While right now we’re stuck fully in the center of the novel coronavirus pandemic, there’s no doubt that all of us spend time thinking about the days when things returns to normal and a virus isn’t dictating daily life.
But is a complete return to “normal” even a possibility?
Even now, this pandemic and its domino effect on every part of life has made massive changes in how we live, interact, and think.
Even with the threat of illness diminished at some point in the future, or even after treatments or vaccines are available, it’s easy to speculate on a wide-reaching list of ways daily life will shift and evolve, perhaps indefinitely.
While it’s optimistic to think everything will be permanently improved or altered by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s nearly a guarantee that some things will change, and some will change for good.
We can only speculate about what those changes will be by using the clues from what is currently happening.
Here is what we think a world after COVID will look like.
Changes in a Post-COVID World
The economy and how we spend money will change
Already, the economic results of the pandemic have been massive and have hit most Americans in some form or another.
No matter what, some businesses will be lost in the course of this, as will savings for many.
A record number of people have applied for unemployment daily over the past weeks.
Millions of Americans are totally out of work, unemployed, or have substantially reduced hours.
With this level of impact on our finances and economy, it’s nearly certain that the economy will be fluctuating, and experiencing a drastic downturn, from this hit for a while to come.
Beyond that, many of us will probably become less likely to spend money without discretion.
As we see how tenuous and completely beyond our control our hold on financial stability can be, we’ll have more of a respect for sizable savings and money set aside for the future, or a “rainy day.”
People will be more aware and supportive of small businesses
Small businesses have notably taken a huge hit during all of this.
In many fields, small businesses have been forced to completely close, move operations online, or, as in the case of restaurants, revert to exclusively delivery or takeout.
This has been particularly hard for in-person services and establishments like bars, breweries, salons, boutiques, specialty stores, and the like.
Any business that is non-essential and can’t make up for sales losses with online ordering is suffering.
Many won’t make it through this without major governmental support, and some will fold, regardless.
Following the pandemic and a return to normalcy, it seems likely that more of us will make a larger effort to support the local and small businesses that we love; the corner grocery store, and the ten-table restaurant downtown.
We’ve seen what this has done to our friends and families and community members, and ideally we won’t take the value of small businesses for granted again.
College decisions and life changes will be altered
For the students who are currently deciding where they’ll spend the next years of their life and thousands of dollars, the pandemic has shifted everything.
How far from home they’ll go, how they’ll decide without being able to visit schools, what they can afford, and whether they’ll go to a four-year college, or college at all are all things that will be under consideration.
Things are in flux, and so much is still unknown.
For the foreseeable future, at least, college decisions will be totally shifting. More students will take gap years, more loans will be needed, new values will be important.
Many colleges have gone the test-optional route and others are predicting a semester of continued at-home learning come fall 2020.
Community colleges may witness a resurgence as well.
Public cleanliness will become more pressing
We will likely see the expectation for cleaner airplanes and other highly-trafficked or confined spaces.
Flying nervousness, particularly around cleanliness, will likely go up, and combating that will require airlines to make better efforts to disinfect planes.
We’ll likely continue to be more careful about handwashing, and will reinforce it even more with children than we’ve done before.
Schools will be cleaned more thoroughly, as will nursing homes. At least we can hope so.
Feelings around physical touch will be altered
The manifestations of the lack of physical touch for so long will be demonstrated when it becomes safe to touch loved ones again.
Victoria Abraira, an assistant professor at Rutgers University specializing in the study of touch, says in The Daily Beast, that “A lack of touch, as experienced by people over a sustained period of time, can lead to ‘severe psychiatric issues.'”
Some of us will hug more and longer.
We’ll value the closeness and comfort of human touch from the people we love and won’t take it for granted. We’ll hold people closer.
Others may react in the opposite way, and the fear and anxiety instilled in them by this pandemic will leave a lasting worry about closeness and touching.
In the same article, Professor Tiffany M. Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, says “I think we will be social distancing for a while, especially if the prognostic indicators of a second wave are true.”
Unless we’re certain there’s no risk remaining, many people will likely continue to keep people at a physical distance, refrain from touching, and stay far away from strangers. It’s all about personal perspective.
People may be more open to the plight of others
Now that such a large percentage of our population is struggling with money, with food, with work, or with governmental services, one would hope that people would start think differently about those we may have previously judged.
People are often condescending or judgmental of those on assistance programs like food stamps, welfare, unemployment, or WIC.
Now we’ve seen how easy it is for circumstances outside of our control to force us into difficult situations where we need help.
Hopefully after this we’ll be more understanding toward the people who receive assistance.
And while racism has reared its ugly head more so during the virus than otherwise, it seems that this, unfortunately, will not change post-COVID
According to an article in The Lancet, “Outbreaks create fear, and fear is a key ingredient for racism and xenophobia to thrive.”
Schools will be…different
It’s likely we’ll see schools and colleges reinforcing their preparations for crisis situations and putting new ones in place.
Most schools and teachers weren’t prepared for anything of this level and nature.
Having to switch to online schooling on a dime has had varying levels of success, and the fact that it’s for such a prolonged period is also causing educational institutions to reassess all of their plans and normal procedures.
Many parents who have had to combine their own jobs with that of being a teacher may now value the jobs of those who educate their children under normal circumstances.
The entire educational system may be reevaluated.
According to Inside Higher Ed, “online education will be a strategic priority at every institution.”
Travel and experiences will become more home-focused
We miss a lot of things right now. Traveling and going even on nearby adventures is a big one for many people.
Though we place plenty of value on the ability to travel or go places, many of us have likely taken it for granted at one time or another. That seems less likely to happen in the future.
Certain modes of travel will win out over others like ocean travel, short term, and according to an article on Vox.com, “Before the masses feel comfortable taking to the skies again, the classic road trip will be resurrected.”
We may appreciate the value of slowing down a bit more
Whether or not we hate being stuck at home, quarantined, and without work, it’s hard not to admit that a lot of us needed a break.
Perhaps, just not this kind of a break!
We’re incredibly accustomed to a neurotically fast-paced lifestyle, countless hours of work, never pausing a stream of interactions and expectations and things to do.
Without many of those things, we’ve been forced to put things on hold, to slow down, to stop moving, to value smaller moments.
We may hate it most of the time, but there is absolutely some value in having to take life at an easier pace for a while.
Hopefully our families are healthy, and if we are with them, that closeness can be an opportunity to reconnect.
More simple pleasures are being looked into, since many of us have nothing else to do.
Puzzle sales have gone through the roof, the popularity of book clubs is up, and sourdough starter has its own hashtag.
While it may seem like the “end” of COVID, which doesn’t seem to be all that near in sight, will have everyone running for the door, we hope that we’ll hold on to at least a little bit of what was discovered during our time inside.
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