Moving Forward From Coronavirus Lockdowns
As more governors and state officials move towards easing COVID-19 lockdowns, many people are speculating how life will look after quarantines are removed. We already know that officials and community leaders will encourage (and even require) people to buy fabric face masks and wear those masks in public areas where social distancing is not guaranteed.
While experts scramble to find ways to help Americans balance normal economic life while reducing the spread fo the coronavirus, there are, among many others, three main areas of the American lifestyle that will be changed forever including:
- Attending public religious ceremonies like Sunday church services.
- Using public transportation like flying in a commercial airline.
- Going back to the office for work.
It’s completely natural for people to want to get back to life before the lockdowns, but how society will function is a question that experts have not been able to answer.
The American lifestyle was built around, working in close proximity to other people. From going to the grocery store to enjoying a day at the beach, Americans are used to working and relaxing in various ways that require social distancing of fewer than 6 feet apart.
It goes without saying that all areas of the American economy, social structure, and cultural fabric are changed forever, there are many questions about how and when the public will get back to the new “normal.”
Returning To The New Normal After COVID-19 Lockdowns
Let’s take a look at how the future of the above four areas of American life could look after lockdowns are lifted, and Americans are permitted to get back to life as we remember it.
How Will Americans Get Back To Sunday Church Service?
Large gatherings will be changed in the short and mid-term once state-wide and local lockdowns are lifted.
Theme parks like Disney and Universal are expecting low attendance as Americans will practice social distancing and avoid large crowds for months (and perhaps years) once lockdowns are lifted.
The same principle applies to Sunday church service where more than 50 people gather at a time. This is because traditional church service comprises individuals sitting in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time and interacting with each other before, during, and after the sermon.
In addition to sitting near other people, practitioners also use singing and worship through the service. Since one way the coronavirus is spread through water droplets in the air, singing and worship pose an immediate risk to worshipers who are in the general vicinity of other church-goers.
The risk of spreading coronavirus increases as more people interact with each other and Sunday church services are the perfect environment for a virus to spread.
Practitioners touch surfaces like chairs, Bibles, and door handles. Shared food and drink stations are provided to improve the atmosphere. They sing songs, talk with their congregation, and hug each other throughout the course of a traditional church service.
There are countless other ways that a virus can spread in normal times at church, and the risks are only amplified in the age of the coronavirus.
I had the chance to talk with Phil Taylor, a local church leader, about what he and his church team are preparing to welcome practitioners back after lockdown. Phil is the Executive Pastor at Mosaic Church, where he and his team serve a large congregation of over 3,000 people each week.
Phil tells me that due to the size of the congregation, he and his team are considering a range of factors like:
- Social distancing. How far should people distance themselves? How will this look during worship? How will Mosaic Church encourage people to maintain proper distance?
- Limit Attendance. One way Phil’s team is looking to protect the congregation is to limit the number of people who can attend live services at a time. The remaining congregation would need to attend online sermons, but this solution opens different logistical issues like how to decide who can attend in-person.
- Physical Tests. Another option that Phil’s team is considering in the mix of solutions is to use a laser to check the temperature of practitioners before they are allowed to access live services. This is a great option, but 25% of people infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic and do not necessarily show signs like increased temperature.
- Require Masks and Other PPE. Finally, Phil shared another idea that Mosaic and other churches may have to implement that includes requiring church-goes to wear a cloth face mask and other PPE when at live service. This option will help the spread of coronavirus and ease the minds of worshippers, but it could interfere with the personal connections that people have when attending church services.
Mental health and isolation are two of the biggest impacts that Americans suffer from coronavirus lockdowns. Not only are Americans removed from their daily routine, but they are also prohibited from attending public events including church services.
Churches around the U.S. will need to consider how they can balance the health of individuals while also optimizing the experience and benefits of attending church.
It will be interesting to see how Phil and other church leaders approach this situation, but it goes without saying that the future of church services will change in the months and years to come.
Will Americans Travel By Air Again?
Currently, American airlines are reeling from the steep decline in the demand for domestic air travel. Not is airline demand down from state travel bans, travelers are simply turned off from traveling by air due to the close proximity that they must remain in with other passengers for an extended period of time.
Some airlines have already started to experiment with removing the middle seat option to increase space between passengers. While no one loves the middle seat, the question must be asked if the desired results of social distancing are accomplished by adding 18 inches of space between passengers.
Not only is the space separating passengers much less than the 6 feet recommended by the CDC, and removing the middle seat does not address space issues between passengers sitting in front of and behind each other.
Instead, of relying on the empty seats that bleed airline profits and offers minimal health benefits, some airline providers are looking at new seating layout designs to achieve passenger confidence and improved health. One Italian firm called Avionteriors is looking at a new seating layout.
This new layout would have the middle seat facing backward and include a glass barrier between nearby seats. This layout is a great design to provide added protection while also allowing more passengers on each flight.
The truth is that airlines have a difficult situation on their hands. They need to balance the economics of flying passengers while also improving the health considerations for each passenger.
Social distancing is just part of the equation that airlines and passengers need to consider when returning to the air for public transportation. Many airlines are requiring passengers to wear a fabric face mask when they fly, and there are other preventative measures people should take when flying in the future.
Are Cubicles and Shared Office Work Environments Gone Forever?
The typical office setting will change forever after coronavirus lockdowns are lifted. Most Americans have come to know their office job because they sit down at a cubical with other coworkers located in close proximity to them.
While sitting at their desk working on their computer, hundreds of coworkers walk by, stop to talk, and interact in a shared environment. This office setting was designed to increase working space and minimize physical barriers in the shared working area.
This type of setting is meant to maximize productivity and minimize distractions for coworkers. However, while this type of workplace offers face-to-face interactions among coworkers and customers, it also opens up lots of opportunities for individuals to contract and spread COVID-19.
In response, many companies are already looking at ways to increase teleconference meeting and virtual workplaces instead of relying on the physical shared workplace. While virtual work solutions address the health concerns of spreading the coronavirus, this option misses the shared productivity that employees need to be their best in different industries.
Perhaps virtual workplaces are the best options for the short-term, but many experts agree that companies will need to find different ways to get people back to work in a traditional shared workspace. One solution will be to add physical barriers between cubicles, and employees will need to wear fabric face masks at the office to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
What Will The New “Normal” Look Like After Lockdown?
Unfortunately, no one knows the answer. Will we get a vaccine tomorrow (not likely) or will we have to have a slow rollout with loosening lockdown regulations?
Whether we see a speedy recovery from a medical perspective or not, the U.S. will be forever changed. Let’s keep an eye out for how our politicians and city leaders will guide our policies to drive the economy forward while balancing the health of the population!