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Will life go back to normal after the coronavirus pandemic?

W 42nd & 8th, New York City, New York
Photo: Kimberli Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When confronted with a challenging situation, my mother would almost always say, “This too shall pass.” As she died 14 years ago, it isn’t a phrase I’ve heard recently, yet I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago with her words in my head. Surely it was my subconscious dealing with the pandemic and its ramifications, but it did get me thinking. “Will it?”

Obviously, unless the world ends entirely, it will. But, will it ever be the same again?

A new normal in less than a month

On the first of March 2020, if someone had said that within a few weeks nearly all restaurants, bars, stores, churches, schools, government offices, and libraries would be closed indefinitely; nearly all international travel would cease; all sports events, including MLB, NHL, NBA, March Madness, and the Olympics would be cancelled or postponed; over one-third of the world’s population would have been advised or ordered to stay at home; and over 3 million people would become unemployed – most would have rolled their eyes in disbelief.

Yet, here we are. Social-distanced and isolated, as we sit in homes and wonder when does this end? And when it does, will anything be the way it was?

Let’s start with the positive

There is something called the 21/90 rule that states it takes 21 days to break a habit and 90 days to make it part of your normal life. So, theoretically, if this isolation lasts three months, we should all be:

  • Better hand washers. Who actually washed their hands 20 seconds or more dozens of times a day before all this?
  • Living in cleaner environments. We kept a pretty clean home before but, between the two of us, we clean the kitchen counter alone 10 times a day now.
  • More aware of the germs around us. We’ve carried wipes with us for years to wipe down airplane and train trays but, aside from serious germaphobes, who ever thought about getting sick on a visit to the grocery store? Going forward, at least for many, touching door handles, hand rails, and all the other surfaces encountered in normal daily life will definitely be a trigger to wash our hands.
  • More vigilant about not wasting food and supplies. As the daughter of parents and grandparents that survived very impoverished circumstances in the Great Depression, I can attest it was in the back of their minds for the rest of their lives. As food and supplies are not as easy for us to obtain now, I am vigilant in maximizing every bit of the food we have.
  • More thankful and appreciative of every day life. A simple morning walk is our biggest treat of the day now. It is amazing how fast your standards can change.
Isolation walk, early morning, 28 Mar 2020, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Photo: Kimberli Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Will we get back to the normal before coronavirus? I’m betting not anytime soon, if ever

Our existence has changed. Let’s start with a few of the smaller things…

Grocery shopping. We’ve used grocery delivery service for some time and could always get a Peapod delivery scheduled in a day or two. Now – the closest time I could schedule this morning was two weeks out. People that had never tried online grocery shopping before are now getting their food and supplies delivered. Will they go back to driving across town to the market after the crisis?

Telemedicine. Who liked going to the doctor’s office for a check-up or when you had something minor wrong before this began? But, doctors wanted you there at least once a year, even if it was just to refill the same prescription they’d written for you for the past decade. Now, they want you to stay away and are using telemedicine to do it. Try putting that genie back in the bottle.

Working at home. The vast amount of office workers found themselves quickly creating work environments in their homes this month and the vast amount of their employers scrambled to put in place methods of communication and oversight. It happened fast and normalized quickly. After this passes, will they all go back to their former offices or will blocks of downtown skyscrapers in cities become ghost towns?

Then there’s the big stuff.

Ana Cabrera tweet, 29 Mar 2020

For those that survive the pandemic, this will be their version of my parents’ and grandparents’ Great Depression and they will live with the effects for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Fauci predicted on Sunday, that the U.S. could see millions of coronavirus cases and 100,000 or more deaths. The Imperial College London stated this week that the coronavirus could have caused 40 million deaths if was left unchecked, but with deployment of social distancing methods to slow the spread of the virus, it “could reduce this burden by around half.” 20 million deaths worldwide.

The potential social and economic after-effects are mind-boggling. How will survivors respond?

In 1692, an especially harsh winter and an epidemic of another virus, smallpox, created an environment fertile for the hysteria and fear that took over the small Puritan communities of Salem Village and Andover, Massachusetts. A group of girls claimed to be suffering from the effects of witchcraft and the exhausted, panicked, dogmatic community responded by jailing about 150 people and executing 20.

One would have hoped that the hysteria and dogma of the 1692 Witch Trials would have given way to intellect and compassion in a crisis 400+ years later. Yet, in this society where hate and lies are spewed on a minute-by-minute basis, the world has a massive challenge ahead. Let’s hope and pray it’s up to it. 

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