There Is No More "Normal" When the Lockdown Ends

Talking about “life after lockdown” brings comfort and hope to many. I see it across social media every day, in the forms of memes, TikToks, and tweets – even conversations with friends. I think about it a lot too. I’m excited to go to the movies again, eat at my favorite restaurants, dance at clubs, hang out in the mall. But while we relish in our fantasy of the future, there is a realization not many have grasped yet. When America (and the rest of the world, for that matter) lifts the stay at home orders, we will be entering a world we have never seen before. People say they can’t wait to “get back to normal”, but the truth is this – there is no more “normal” when this ends.

One of the most frustrating things about the coronavirus and its impact on the world is how little we know about it. It’s forced us into a new way of living that we haven’t experienced in our lifetime. Governments and health experts are learning as we are, and the only way to tackle it is taking a step at a time, with the help of projections and guidelines. Despite that, there are a few things to know for sure; one of them being that we will not jump back into everything at once. Reopening will happen in phases over decided periods of time. The White House released a plan of reopening last week, however, these timelines are up to the states. Things will come back slowly – restaurants, shops, theaters – then schools, offices, non-essential traveling – and very lastly, concert venues and stadiums. Establishments will be phased in, but they will not look like they once did. We will all still have to abide by social distancing measures, wear face masks in public, things experts say will likely go through 2021. These places will look a lot different than what we’re used to. It sounds depressing, yes, but this is our new reality. NIAID director Dr. Fauci said in March a vaccine for COVID-19 is approximately twelve to eighteen months away – which even then experts say is a hopeful prediction. Unless you happen to live in a state in which your government is trying to kill you, it will be quite a while before we get everything back, albeit safely. The bottom line is this: we will be living different lives for at least the next two years.

Since the lockdown in the U.S. began, a lot of people were hopeful things would be alright come fall – some even believed by summer. Organizations postponed events to later in the year, such as Coachella. The fate of many other concerts and events have gone unanswered. But by learning more about the virus and its trajectory, and by listening to health officials, you can make your own safe prediction about what will happen to those events. 

Yes, the outlook on this is that we will not have sporting games, concerts, festivals, commencement ceremonies, for the remainder of 2020. 2021 is up in the air as well. Only in the last few days has companies picked up on this – San Diego Comic Con, pride parades, and Facebook events have all been canceled. This trend will continue in the coming weeks and months. A world without all the things we love looks bleak – like many of you, I also had a multitude of things to look forward to this year. The only thing we can do now is adjust to the new world, call on our elected officials and hold them accountable. Before any part of society opens up, this country needs to change. The United States has the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world. There is no vaccine for this virus. Governments will spend at least the next twelve months playing a game of “whack-a-mole” to suppress outbreaks as they arise until there is one. For now, we need mass testing and contact tracing – and we are significantly behind. It will take a lot of work and money to get to a substantial level of testing, but it is still possible. 

We’ll stumble back out into the world when that day comes. The coronavirus will change the way we think, interact, travel, date, and with whom we do that with. Every decision we make and what we choose to do in public with others will carry a risk. What we’re living through will affect us for the rest of our lives; but hopefully it will bring us closer together through these tough times.