Each time I think about returning to normalcy, I experience a wave of nausea. Every activity that is currently banned or limited by the authorities is fraught with danger- a possibility of being infected with the coronavirus.
I made a list of daily activities we do in in this country. Is it reasonable that my family and I will partake in them in the near future? Before the development of a vaccine? If our leaders say we should act normally, can I, in good conscience, endorse these activities for my loved ones with so many unanswered questions and concerns?
Returning to work. Currently, the world is working from home, for the most part. Although commerce has decreased by a staggering amount, many are doing business work online. It’s safe and it’s easy, but will this method of doing business be apropos for most industries in the coming months? Will workers balk at directives to return to the office, if they know they will face crowded elevators, wide open floors and certain danger if they commute by public transportation or taxis? Will CEO’s will insist that business is better if done face to face with clients?
Returning to school. There’s no way parents are going to allow their kids to reenter schools, if there is a scintilla of risk associated with doing so. Our most precious assets are our youth. They should not be jeopardized under any circumstances. Nevertheless, principals are trying to figure out how to keep children away from each other while in the classroom. It seems like a very difficult situation to solve, if in fact distancing is still recommended.
Restaurants. Restaurants are one of the mainstays of most big cities. It would be difficult to estimate the significant impact they have on employment, commerce and quality of life. Restaurants are used to do business, fraternize with family and friends and substitute for home cooking. If distancing continues to be mandated, at a minimum, restaurants will have far fewer people at their establishment, if any at all. Moreover, many urban restaurants are mom and pop operations that will be unable to recover financially and adopt to new standards after an extended layoff.
Public transportation. In particular, public transportation is critical to commerce in New York City and other large metropolitan areas. The City will not be able to operate without an efficiently operated and safe infrastructure. Distancing and cleanliness are over-riding issues.
Airlines. If CEOs want their salespeople on the road to see clients, airlines will need to be ready to accommodate travelers with a safe experience. Airplanes are not benign places under the best of circumstances. Passengers are seated close to each other, and air conditioning systems propagate the spread of germs. Distancing will mean fewer passengers on each flight. Lower load factors will be a financial disaster for airlines.
Movies. There are thousands movie theaters throughout the country. Many Americans enjoy seeing a film outside of their homes from time to time. Will they do so if they are squeezed together next to a stranger. Once again, distancing becomes a problem, especially if there’s a cougher beside you or behind you. Similar to airlines, customers will be spread out so attendance in theaters will decrease making them less profitable.
Religious ceremonies. Sitting closely together in houses of worship also defies distancing mandates. Decrease attendance in churches, synagogues and mosques will impact their revenues.
Hospitals. Hospitals have always been hot spots where infection and germs are in the air and on the floor by definition. The pandemic has made the issue more acute, as hospitals administrators struggle to keep patients from infecting each other. Air conditioning, disposal of used medical items and the multitude of visitors make these places very dangerous.
Doctors’ offices. On a smaller scale, doctors’ offices face the same issues as hospitals. Sick people in waiting rooms will accommodate the spread of infection. Doctors will likely employ distancing in their offices as they resume their practices.
Gyms and health clubs. Exercise places have historically been difficult places to keep clean. The spread of germs on equipment, in locker rooms and in showers are major issues. Getting patrons to wipe off machines has always been a problem, and we would expect that users will be even more reluctant to touch the equipment when gyms and health clubs reopen.
Large outdoor sporting events. I wonder what baseball, football and basketball teams will do about distancing. The immediate reaction has been to schedule events on TV without any fans in attendance. Grand events, like the Olympics and the World Cup are in great danger of being cancelled. And what about my Yankee season tickets.
The playground. What parent, in their right mind, would bring their child to a public playground where the equipment is never cleaned?
As you can see distancing is going to create enormous problems moving forward. Disregarding distancing recommendations will likely increase the spread of infection and discourage attendance at many of the activities we love.
It seems that a vaccine, at this time, is the most important element to getting the world back to normalcy.