[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]

Thoughts on our Near-Term Pandemic Future:

Scientists look for patterns and there are some emerging patterns that may be predictive of our near-term future. Here are some patterns that we might expect to continue for a few years and beyond.

Voice and sensor driven technologies for opening doors turning faucets on/off dispensing towels, soap, hand sanitizer, lighting, heating, air conditioning, and so on should accelerate reducing the need to touch. Telework should continue for those who can work from anywhere electronically. Research on autonomous vehicles should accelerate including the artificial intelligence work required for them as well as lots of other applications such as technical support, shopping support, banking, telemedicine, travel, and so on. Electronic payments including credit cards, Apple pay, Samsung pay, Amazon pay, PayPal, among other approaches should continue to replace cash money; and we will see more restaurants, bakeries, retail stores, and so on only accept electronic payments. More education will be virtual rather than face-to-face and the need for additional education and training will be required for new jobs created and to replace jobs lost to AI, automation, and robotics.

Demographically, we are continuing to become a more diverse nation, an older nation, and hopefully wiser if we are able to learn and grow from experience. Somehow, we will need to figure out how to live in a continuing diverse society or find another approach to what the US should look like: The United States of America, The Divided States of America, or something else. Countries don’t last forever and boundaries can and do change.

Socially, we should expect to continue to social distance, wear face masks, and hand sanitize over the next year or so as the novel coronavirus is quite likely to stay with us, much like the seasonal flu. Will we see a vaccine? Possibly at some point, but not necessarily. We don’t have vaccines for all strains of flu and HIV for example. We might see some promising coronavirus treatments before we see an effective vaccine.

There are of course, lots of things going on that we don’t have clear patterns for, such as who will win the presidency, the Senate, and the House in November, especially in a pandemic and economic recession / depression period of time. We don’t have a good pattern for an economic recovery; the 2008-2009 Great Recession took years to reduce unemployment and many tens of thousands of people never recovered from financial loss. The recovery from the 1920s Great Depression took a couple of decades and still left lots of people behind. Be prepared for years of pain, volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity, and loss. Hopefully, we will see economic recovery in months rather than years, but we really don’t know.

For now, we are in a perfect storm of five colliding crises: a viral pandemic; an economic collapse; climate change; an increasing socio-political division driven by racism, inequality, and identity; and a leadership crisis of the national inability or will to address these problems. Yet, we need solutions and sooner is better than later. Are we up to solving problems of this magnitude? Can we adapt and innovate fast enough? Are we sufficiently resilient? Time will tell.

Yet, for every crisis, there are opportunities. For those who can, now would be a good time to engage with friends, family, community, political system; get involved with organizations driving positive change; support and help those less fortunate; continue to learn and help create the next new normal. While we are not going back to 2019, 2018, … and the reality is we never go back as time and life move forward, there are some things that many of us can do to help make the world a better place tomorrow. As Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead put it, “Somebody has to do something, and it’s incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”

Some sources of information:

    • Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020) http://www.bls.gov
    • Klein, E. (2020). Why we’re polarized. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
    • Smyre, R., & Richardson, N. (2016). Preparing for a World that doesn’t exist yet. New York, NY: Changemakers Books.

– Dave Gould and Peggy Cummings

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