Predicting what the pandemic will look like in the future
By Madelin Chau
When the WHO officially declared COVID-19 as a global health emergency on January 30, 2020, the majority of the world carried on like normal. Yet by the end of March, over 100 countries went into either a partial or total lockdown, turning life as we knew it upside down. Now, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the lockdown, with only 7.7% of the US population that have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, questions arise about what the future will look like. What are the pandemic’s residual effects on the way we work, play, eat, socialize, etc? Will things ever go back to “normal?”
So far, although the efficacy for both the Moderna (94.1%) and Pfizer (95%) vaccines are very high, experts still caution people to continue wearing masks. Why? The vaccines work to prevent a severe or fatal reaction to the virus, but vaccinated patients can possibly still become infected and transmit the virus. Because they would likely have very mild to no symptoms, they dangerously could become silent spreaders while creating a sense of false peace among communities. Until the vaccine distribution reaches a level where herd immunity can take over, we will probably be wearing masks for the foreseeable future.
As schools and workplaces moved to online formats, endless Zoom meetings, mid-day naps, and a loungewear dress code took over. Yet, despite the drawbacks of a remote setting, including Zoom fatigue, a growing sense of isolation, and a less defined schedule, many companies, like Facebook and Google, are choosing to allow most of their employees to work from home indefinitely, even when the pandemic is over. While the value of in-person collaboration is certainly significant, allowing employees to work from anywhere can lead to more equitable outcomes such that people can live in places with a lower cost of living or in closer proximity to family. Universities and school, however, are more likely to return to in-person learning as soon as possible since social interaction with peers is a crucial aspect of education, and countless students have reported how remote learning has negatively impacted their mental health and drastically increased their workload.
As many people will continue to be staying home and relying on technology for all areas of life, more industries and companies in technology will likely emerge, especially in entertainment and EdTech. Until people feel safe in public spaces, like movie theaters, they will be looking for immersive forms of entertainment, such as those powered by artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the EdTech industry has used virtual reality to enable students to explore different locations in replacement of field trips, and they’re working to create more types of technology that customizes a student’s learning experience.
With a more remote work culture, business trips may drastically go down, but vacations will likely skyrocket after people have been cooped up for so long. Airlines may hope to relax their rules in the hope of bringing back all of the revenue lost during quarantine. However, because of the dangers of spreading a virus across international borders, governments might require airports to hold onto stringent mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines even after the pandemic is long gone. Some countries may restrict entrance to those with vaccine passports containing proof of immunization. In this case, airline tickets may increase astronomically in price because those desperate to travel would be willing to pay.
With a lower number of vehicles on the road, satellite data shows that the amount of fossil fuels emitted into the atmosphere has decreased dramatically. As many events and activities continue to be held online, we may be headed towards a positive direction in terms of slowing the progress of climate change.
The pandemic caused relationships to suffer as family and friends were separated, unable to see each other for months or more. After enduring numerous awkward video calls with issues like lagging, speaking while “on mute,” and having poor WiFi connectivity, we have learned to appreciate in-person social interactions. Quarantine also forced us to slow down from our busy lives and spend more time with families. While this often brought tension and stress to relationships, it allowed people the opportunity to deal with personal issues that might have been ignored before. Hopefully, the pandemic will cause people to value their relationships more in the future and not take for granted being able to see loved ones.
In conclusion, the pandemic is far from over. We will continue to see its effects in the years to come, whether through different conceptualizations of work versus play, new industries that will emerge, or even new ways of how we live life. Hopefully, though, the pandemic has taught us to treasure the time that we have because, as we’ve seen, the world can completely change overnight.
About Madelin Chau
I'm a sophomore majoring in English and minoring in Political Science on the pre-law track. I joined UNICEF because I'm passionate about human rights and wanted to learn more about UNICEF's work to fight for children globally. In my free time, I enjoy going on walks in the Arb, exploring new coffee shops (pre-COVID), and having late-night deep talks with my friends.