Sep 6, 2020 - Health

Pandemic changes we might want to keep

Illustration of a smiley face sticker wearing a face mask
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has caused hardship and sorrow around the world, but it has also forced innovations that might stick around after the pandemic is under control.

Why it matters: Some of those changes have proven to be popular and may improve people's lives if they become permanent.

Here are the changes that are most likely to outlast the pandemic, according to Axios experts:

  • Remote job postings allow workers anywhere to find employment where the jobs are — and remote work cuts out the commute, giving time, money and life satisfaction back to workers while reducing fuel demand.
  • More movies will be streamed. The pandemic has forced studios and theater companies to make movies more readily available to watch at home, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
  • Alcohol and grocery deliveries through apps like Instacart are up, while retailers like Walmart are trying to compete with Amazon on delivering goods.
  • Telehealth and teletherapy have skyrocketed, making access to medical treatments and therapists easier.
  • More Americans are venturing into the great outdoors, due to few socially distant vacation options and most countries barring U.S. travelers.
  • Outdoor dining and pedestrian-friendly streets allow city dwellers to escape the isolation of home. Public health experts consider eating al fresco safer than mingling indoors.
  • Broadband has become an essential service. States like Colorado, Ohio and Tennessee have invested in new connections to support remote learning and telemedicine.
  • At school, experts are predicting a push for smaller classes after big lectures made for sub-par Zoom lessons, plus more communication between teachers and parents to coordinate kids' day-to-day learning, per Axios' Kim Hart.

What to watch: "It's likely that ... many of us will stumble upon better solutions to some of our recurrent problems that we otherwise would never have tried" before the pandemic, evolutionary anthropologist Dorsa Amir, who has led peer-reviewed studies on how people deal with risk across different cultures, told Axios.

Yes, but: Predictions about what economic and behavioral changes will remain after a vaccine is distributed, and once the country warily enters a "new normal," can only tell us so much.

  • After the Great Recession, predictions that newly minted teleworkers would flee from cities were actually backwards, an American University demographer told The Atlantic's Amanda Mull in June.

The bottom line: For all of the nightmarish experiences we'd all like to forget, it's worth remembering that there have been changes we could choose to keep — and that might actually make our post-pandemic lives better.

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