4 min read

Week Something - A New Normal

March took forever but now all of a sudden we are at the end of April what the hell is going on

— My friend Sheena, on Twitter

Time is a funny thing. I was thinking it had been a few weeks since I last wrote and I should do an update soon. Turns out that I last wrote on April 4th about the challenging times we were all experiencing- over three weeks ago. Three weeks isn’t all that bad though.

Sheena is right about how long March took to pass and April has sped along. The weather has been warming up more, creating more positive energy as we get outside more often, especially in Kelowna where our winter has been long and our spring cooler than usual. The other factor has been us adapting to this new norm. I think a lot of us were feeling anxious in March when the COVID-19 pandemic first become serious news. I know I certainly was. It was a new experience for most of us working from home, being distant from friends and family, and not being able to rely on certain activities or services like gyms and hair salons.

But, here we are, with new habits and making new discoveries about ourselves. It’s been interesting to see everyone shift from questioning, “What the heck is COVID-19?” to “How do we slow it down?” to now asking, “How do we get back to normal and what does it look like?” The latest questions cause a bit debate in my mind.

On the one hand, the primary driver in things returning to the pre-COVID normal is the economy. It’ll be better to have the malls opened again and people going to the movies, to get money flowing through the system and fewer people requiring assistance from the federal government. A lot of people are concerned because their way of living is changing and having things stall like this will set them back for awhile.

On the other side, at what cost will things return to normal? It seems so crazy to me that some US states are re-opening for business and Saskatchewan has announced their plan to slowly open up when the number of active cases of the virus is far worse than it was when things started shutting down. We haven’t reached that magical tipping point of when there are more newly recovered cases than active cases. There is still a 500 person gap in Canada according to World Meters Info, which makes the tipping point a few weeks away at least. The death totals in Canada have gone from 231 on April 4th to 2,560 as of today. A staggering number.

The cost of opening up remains unknown since no Western country has attempted it yet. I don’t think we can look at the success of South Korea as being a beacon of hope, because they treated the infected in a far different way than we have in North America. People in Canada have been told to self-isolate at home at the first sign of any symptoms. Generally, they’re only getting tested if things get worse and they require treatment. From what I’ve read, in South Korea and China, people were quarantined in hotels or other building at first sign of symptoms. They didn’t take any chances.

But then there is the concept of the herd immunities: having more people become immune to the disease to slow its growth. This happens either by exposure and natural immunity being built up, or through vaccines. There is a lot of debate about whether this will be an effective strategy or not with COVID-19, because not enough is known about it yet (namely, whether people who have had COVID-19 can catch it again.)

At some point, life will start up again. What it will look like is a big question that’s unanswered. There are certain things that people will get back into the habit of quickly, visits with friends/work from coffee shops and visits to hair salons or barber shops being the two that come to mind immediately. There are some societal norms that will most likely disappear, like handshakes. Movie theatre attendance has been declining for several years now, but with studios releasing movies directly for purchase-on-demand, I wonder if movie theatres will be reserved for the big blockbuster movies, like Star Wars and Avengers, that bring out the crowds.

Restaurants are doing everything they can to survive right now. I think they will definitely shift from being only a place people go to eat to a place that has more versatility with how they earn money. More restaurants have started doing food delivery themselves, plus using services like Skip the Dishes and DoorDash. Some have been doing online cooking classes. I think those kinds of services will become more common and not exclusive to larger chains.

I think it's a mistake to start OPENING retail establishments to walk in traffic. INSTEAD we should allow ANY BUSINESS to offer Pick Up and Delivery starting now. It worked for restaurants, it can work for any biz. Thoughts ?

— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) April 26, 2020

Mark Cuban is onto something with all retail outlets offering same day delivery too. It won’t work for everything, but could definitely work for electronics, books, and other products where people do research in advance. More phone consultations about the products they need from a store like Rona or Home Depot, then delivery of those products that afternoon. I wonder if local delivery services will start levelling the playing field a bit with larger companies like Amazon or Walmart.

The other thing I have started to notice is people talking to their neighbours more and hanging around parks (while practicing social distancing.) It’s been nice to see people checking in with others while sitting on their driveways, or the numerous group video chat calls with Zoom. I wonder if people will continue these habits or revert back to wanting to connect in coffee shops or restaurants when they can.

Life has definitely changed for us all. I will be curious to see how much more life changes in the coming weeks and months as we adapt to life with COVID-19 being a real threat and other viruses likely to threaten us in the future.

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