The radical changes in everyday life forced upon us by the COVID-19 pandemic have been vigorously debated as too much or too little. Whether new behaviors carry over to life after this immediate health threat is also unknown.
I think the return to previous daily habits will be slower than we think and uneven across the country and world, depending on when people decided COVID-19 was a local threat.
This event has been so universal and life-altering it seems logical to assume daily activity months from now will be different, as lessons from this trial become internalized.
For example, I think mask-wearing when away from home will become a sign of courtesy as we now know it slows infection emanating from the wearer, more than the reverse. The virus reappear could later, and more and closer examples of illness will overcome skepticism about their use. I could imagine new travel screening, similar to what happened after 9/11. For example, once a vaccine has been developed, a document similar to what I had to carry years ago when I was in Africa showing my immunization record could be as routine as your passport – even domestically. Body temperature screening could be standard practice as well at transportation centers or large gatherings. Survivors may carry immunity certificates, which could earn them social privileges. And who knows what will happen to hand-shaking?
There may be a more widely shared sense of urgency for better broadband, especially for rural America. Those who only recently grudgingly learned to order food and merchandise on-line, conduct financial matters like banking, and acquire new skills on YouTube to solve problems that repairmen could not visit to fix, will not unlearn those abilities or forget the surprising advantages.
COVID-19 is keeping us apart. When we can we will probably reconnect as fast as possible in person with our family, friends, and business partners, but the frequency of face-to-face contact for all these relationships may not rebound to pre-COVID levels. More unsettlingly, many of us may be OK with more isolation in whatever normal times look like in the future.