Life goes on and NDT in the USA during COVID-19

I am writing this article on 4 July, Independence Day. Under normal circumstances there would be parades, firework displays, outdoor barbeques and flags flying everywhere. These are not normal circumstances!

In the news, we have dramatic spikes in the number of recent COVID-19 cases believed to be directly related to decisions to open up accessibility to bars and restaurants and, in some cases, beaches. Decisions to require quarantines are issued by State Governors and City Mayors and are not provided by the Federal Government. This leads to dissension and confusion and a potentially dramatic uptick in coronavirus cases. There is a movement towards opening up public activities, restaurants and bars, and a return to what is considered ‘normal’.

George Fuller, Mayor of McKinney, Texas, recently issued a requirement for everyone in his city to wear a mask in order to stem the spread of COVID-19 and avert a full economic shutdown. Some constituents in this Dallas suburb saw it differently. They pelted him with profane emails and called him a ‘pathetic little dictator’. Similar attacks have been made on State Governors who have attempted to mandate the wearing of masks. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who at one point banned local governments from requiring masks, has since issued a mandate requiring masks in public and prohibiting gatherings of more than ten people.

These conflicting requirements reflect the lack of Federal requirements based upon the US type of government, with each state having its own requirements and relative independence. There is a rush to open up business and get everyone back to work but a lack of consensus about how to do it safely. Industries such as chemical & petroleum and power generation have been designated essential and contractors have provided NDT services on a limited basis. It is not clear how the use of masks or social distancing is being enforced.

California attempted to relax the quarantine restrictions and individual mayors opened up beaches to the general public, which was followed by a dramatic increase in infections. Most beaches are now closed to the public and restrictions are in effect in specific counties.

Independent NDT contractors have felt the effects in different ways. Their clients have cut back on services and technicians have been made redundant or provided with work on an alternating basis with other technicians. Many are claiming unemployment benefits, with some maintaining their level of income and others becoming aware that they may never return to their previous level of employment. On the positive side, many new webinars are available through ASNT and websites such as Technicians have opportunities to advance their knowledge and careers. Technical society business continues with remote committee meetings and standard development, although many conferences are still on hold or may become virtual.

From a personal point of view, this year has been spent at my home office with brief spurts of outside exercise and convalescence from a knee replacement operation. I hope all of my readers are keeping well, are safe and are following the COVID-19 guidelines for preventing further spread of infection.

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