Ed Yong’s Our Pandemic Summer at The Atlantic throws some much needed cold water on the idea of the world returning to normal within the next few months:
As I wrote last month, the only viable endgame is to play whack-a-mole with the coronavirus, suppressing it until a vaccine can be produced. With luck, that will take 18 to 24 months. During that time, new outbreaks will probably arise. Much about that period is unclear, but the dozens of experts whom I have interviewed agree that life as most people knew it cannot fully return. “I think people haven’t understood that this isn’t about the next couple of weeks,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota. “This is about the next two years.”
The pandemic is not a hurricane or a wildfire. It is not comparable to Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Such disasters are confined in time and space. The SARS-CoV-2 virus will linger through the year and across the world. “Everyone wants to know when this will end,” said Devi Sridhar, a public-health expert at the University of Edinburgh. “That’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”
In California, Governor Newsom said on Tuesday “the prospect of a mass gathering is negligible at best” this summer, but it’s really looking like this year. Until we have both a vaccine and a herd immunity to the virus, it will continue to spread. Remember how fast it spread from just a few people back in February to where we are today?
I think it was back in March, as the US began to shut down, that I realized we wouldn’t be getting back to normal anytime soon. The more I read and watch coverage of this pandemic from smart, intelligent, well-educated professionals, the more I read between the lines. This isn’t a week long pandemic, it’s not a month long pandemic, it’s not a year long pandemic. COVID-19 will continue to haunt us for years. Some questions I’ve been pondering:
Will Disneyland reopen this year? (Not the most important question, but it‘s important to Pizza Emoji readers, right?) The announcement of Disneyland’s closure in March was my “this is serious“ moment (for a lot of other people, it was the NBA, I think).
Will malls reopen this year? Will they ever reopen? And, what will Black Friday look like this year? (Can Amazon, UPS, etc, handle what is certain to be an unprecedented customer load?)
Will sporting events take place this year? (The Olympics has already been postponed to 2021; colleges are cutting sports to save money.)
How will the 2020 election, possibly one of the biggest elections in living memory, be held? Will the country finally get nation-wide mail in ballets?
Will people travel through airports and security lines and be packed into airplanes for Thanksgiving/Christmas this year?
Will the Super Bowl happen in 2021?
There’s no returning to the world of 2019. We must acknowledge this, remember this, and change. Yong again:
Elsewhere, concerts, conferences, summer camps, political rallies, large weddings, and major sporting events may all have to be suspended for at least this year. “It’s hard for me to imagine anyone going to Fenway Park and sitting with 30,000 fans—that will almost surely be a bad idea,” said Ashish Jha, an internist and public-health expert at Harvard. “This isn’t going to look like a normal summer in America.”