I’ve heard much chatter of late as to what the world will be like once we’ve finally developed herd immunity from COVID-19. Some people seem to think everything will revert back to the way it was when we were all more naïve about viruses, their transmission, and their impact. I don’t see that as a possibility. First of all, sorry to say, but COVID-19 will never be completely eradicated. And other pandemics are sure to follow sooner or later.
So this gives me the opportunity to make some predictions about our new normal. I’m sure I’ll look back on this blog post someday and either laugh at my foolishness or think, “Dang, you’re good!” (That’s one of the drawbacks of blogging. There’s nowhere to hide from your past idiocy. But sometimes you also get to say “I told you so!”)
The reason I’m fairly certain that we will not return to days of yore is that when my boss suggested that we’ll all probably be vaccinated by the end of the month and should therefore be able to revert back to our old shift-change-in-a-teeny-tiny-little-room habit, I had a visceral reaction. Panic, if I’m honest.
First of all, due to HIPAA, we’ll never know for sure if everyone has been vaccinated. Second, as of this writing, the scientists are not yet certain that vaccinated people cannot still be carriers of COVID, and even they say that these vaccines are not 100% effective. The news changes daily, but until I have more reassurance than that, I don’t feel like marinating in my coworkers aerosol, thankyouverymuch.
The smallest lesson from this is that a lot of us are going to find it hard to unmask. I’m struggling with the concept, and I HATE wearing a mask. I’m tired of my glasses fogging, and I feel claustrophobic. But I do it because I know that it has been the safest, most responsible thing to do. It will be difficult for me to gauge when that safety and responsibility is no longer needed.
We’ve all been changed in various negative and positive ways by this past year. We’ve slowed down. We’ve isolated ourselves a lot more. Many of us have worked from home. We’ve all learned that it is possible to do these things. Some of us have liked it, and some of us have not. I suspect that a certain percentage of those who don’t like it will find that they like it a lot more when it becomes voluntary, and they’ll adopt a sort of hybrid lifestyle.
I suspect a lot of people who have been telecommuting will resist going back to the office 5 days a week. That, and businesses will have learned that there’s a lot less overhead to pay when you don’t have to maintain as much office space. And, surprise! The work still seems to be getting done.
On the real estate front, many people who have been allowed to telecommute have sold their houses in the big cities and have moved… well, anywhere they’ve wanted to move. A lot of people have gone rural. It’s going to be really hard to persuade them to come back. (It’s sort of the opposite of, “How will you keep them down on the farm, now that they’ve seen ‘Paree’?”)
And now that I’m more aware of virus vectors, I don’t see myself ever being as comfortable going to large concert venues again. Don’t get me wrong. I miss live performances. I just don’t miss sharing my airspace with a thousand strangers.
I’ll never get used to being crammed into a crowded elevator or subway again. When people cough, I’ll feel a flashing red alert inside my head. I doubt I’ll ever enjoy long air flights again. (But then, they’ve been going down hill since the 80’s, anyway.)
Now, when I forget my mask, I don’t get very far. I feel naked and exposed and vulnerable. I’m horrified. I turn right back around and I get it. I think it will take more than a minute for me to get past that feeling.
I suspect that this virus has changed us in ways that we have yet to see. Personally, I’ve enjoyed not having a single solitary cold all year long. I wouldn’t mind continuing to wear a mask in more crowded places if I could stay on that path.
I suspect, at a bare minimum, a certain percentage of us will continue to wear masks, at least some of the time. I also suspect that those of us who do are going to get bullied for it by various factions. But we are living in a different world now, and that’s just a hard fact.
These are my predictions. What do you think? In any event, time will tell.
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