Our Future World When COVID-19 Is Over?

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor
& President of SmartScience

What changes will we see in society après le deluge?

Apr 10, 2020 at 12:42 PM: As we all attempt to avoid cabin fever during this very real crisis, many — maybe most — of us think of the future world we will inhabit when it is over. The virus may be with us indefinitely unless massive vaccinations can eradicate it in the same way that smallpox was destroyed. Right now, we are banned from restaurants, concerts, movie theaters, and gatherings of all sorts. We cannot come close to others. We certainly are not shaking hands. Dr. Fauci suggested that the handshake may go the way of the dodo. What changes will we see in society après le deluge? It certainly is hard to predict. Will habit or fear prevail? A second wave, if it appears, will make everyone gun-shy and increase the likelihood of permanent societal change.

On the positive side, districts, schools, and teachers have finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I would rather not have had this happen by tossing them all in the deep end of the pool, but here we are. Now that their toes are wet, how many will return to the friendly waters of remote learning tools, and how many will retreat to the dry land of traditional classroom instruction? Much will depend on which remote learning tools were being used. Some are not all that great.

On the positive side, districts, schools, and teachers have finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

The remote-learning water may look cold, but it is great once you are used to it. Just choose the right pool and gear up first. 

Another positive development found its way into our lives as white-collar workers suddenly became telecommuters. The roads are less crowded. The pollution of millions of cars sitting in stalled traffic every day spewing the exhausts into the air we all must breathe has abated. These people are figuring out how to remain productive while working at home. When it all ends, how many will wish to remain commuting through electrons instead of on rubber? How many firms will allow it? Will casual Fridays give way to telecommuting Fridays? As with education, we must wait to see. The people and companies will determine the result. More people off the roads during rush hours must help us all. I am hopeful that we will make progress here.

When it all ends, how many will wish to remain commuting through electrons instead of on rubber? How many firms will allow it?

I can think of one more development that might turn out positive. We have to find ways to interact and entertain without leaving home. This issue could swing in either direction, and I cannot be prescient here. Will more people watch more television and spend more time on social media, or will they play family games, cook together, and find other ways to bond as a family? How will these things affect them going forward?

On the negative side, we have no dearth of items. Our favorite small restaurants may not reopen after the virus passes by. Will we be left with only the big chains? That would be awful. America is already too homogenized for me.

The burden in a national disaster must fall more strongly on the national government that has shown itself inadequate to this trying task of leadership.

I have to mention this despite the enormous sadness associated with it. Tens of thousands of our friends and relations across the U.S. will no longer be with us afterward. The holes left in our communities and hearts will not soon mend. Without enough testing, no one can predict the arc of this disease in this country. The burden in a national disaster must fall more strongly on the national government that has shown itself inadequate to this trying task of leadership. I certainly am hoping for better soon, but that is faint solace for those losing cherished family members unnecessarily.

How will millions of our fellow Americans recover from losing their jobs, many permanently? What will recovery look like? It is, in my opinion, the best possible time for a national infrastructure bill that will put millions of people to work shoring up the bones of our country. Our bridges, tunnels, and highways sit in a decrepit state of repair. Our national electrical grid still remains divided into three pieces with parts in a shocking state of disrepair. Rural areas lack high-speed Internet access, and urban underserved neighborhoods should have wifi service supported by the cities. Rail transportation fails to even come close to China. Our government has been talking about infrastructure improvement for a long time now. Could there be a better time to do something about it? Politics must step aside at this time of national strain. Money in the pockets of our working class translates into a robust economy.

It is, in my opinion, the best possible time for a national infrastructure bill that will put millions of people to work shoring up the bones of our country.

Sports and entertainment will come back because people demand their spectacles. They advance no cause nor do they create goods, but they give millions of people something to look forward to and to cheer for. Their owners have far too much money already, but we give them more because of what we receive in return. Will the fall see stadiums once more filled up? Or, will the seating be designed to keep social distancing and the numbers be limited to a fraction of what they once were? It all depends on testing, which we still don’t have anywhere near enough of.

In the face of the above, such things as handshakes seem trivial. Yet, these are woven into the fabric of our society. How can a bow or elbow-bump replace a firm handshake when concluding a deal or meeting a new acquaintance? I guess we will find out. Our new world must be brave indeed out of necessity. We can do this. We can weather the storm and come out stronger if we keep our faith in our fellows and learn to share with and support each other.

I will write once more about my experiences here soon, but I had to present this analysis for review first. I welcome comments, especially ones that point out any mistakes that I have made.

2 Responses

  1. Harry, I think you’ve nailed some of the key issues/questions that we’ll be facing, nationally and globally, once this pandemic begins to subside.

    For educators, students, administrators, and workers, the world may no longer be the same now that they’re seeing, first hand, the virtual power of online education and work.

    Much of the cost of doing business in the old way may no longer make sense now that we’re beginning to realize that work can be done cost-effectively online. The same will hold true for traditional functions such as voting. Department stores have already learned the lesson that online trumps brick ‘n’ mortar stores.

    Health care, too, may change tremendously with virtual visits replacing many if not most in-person visits.

    What about the use of drones for police work? Our new-world officers may be sitting at game-like computer consoles instead of out driving their beat.

    Restaurants and take-out? This might just be the new trend. Also, the creation of a whole new profession — grocery deliverers (grodies?).

    Moms, too, may realize they could both have a career and be home with their children.

    Grocery stores may never return to the old normal, with innovative ways of serving customers.

    Produce farms, too, may change the way they distribute their products, opting for more direct ways to connect with customers.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to more of your thoughts and the discussions that this post will hopefully generate in the coming days. -Jim

  2. Thank you, Jim.

    I missed the healthcare revolution taking place under our very eyes. I can schedule virtual visits with my PCP now, something that was not available previously. While we all could have at-home instruments for blood pressure and O2 saturation, the ones available today are not conducive to this approach. Someone should find a way to do these things inexpensively. I recall decades ago seeing a device you could stand on in your bare feet that would measure your weight and heart rate. It might even have been capable of measuring blood pressure.

    Delivery drones are coming, and not a second too soon.

    As for police, I am a fan of a real police presence and not a fan of Big Brother is watching you. Given the incredible numbers of scofflaws on the freeways, it might be a good thing to have drones patrolling the roads.

    With the end of the shutdown being projected as far away as November, 2021 may be a very different world.

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