Here’s the question on many people’s minds as they sample some tastes of normal life during this Covid-19 pandemic:
We will ever have a fully normal life in the next few months or even the next few years?
There is no good answer unless our labs quickly come up with a blockbuster vaccine. There are already at least 254 therapies and 95 vaccines related to Covid-19 being explored.
A promising one will probably take about 18 months for full use approval if the FDA gives it fast tracking. But you can’t fast track the regulatory review and final approval processes. That would be near insanity — like Donald Trump’s admitted use of hydroxychloroquine because he thinks it might work.
(The National Capital Poison Center tells about a husband and wife who each took a dose of it. They were hit with fever, vomiting, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and falling down when trying to stand. They were taken to a hospital where the husband died. The wife survived.)
We will see great change in our lives and behavior. Airlines are working on how to make you feel safe to fly again. Companies are rethinking their office arrangements.
University of Toronto Prof. Richard Florida, a city planner, says “Fear of density, and of trains [HART?] in particular, plus a desire for safer, more private surroundings may pull some toward the rural areas. Families with children and the vulnerable, in particular, may trade their city apartments for a house with a backyard.”
Prof. Edward Glaeser of Harvard adds that “The ability to provide pleasure by serving a latte with a smile has long provided a safe haven where the unemployed could find work. But if pandemics become routine, then human interactions will create more fear than joy, and those jobs will vanish.
“If pandemics become the new normal, then tens of millions of urban service jobs will disappear.”
Who’s going to be on the hook for all those delayed mortgage payments, especially if Covid-19 hangs on and maybe a new fall flu virus hits us? If unemployment continues and people can’t pay, the stress on the mortgage system could mean no new mortgages for would-be home buyers — another bullet to the economy.
The experts expect many to shun any mass transit. They think we’ll also distrust ride shares with unknown drivers. Maybe there will be an uptick in car ownership. Good for car companies, bad for ride share drivers.
Would you be willing to return to an office job and work with some colleague who’s sort of sick some day? Working from home eliminates all the healthy, informal idea sharing that innovative businesses thrive on.
Would you ride elevators with others and share the air?
I am reading some optimism, too, such as cityscapes expert and author Robert Muggah. He says:
“Many of our favorite bars, restaurants, and cafes will be gone, but others will take their place. Elders may avoid urban spaces for a time, yielding a temporarily younger, fitter, more risk-tolerant downtown population. And the inevitable lingering fear of infection will be countered by a quarantine rebound effect: People will strain to get out from lockdown, hungry for the simple joys of being in fearless proximity with one another on a busy city street.”
But reality tells us we may begin living in a system of regular mass testing as we confront new SARS offspring.
University of Chicago epidemiology professor Sarah Cabey predicts that “what you’ll want to do is identify a subset of people, and periodically swab everyone in it, regardless of symptoms. This group can serve as a bellwether for the general rates in the larger population. This makes sure you’re not getting skewed by things like some people avoiding or being unable to go to the doctor, or uneven rates of testing availability, and the percentage of people who we know are transmitting the virus without having any symptoms.”
So maybe I’m fortunate to be 84 with a less than great ticker.
I can skip out on some of the fun the rest of you will face!