After COVID-19: What to Expect from Post-Pandemic Life
Table of Contents:
- Seeing Family & Friends
- Working From Home
- Doctor’s Visits
- Mask Wearing
- Staying Safe
- Psychological Effects
As COVID-19 cases steadily decline and the percentage of vaccinated Americans continues to rise, we can finally start to see with some clarity what life after COVID may look like. While there are still many unknowns, we can listen to what the experts have to say, see what adjustments have been made already, and make an educated guess about how our lives may be different (and the same) after the pandemic.
Over Mother’s Day weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci forecasted that the country will be “as close to back to normal as we can (be)” by Mother’s Day of 2022. This statement, juxtaposed with the fact that schools across the country are opening again and restaurants/shops are open, implies that there is a multifaceted timeline for the process of getting back to normal. On one hand, there is the one-year outlook, during which time the country will continue to transition out of crisis mode but still remain vigilant against the virus. On the other hand, there is the long-term outlook, which Dr. Fauci claims will become more clear in the spring of 2022.
Come spring of next year, some aspects of life may be exactly the same as they were before the pandemic. Others, however, will be forever changed. Here are a few things to expect from post-pandemic life, as well as what the transition out of the pandemic might look like.
Seeing Family & Friends
If you are vaccinated, and the people you are visiting are vaccinated, you don’t have to worry about wearing masks in private settings, nor is it recommended that you be socially distanced. It is also fine to be outside in public without a mask in such a situation. Where things may get complicated, however, is when you are visiting a group where not everyone is vaccinated, or if you have family or friends who are vaccinated and still do not feel comfortable socializing indoors or in large groups. It is important to know your own comfort level in regard to social interaction, and it is equally important to check in with friends and loved ones about their respective comfort levels. This way, events and gatherings can be planned in such a way that everyone feels safe.
For the next year or so, going out to eat, attending events, visiting museums, going to the movies, and so on may be complicated at times. With that said, it is important to simply check the guidelines and requirements of each business or venue you plan to go to, as each privately-owned business may have unique requirements when it comes to COVID safety. It will be wise to have a mask stowed away with you at all times as we transition out of the pandemic, as you never know when you will be required to wear one (even if you are vaccinated).
International travel is still rather difficult for United States citizens. With that said, it is not out of the question. Currently, over 75% of countries will allow Americans to enter, assuming conditions for entry are met. Depending on the country, requirements could be the same as pre-pandemic requirements, or they could be rather thorough (ranging from proof of vaccination to a negative PCR test from within 48 hours of departure, etc.). Getting back into the US remains somewhat difficult – for re-entry, you will need a negative COVID test from within 3 days of departure. If the country you plan to visit does not have reliable hospital systems, and your test takes more than 3 days to process, you will be denied boarding for your flight back to America. Additionally, should you contract COVID while abroad, you will not be permitted to enter the US until you have fully recovered. This makes international travel a rather large gamble at this time. Once the pandemic has ended globally, travel may continue to look and feel different. It may be necessary to check the health requirements of any country you plan to visit in the future, even years after COVID has ceased to be a common threat.
For domestic travel, conditions should return to normal by spring of 2022. During the interim, masks continue to be required until further notice (regardless of vaccination status) on all forms of public transportation, as well as in airports. It remains to be seen how important it will be to have vaccination cards when traveling domestically or abroad, but this is an area that is worth keeping a close eye on as details emerge.
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Working From Home
One of the biggest adjustments many of us had to make during the pandemic was the switch to remote working. Even after life returns to normal, this pandemic-era concession may become a new fact of life, or, at the very least, a more viable option. For many seniors, the daily commute to and from the job is one of the most exhausting aspects of working life, and the removal of this barrier could allow for an extended career, and/or a more seamless and fulfilling transition from full-time to part-time as the possibility of partial or full retirement becomes more of a reality.
Businesses everywhere have had to make enormous changes to the ways in which they operate. Some businesses had to purchase new point-of-sale technologies (such as iPads or electronic payment processors), while other businesses required customers to make all purchases online or through an app so that no face-to-face interaction would occur between customers and employees. As you can imagine, these purchases constituted large investments in the development and implementation of new technological infrastructure, which means that many companies will not be reverting back to their old ways of doing things. As a result, it can be expected that daily life after the pandemic will involve quite a bit more technology than life before the pandemic. This means you may have to download more apps onto your phone (if you have a smartphone), or adjust to using iPads and other technological interfaces while placing orders and making payments.
To accommodate social distancing measures and to reduce physical contact with patients, doctors across the country have begun to offer telehealth services. This simply means that doctors now also provide their care by phone or video conference. While it used to be somewhat rare for doctors to offer telehealth services in non-emergency situations, doctors everywhere are in the process of determining how much of their practice they would like to devote to telehealth now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic. More insurance providers are beginning to cover telehealth services as well. It may be wise to talk to your doctor(s) to find out how they plan to provide care in the future, as this could vary from doctor to doctor. There are obvious advantages to telehealth (no commute, no time wasted in a waiting room, etc), but if you would rather be seen in-person, you may want to discuss that with your doctor. If you would rather continue to utilize telehealth services, it is important to make sure your health insurance provider covers such services.
More than half the country is now vaccinated, and new cases of COVID are on the decline. While this is an enormous step in the right direction, we are not yet at the point where we can forget about our masks when going out in public. Even by 2022 and beyond, expect a portion of the population to continue to wear masks in public out of an excess of caution. While it is unlikely that masks will be required once things go back to normal, they will still be part of our lives to some degree.
In some far Eastern countries, such as Japan, mask wearing has been a social norm for over a century. Even if an individual has the common cold, it is considered an act of courtesy to wear a mask when in public to reduce the odds of getting others sick. It has been proven that masks protect against diseases that are transmitted via mucus and saliva droplets from the nose and mouth. Therefore, even if COVID is no longer a threat, wearing masks may become more of a normal practice in some circles simply out of caution, courtesy, and pragmatism.
Now that over 80% of seniors are vaccinated, the world is beginning to feel like a much safer place. With that said, COVID has not disappeared, and even those who are vaccinated against it can still catch the virus. Because we are in uncharted territory as a society, and because seniors are a vulnerable population, many individuals may want to take a cautious approach when it comes to acclimating to “normal life” as the world opens up. This is a decision that must be made by the individual, and can be informed by the advice of doctors, experts, and loved ones.
One thing to keep in mind while in public after the pandemic is the fact that every person will have a slightly different comfort level when it comes to physical proximity, mask wearing, crowded areas, and so on. It may require some tense moments and/or awkward conversations to find out that some behavior you are comfortable with (such as a conversation at close distance without masks) may make a friend or relative uncomfortable. Being mindful of other people’s comfort levels, even if they may not appear to be rational, will simply be a new aspect of life for those of us who feel relatively safe now that we are vaccinated. It is also possible that you may feel that others in your life are a bit too comfortable and that this makes you feel unsafe. Part of adjusting to life after the pandemic will include communicating about such things with friends, loved ones, or even strangers in public spaces, such as the supermarket or public transportation.