NEW YORK — The second half of the year from hell is here, and it could be even messier than the first.
As a chaotic, sometimes surreal 2020 continues to unfold, frantic planning is underway to reopen schools, stage professional sports seasons and hold in-person voting for the upcoming presidential election.
Meanwhile, coronavirus is surging again in several states, with Florida and California re-shuttering bars and beaches in a desperate bid to contain it.
More than a fifth of the nation’s workforce has asked for unemployment assistance, but the extra $600 weekly benefit ends this month. Whether Congress will extend it remains an open question.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2020, economic predictions range from cloudy to downright dire.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult period that we’re entering,” former labor secretary Robert Reich said. “We’re going to see evictions and foreclosures very likely at a rate we haven’t seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
He said delinquency rates on mortgages have more than doubled since March and evictions are “very, very likely to balloon” as pandemic protections for millions of struggling renters run out this month or shortly thereafter.
“And layoffs right now are a different type than March and April. These are more permanent — businesses throwing in the towel or permanently slimming down,” he said.
Amid so much uncertainty, sports fans are still hoping to hear “Play Ball” as Major League Baseball plans for opening day on July 23 or 24 even though some players have already opted out of the season.
The Democratic and Republican conventions will likely happen remotely in August, but President Trump is sure to hold more rallies before polls open Nov. 3.
All the while, protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and other black people killed by police are expected to continue with a massive march meant to commemorate the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech set for Aug. 28 in Washington, D.C.
For the Nov. 3 general election, it remains to be seen how pandemic-driven demand for mail-in voting will ultimately play out, especially with Trump opposing the option even though he voted by mail as recently as March.
Sixteen states including New York and Texas only allow general election absentee voting with a qualifying excuse.
Experts warn time is of the essence. Poor planning could disenfranchise voters too scared to show up in person or lead to a last-minute surge of mail-in ballots that swamp underfunded election officials.
“It’s appropriate to be worried,” said election law expert Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School.
“We know we can hold vote by mail elections, but we’ve also learned there are a lot of bumps in the road that need to be addressed, such as getting ballots to voters and processing them. And we need to not forget about in-person voting, and make that sanitary and safe,” he said.
“We only have the time that we have. The question is, will there be enough money and enough training and enough commitment. This is an election that can’t be postponed,” he said.
Experts agree the best-case scenario is that science delivers a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year that works and gets widely administered.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we will have one or maybe more candidates of vaccines that could be available and be effective by the end of the year, the beginning of 2021,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said last week.
Fauci said he would “settle” for a vaccine that’s only 70% to 75% effective _ but if 25% of the U.S. population refuses to take it, the chance of achieving herd immunity would be “unlikely.”