will likely continue to experience a shortage of workers.
Stock up on food.
If you have been putting off buying extra food to have on hand, you should start buying some now. You don’t have to buy a ton of food at once. Even just adding in an extra $10-$20 worth of food per grocery trip will start to add up over time. If you are short on space, then it may be worth it to buy some more expensive freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. Check out my article on food storage for more information.
Ideally, everyone would have a year’s worth of food on hand. This is not realistic for a lot of people. Try to have at least two months’ worth on hand, even if you are short on space. This is easy to achieve with survival food buckets.
Go through your medical kit and replace or add items as needed.
Health care systems are one of the hardest hits when it comes to the lack of workers. COVID-19 led to increased demand that has continued. A lot of medical facilities were experiencing shortages of workers even before the pandemic. You need to be prepared to take care of some medical needs at home. Sitting in a waiting area for hours for something treatable at home is no fun. There are plenty of people that go to the doctor for every minor thing.
If you don’t have a good medical kit, I advise buying a good basic kit and adding some extra items. Here are a few of the essentials that most medical kits are missing:
- Advil Liquid Gels
- Benadryl Liquid Gels
- Blood Stop Powder
Refill any prescriptions for people or pets as soon as you can. Ask your doctor if you can have a script for at least 90 days of any medications you require.
Have a backup heating method or a plan for staying warm if your heat is off.
When Texas experienced its deep freeze at the end of winter, many people struggled to stay warm. This event did not occur in a place where people were used to worrying about such cold temperatures. Tragically some people died trying to use things like grills inside to provide a little heat and cook some food.
Woodstoves are great for backup, but if you don’t have one, you can use heaters that run on kerosene, for example.
Make sure you have blankets and winter-worthy clothing.
Extra blankets and good winter clothing that allows you to dress in many layers should be part of your preparedness plan. Don’t forget good boots that are either insulated or large enough that you can wear thick socks.
Keep a few months’ worth of pet foods on hand.
Pet food became harder to get during the first part of COVID. Plenty of people out there have to feed specific types of food too. Over the years, I have discovered that a lot of people have food put back for their families, but they don’t have the equivalent for their pets. If you have two months for yourself, then have two months for your pets too. Most people will feed food that was supposed to be for them to their pets rather than let their pets go hungry.
Pick up some non-lethal weapons.
Firearms are great, but they are not the best choice for all situations. If you can avoid lethal force, then it is for the best in most situations. The majority of troublemakers are not out with a murder in mind. Some pepper spray, a taser, or even a good walking stick are often all that is needed. I am not saying you shouldn’t conceal carry a gun, either, just that you should have something less lethal for when the situation calls for it. There is also the fact that you can get away with carrying non-lethal weapons in places where firearms are a no-no. Take note that non-lethal is a bit of a misleading term too. Less lethal is actually a better way to put it because it is possible to kill someone with weapons that are considered non-lethal if enough force is used.
Have a plan to keep yourself and your family entertained.
While I think that lockdowns are not going to be tolerated, that still doesn’t mean those in charge will not try it. You may also want to elect to stay at home to avoid increasing levels of violence and civil unrest at times. A storm may make it impossible to travel too.
It is important to have something to do for entertainment and relaxation. Set a small budget for entertainment and plan some activities that can be accomplished with little or no electricity.
What do you expect to happen over this coming winter? What are you doing to prepare?
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