What will life be like after the COVID-19 pandemic?

A prediction of changed social events, health protocols and more



Artwork by Mikayla Kresco

In these uncertain times, many of us are wondering: Will we ever go back to normal? What will the future look like post-pandemic?

No one can predict the future. However, trends and patterns can be observed. Having an eye for details like these can maintain job security and ultimately gain a basic understanding of the road ahead. In addition, paying attention to words of the most qualified people, such as health care professionals, will also be beneficial. 

According to The Huffington Post, the COVID-19 pandemic has “uprooted life.” Social gatherings and daily errands have changed. Masks are required in 34 states. According to the CDC, three vaccines are authorized and recommended to protect against COVID-19: Pfizer-BioTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

On March 11, President Joe Biden implemented a nationwide plan for all Americans to be eligible for vaccinations by May 1, with the goal of getting closer to normal by the Fourth of July. Using resources from the American Rescue Plan, the Biden administration will speed up efforts to create more places for people to get vaccinated, including the most impacted populations, and provide tools to make it easier for people to find a vaccine. 

However, Laurie Garrett, a Pulitzer prize winning public health journalist, explains that a lack of a unified approach in acknowledging the pandemic could create an obstacle in eradicating the virus, even with the addition of a vaccine. 

“The virus will continue to circulate in the world, regardless of whether or not there’s a vaccine – unless we’re committed to a strategic goal of really getting rid of the virus from the planet with the appropriate implementation of [a] vaccine for everybody: 7.5 billion human beings,” Garrett said in an interview with CNN

Institute for the Future executive director Marina Gorbis explains that the galvanic forces exerted by pandemics in the past have always shaped global history. 

“Whether it’s the bubonic plague, the Spanish flu or coronavirus, pandemics inevitably are both health events and social events that cause transformations in society and politics,” Gorbis said in an interview with USA Today

Some of these social events can even come down to basic greetings, like those that involve human contact. Dr. Leslie Gutman, the director of the Behaviour Change MSC program at University College London, explains that basic interactions, such as hugging or handshaking, could decrease in use even after the threat of the pandemic. 

“Over time, we could see a shift in the social norms, where it is more acceptable not to shake hands or refuse a kiss on the cheek,” said Gutman in an interview with Elle magazine. 

Health protocols could also change. An upgrade on hospitals in the future will ensure a safe environment for personnel and patients, and make them more prepared for any emergency situations, according to the magazine Medical Futurist. Additionally, there are indicators that point to a rough start, such as the high unemployment rates.

However, while unemployment rates are decreasing, they are still higher than it was before the pandemic. On March 11, the Department of Labor stated that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits dropped to 712,000 the week ending March 6. Before the pandemic, in February 2020, the unemployment rate was only at 3.8% compared to 13% in May that same year.

“Both the unemployment rate, at 6.2 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 10.0 million, changed little in February. Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020,” the Bureau of Labor statistics read. 

Brian Chesky is the CEO and cofounder of Airbnb, a vacation rental company that downsized 25% of its workforce—representing roughly 1,900 people.

“I will go on the record to say that travel will never, ever go back to the way it was pre-COVID; it just won’t,” Chesky said in an interview with Forbes

Many more office staff will continue to work from home, even after the pandemic, according to BBC Future. Public transport has already been down in places such as New York. In January, turnstile entries to the Times Square 42nd Street station remained at 19% of what they were last year. 

“What the pandemic has done is just underscored that and accelerated that and maybe in some places brought it to a final conclusion,” said Randal O’Toole, a public policy analyst at the Cato Institute in an interview with Time Magazine

Even though we can predict what will happen after the pandemic ends, the overall, definite picture is still hard to envision. 

“I think we’re going to get four, five years from now and there will not be a single aspect of our lives that’s been unchanged,” Garrett said at CNN‘s ongoing coronavirus town hall. “It’s almost impossible to really fully envision what that will look like.”