weight loss diet The EthicistCredit…Illustration by Tomi UmLast year I was abruptly let go from my job. I ramped up my side business, which was fine except that now the pandemic has caused an immediate decline — and potential future decrease — in business because my clients cannot quickly adapt to technology to allow for work to continue. My clients requested that I reschedule work until the fall of this year; they think that is when business will return to pre-crisis levels. (This is an industrywide issue as well.)The trouble is that I never told my elderly parents that I was let go. I no longer talk about the job, a topic we used to discuss frequently. Now I discourage discussion about it, saying it is a “toxic work environment.” Instead, I steer the discussion toward small triumphs with my side job, which is now my primary source of income. During this economic turbulence caused by the pandemic, both parents often verbalize how blessed our family is that all of their children are still employed. I continue to play along because I don’t want my octogenarian parents worrying about it. I have not shared the news with my family because I am hurt and embarrassed by the circumstances of my departure from the job. I am considering taking legal action to address what I believe to be disparate treatment. I feel as if discussing this matter will be a “downer” for everyone at a time when we all crave good news. I believe that I have good reasons for not sharing my job loss with my parents, who tend to share details I would rather keep private. Still, I think I behaved unethically by not fully sharing my situation with them. What do you think? Name WithheldIt’s a sign of something morally odd about our attitude to employment that you feel ashamed of having been fired, even though you think the firing was unjust. (You say “embarrassed,” but that’s usually a gentler way of saying the same thing.) If you’re right, the shame should attach not to you but to the people who fired you. And yet your response is entirely representative. People tend to think that having a job gives them a kind of moral standing, marks them out as a contributor, a giver and not a taker.I’m tempted to say that this is a very American idea. Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, wrote of his “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection,” which involved such maxims as “Industry: Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” (Max Weber later cited Franklin’s cherishing of industry as evidence for what he called the Protestant ethic.) But then I think of the French film “Time Out” and the Japanese film “Tokyo Sonata,” each of which memorably depicts a fired white-collar worker whose family thinks he is still going to the office. The workplace as a source of worth is a widespread tenet. So I can see why you wanted to keep this from your parents. Losing your job — a condition that the pandemic has now visited upon tens of millions of Americans — imposes harms beyond the financial ones.You understandably don’t want your folks to worry, and you might well feel that it is up to you whether you disclose what happened. Family relationships don’t require frankness about everything. They may, on the contrary, require discretion about certain things. But deceiving your parents about your employment status is wrong, a pattern of deception that isn’t in keeping with a loving relationship. You should end the charade before your parents learn the truth from someone else and are left feeling betrayed. It won’t be easy, I realize. Letting them know that you haven’t been honest with them is bound to be a source of shame — this time justified.My husband and I are very fortunate financially. We are the quintessential “DINKs” (double income, no kids): We have white-collar jobs and our savings are good. We could live on his salary even if I were to lose my job. That seems like a real possibility: While layoffs may not be imminent, the organization I work for, a nonprofit, was already on a shrinking budget before the current economic shock. Now the odds are even higher that they will have to let people go before the year is out. (I am actively looking for another position.) Should I lose my job, is it ethical for me to claim unemployment benefits, at a time when an unprecedented number of people are doing the same? Sure, I would be legally entitled to do so. But I fear that I would be taking money that I don’t really need — and that someone else desperately does — out of a system that seems likely to be spread even thinner the longer the downturn goes on.If someone can afford not to take unemployment benefits, are they ethically obligated not to? During these scary economic times, do we have an obligation to “flatten the curve” at the unemployment office as well as the hospital? Name Withheld, CaliforniaThe Coronavirus Outbreak ›Frequently Asked QuestionsUpdated August 24, 2020What are the symptoms of coronavirus?In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome — which caused their blood oxygen levels to plummet — and received supplemental oxygen. In severe cases, they were placed on ventilators to help them breathe. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. (And some people don’t show many symptoms at all.) In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms. More serious cases can lead to inflammation and organ damage, even without difficulty breathing. There have been cases of dangerous blood clots, strokes and brain impairments.Why does standing six feet away from others help?The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.I have antibodies. Am I now immune?As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?Employers have to provide a safe workplace with policies that protect everyone equally. And if one of your co-workers tests positive for the coronavirus, the C.D.C. has said that employers should tell their employees — without giving you the sick employee’s name — that they may have been exposed to the virus.I just mentioned the concern many people have to be a giver, not a taker, and that’s clearly one that you share. Unemployment payments are a legal right for those who qualify, which doesn’t mean you have to exercise the right. But it isn’t incidental that, like Social Security, the program of unemployment insurance to which you would be applying is not means-tested. There may be political advantages to that design: In a society like ours, benefits that aren’t means-tested tend to garner more support and carry less stigma. In our present economic circumstances, too, we don’t want people to cut back on spending, and your unemployment pay will reduce the temptation to do so.Of course, your particular decision will not make much difference to the world: Not taking these benefits will save the government an amount that’s well within the rounding error of the budget, and spending it won’t increase demand detectably. (At least not in the aggregate: I suppose it might make a detectable difference for a small neighborhood store you patronize regularly.) But there’s nothing wrong about taking part in a basically just system in ways permitted by its rules.I am Jewish by birth, upbringing and culture but consider myself an agnostic. Questions about the existence of God have no interest for me, and my religious observance is more family- than God-oriented. In this period of intense suffering and loss, though, I’ve struggled with how to honestly express feelings of hope and sorrow. “You’re in my heart” or “I hope your loved one gets better” just doesn’t seem to carry the same weight as “I’m praying for you” — and recently, I’ve found myself saying that to people I know who are deeply religious, even though I don’t literally pray. I don’t want to be facile or deceptive, but it is what people say in our country. If the other person has already spoken about God’s will, is responding in their lingua franca a sign of empathy or a kind of appropriation? Jezra Kaye, New YorkNot every use of religious language signals religious commitment. An atheist can say “Bless you” when someone sneezes; it’s just a conventional formula. The same is true of “goodbye,” said at parting, even though it’s an abbreviation of “God be with you.” When people leave my presence in Asante, the region of Ghana where I grew up, I often say “Wo ne Nyame nko,” which literally means “Go with God.” (It’s more traditional than the alternative, which is an Asantified version of “bye-bye,” namely “Baabae-o.”) I’m pretty sure I’m not misleading anyone. “I’m praying for you” could, against a certain cultural background, be formulaic in just this way.But what if “I’m praying for you” brings someone consolation not just by expressing compassion and concern but by suggesting, falsely, that you are actually praying? Perhaps religious people would be especially prone to mistake your parrotings for promises. What’s at stake, in these circumstances, isn’t appropriation but deception. Nor is this a white lie, a trivial fib meant to spare someone’s feelings. The act depends upon deceiving listeners about something that is — from their point of view, if not yours — genuinely important. Like many attempts at kindness, it would be, at the very least, condescending.