Should it stay or should it go?

Ira Lacher considers ten cultural shifts occurring because of novel coronavirus, and whether each should and will outlast the pandemic. -promoted by Laura Belin

The world during COVID-19 is vastly different from the world before. But what about the world after?

What changes that we see now are likely to survive the transition when things settle down?

A select few know who will win the Academy Awards, but in this case, no one knows. But that doesn’t stop us from predicting who will win and, more important, whether they or someone else should.

Social distancing

Will it remain? No. It will take time, but human closeness can’t be permanently canceled.

Should it remain? No. For a while, many will avoid large crowds such as at sports stadiums, concert halls and amusement parks, and deign to shake hands with or hug people we don’t know. But public policy needs to concentrate on developing a vaccine, and in the meantime, shift to mass testing, and quarantining of those infected, so the rest of the population can go about their lives.

Limited store access

Will it remain? No. Businesses will want as many people inside as possible to recoup lost trade.

Should it remain? No. But it’s likely that delivery and curbside service will continue as a courtesy, as well as the partitions between checkout clerks and shoppers, which provide safety for both. We’ll get used to those, as we got used to hockey players having to wear helmets.

Better hygiene

Will it remain? Yes. While a whole lot of masks will sit idle once the emergency has passed, covering your cough, hand sanitizing and constant disinfecting will become ubiquitous.

Should it remain? Yes. There’s no downside to good hygiene.

Medical underpreparedness

Will it remain? Yes. As long as capitalism and federalism remain the underpinnings of America, nothing will change.

Should it remain? No. There is no justification to use cost-benefit analysis to continue America’s willful lack of hospital beds, emergency equipment, and safety gear for care providers. Nor for denying everyone access to quality, available, affordable health care. We should guarantee that no one has to make a God-like decision based on how many ICU beds are available or whether someone can pay to live.

Massive work from home

Will it remain? No. Workers will want to hang around the water cooler again, and employers will want to keep tabs on them.

Should it remain? Yes. There always will be people whose jobs depend on being at work sites. But those classified as at-risk will balk at returning to an environment where a constantly coughing colleague is perceived as life threatening. Employers should accommodate them.

Digital divide

Will it remain? Yes. As long as furnishing and maintaining broadband internet remains in the hands of private enterprise.

Should it remain? No. COVID-19 has proved that reliable, affordable broadband internet access is a necessity in a society that could be massively reduced to functioning digitally. Access for individuals shouldn’t depend on income, and communities shouldn’t be excluded because for-profit companies have determined they don’t fit into the business model.

Federal financial stimulus

Will it remain? No. Not as long as conservatives still scream “socialism!”

Should it remain? Yes. If the federal government can invest in large corporations to keep them afloat, Washington can surely invest in the people who make those businesses function. How to pay for it? Reduce corporate and individual tax loopholes, increase the tax rate on those who can afford to pay, and staff the IRS to reclaim the trillions of dollars in unpaid taxes.

Adulation for unsung heroes

Will it remain? Yes. All Americans now know who really make America great.

Should it remain? Yes. We now realize it isn’t the yacht owners who matter most but the first responders, as well as the janitors, checkout clerks, bank tellers, postal workers, semi-trailer drivers, hospital care assistants, and countless others on the low-wage scale.

But just applauding them from our balconies isn’t enough. It’s time to pay people their full worth, protect them against undue exposure to illness, and ensure that everyone can take enough paid time off when they get sick or have to care for family members.

The federal government vs. the states

Will it remain? Yes. As long we maintain our blind faith in antiquated federalism.

Should it remain? No. COVID-19 has laid bare that federalism as espoused by the founders is unworkable in times of nationwide emergency. People are placed at mortal risk when states act in different, often irresponsible ways. Perhaps this disaster will convince lawmakers that we need to establish national laws regarding emergencies, as well as mundane issues such as cohabitation, reproductive rights, and criminal and civil statutes.

Societal stupidity

Will it remain? Yes. Just because.

Should it remain? No. But as long as there are people who abuse their authority, scoff at science, place personal gain above society’s, confuse faith with religion, and embrace individuality over the common good, we will return to discussions like this.

Top image created by the Centers for Disease Control to illustrate “ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.”

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