I believe that life will be very different, following the coronavirus pandemic. But I also believe that as a nation, America will be stronger than ever before.
The coronavirus pandemic has deeply impacted us. Not only did this virus infect well over a million people in America, it also claimed tens of thousands of lives. In millions more, it inflicted fear. Furthermore, it has caused financial havoc across the country.
The coronavirus changed the way we live our lives, by making us alter the way we conduct everyday activities. Now, people wear masks and facial coverings when outside their homes, work remotely from their residences in numbers that we have never seen before, constantly sanitize and wash their hands, and avoid shaking hands or giving hugs.
Even after the pandemic is over, it would perhaps take quite a while before the fear of the virus subsides. Post-pandemic, I guess there will be far more germophobes than there were prior to the outbreak. Cleanliness is often thought of as being next to godliness. As such, it should be a top priority in our everyday life. But in many cases, efforts to ensure cleanliness and hygiene have been stretched to an extreme level. Needless to say, I am noticing an unprecedented level of alertness in people, as everyone strives to avoid contracting coronavirus.
However, this outbreak and subsequent lockdown and separation from friends and loved ones have made many people realize the value of relationships. There are numerous instances of adult children greeting their elderly parents from afar or through a glass door or window, friends standing several feet apart from each other in a park and having a conversation, people reconnecting with those they have not spoken with in a long time, etc. There is a heightened level of engagement on social media, signifying that while people are staying physically distant, they are communicating with others through other means.
The crisis has shown us that “emergency preparedness” is not simply a combination of two words that, in theory, is a part of many organizations and households, but that preparedness truly has value and must be practiced. As the virus started to spread, people rushed to the stores to buy canned food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. Many stores ran out of these items, and then had to ration these essentials by customer or household. This is not a situation that Americans ever predicted having to face.
In particular, senior citizens and people with disabilities faced challenging situations. But that revealed the true power of kindness, and generosity, and volunteerism. Social service organizations galvanized their resources to prepare and deliver care packages and food to homebound and elderly people. Food pantries saw high demand for food, and fundraising efforts raised donations to help meet the need.
Even when restaurants had to close their doors to dine-in customers, community members supported these businesses by ordering food for takeout, for delivery, or purchased meals via drive-through. When people are facing loss of incomes, uncertainty about future earnings, and depleting their savings, efforts to help each other stay afloat during this economic crisis is a testament to the strength of communities across America.
The crisis also revealed the power of American enterprise. For example, strong public-private partnerships enabled companies to retrofit their manufacturing facilities to produce ventilators. Many distilleries used their resources to produce alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Not only businesses, but also private individuals, produced face masks to meet the growing demand.
Most importantly, people collectively took steps to “flatten the curve” and slow down the spread of this virus by following public health guidelines. It was a massive challenge, an enormous mountain to climb. But we did it and the country is starting to re-open slowly.
Stores would soon start opening their doors, restaurants may see traffic of dine-in customers, and hospitals and clinics would start scheduling appointments that were cancelled previously due to the outbreak. People may switch from teleworking and go back to their offices. Schools, when it is safe to do so, may resume classes.
The road ahead is still full of challenges, and recovering from the economic losses, and the emotional toll, would not be easy. However, the difficulties we faced, and the problems we managed to overcome, would make us stronger as individuals, and also as a nation.