The COVID-19 pandemic is still the big story in the news, but there are signs in places that we may be turning the corner. New York is experiencing a downward trend in both new cases and deaths. Some states are allowing certain businesses to reopen. Even some beaches are opening to the public.
At one point or another, the pandemic will end, although, like influenza, SARS-CoV2 virus outbreaks may become a yearly event from late fall to early spring. The question is: “How will life change in the New Normal?”.
At this point, most experts still recommend social distancing, face coverings, and all the other interventions considered in infectious disease outbreaks. Although the resistance to relaxing restrictions is still strong, people are beginning to emerge from their homes in some areas. Most, however, are surprisingly reluctant about returning to pre-pandemic practices.
What are some changes you might expect in the post-pandemic world? Below are some thoughts on how things might shake out in the near future.
Medical preparedness in the form of face masks and other protective gear will likely remain a part of the public landscape. Expect more of these items to be produced domestically in the years to come.
Many workers were forced to work at home during the pandemic. If productivity doesn’t suffer, expect more businesses to follow this model to decrease overhead costs of office space. Teleconferencing will become the norm for many. Some businesses might turn into work-at-home enterprises completely. For those that don’t, there will be a trend away from shared open spaces back to barriers separating individual work cubicles.
For years, we’ve discussed the importance of avoiding restroom doorknobs as a prime method of avoiding infection. If you have stock in Acme Consolidated Doorknobs, Inc., it’s time to sell. Expect a big increase in automated doors or, at least, a reworking of office building design. Hands-free restroom access is already a feature at airports and many other public venues.
You can use your profits from selling Consolidated Doorknobs to buy Acme Automated Hand Sanitizers, Inc. They will likely be as common a fixture in public places as fire extinguishers. People will pay much more attention to hand washing and respiratory hygiene than before.
To avoid having cashiers touch purchases, self-checkout at stores will greatly increase. You’ll also see an increase in voice-assistance programs. A popular recent feature at our local hospital is the ability to check in digitally. That means touching keyboards also accessed by hundreds of other, possibly sick, people. Voice-activated, as well as no-touch, card-scanning programs will decrease the need to use keyboards now widely used by the public.
From an education standpoint, expect a higher percentage of students to opt for online learning. The decrease in brick and mortar university students will lead to private dorm rooms becoming standard. Some of these institutes of higher learning will go completely online. Parents of younger students may opt for home-schooling more often.
Streaming media, including recent movies, from devices is already popular. More people will access even more of their entertainment at home to avoid crowded theatres, sporting events, etc.
(Aside: Will admission to events like these require a “coronavirus-free” ID card? That’s problematic: There isn’t a foolproof COVID-19 test and even the presence of antibodies hasn’t been proven to prevent reinfection)
Expect battles over privacy policies, so government agencies (and private companies) can more easily follow contacts of victims of infectious diseases. Public health vs. civil liberties will become a major political issue.
All of the above means that many businesses will find survival challenging in the post-pandemic world. Those that can adapt will survive. Those that can’t will not. New businesses specializing in sanitizing work spaces may likely thrive here.
Just as there is resistance to emerging into a post-pandemic world, there will be a percentage of citizens that will resist taking any precautions at all. They will depend on herd immunity (if it exists) or just feel they can accept the risk.
These are just some of the changes we might see in the uncertain future. How do you think things will change?
Joe Alton MD
Learn more about infectious disease in the new book “Alton’s Pandemic Preparedness Guide“, available at Amazon or check out the book and our entire line of medical kits and supplies at store.doomandbloom.net!