Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
Will life ever get back to normal after the coronavirus nightmare is finally over? Will we be able to shake hands, hug a friend, eat dinner in a restaurant, attend a concert or basketball game, crowd onto beaches and do all the other things we took for granted before we ever heard of the term “social distancing?”
Millions of us have been asking these questions about our strange new world, where we are forced to live in fear of human contact that could lead to severe illness or even death.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – who spends a good deal of time on TV nowadays telling the American people about the coronavirus pandemic – says the virus will determine how long we must live like lone wolves instead of the social animals we are. ]
And frighteningly, Fauci said Tuesday that even if we continue what we have been doing – with most of us staying at home and with much of our economy shut down – the coronavirus could kill 100,000 to 240,000 people in the U.S. and leave millions of us infected.
By way of comparison, about 58,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War. Close to 37,000 Americans died in the Korean War.
As they say in the military, “the enemy has a vote,” so it’s not up to us to decide when our war against the coronavirus will end. But unlike an enemy we face in a conventional war, this enemy is microscopic – one-thousandth the width of a human eyelash. And this tiny enemy is more dangerous than many of the armies we have faced abroad.
I asked my husband, who is an orthopedic surgeon, if our lives post-coronavirus will ever be the same again. He told me he doesn’t think they will – a response that caused me to think and worry
We all hope and pray that in a few weeks the number of new coronavirus infections decreases enough for us to leave our sheltering-in-place lifestyles. But we will still have to fear that the coronavirus will come back with another strong attack in fall and winter, as many health professionals are expecting.
Might we choose to continue to practice social distancing as we anticipate a fresh coronavirus pandemic? Will handshakes and hugging disappear, to be replaced by bows, elbow taps, waves, or who knows what? Will vacation trips to experience the beauty and wonders of the world be replaced by watching old videos of places we dare not venture any longer?
We will certainly keep washing our hands a lot more often than we did just a few weeks ago – a smart safety measure. But if we have to treat the world around us as a hostile environment – like astronauts on the moon, protected by space suits – the toll the coronavirus takes on us and future generations will be an awful one.
Already, many of us – our children included – have replaced many of our human interactions with online interactions. We’ve done it with education, after-school programs, playdates, doctor appointments and for some – like me and my friends – even virtual happy hours!
Many of us have found ways to work from home. And my husband says that when he goes to his office, nearly half his patients choose to have their appointment done virtually, online. Many people may choose to continue to see their medical providers this way in the future.
And socially, we have become more reclusive in this new world we share with the coronavirus. Will that last? As a very social person, I certainly hope not. I am very blessed with a loving family and a lot of friends, but I have noticed that communications with some of those friends becomes less and less frequent as the days of sheltering in place pile on.
If social distancing continues for months we will likely become more and more comfortable living our lives within the four walls of our homes. Working from home will become easier for those of us who can do our jobs remotely, and we will get used to handling many tasks with a phone and a computer.
Will online education became the norm, largely replacing K-12 schools – or more likely replacing residential colleges? Will we gather for parties on screens rather than in person? Will online shopping drive most brick and mortar stores out of business?
As a person who comes from a very loving, hugging and touchy family (Sicilian and Jewish in my background), I certainly hope that social distancing doesn’t become the norm.
Someday, COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – will be eliminated or nearly eliminated with a vaccine, the way polio and the measles have been vanquished. Or the respiratory disease will be tamed with an effective treatment.
That day can’t come soon enough. And I hope when it does we will be able to once again shake hands, hug and interact as we did before, so that children in future generations will have to check a dictionary when they first hear the term “social distancing.”