Many people are counting down the days until we are vaccinated and this whole catastrophe is “over”. However, many people do not stop to think about just how different life will be for those who have lived through the now infamous years of 2019 and 2020. Even if the entire population was vaccinated and COVID-19 could suddenly disappear, there will be drastic shifts in our way of life in categories ranging from socializing to our own government.
Before diving into the broader scheme of how COVID-19 will affect our culture, let’s focus on something that affects our daily lives: Community. The knowledge of touching things, being with other people or even breathing the same air as others is a risk will not just recede quickly in all people. Awareness “can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year”. It may be common for us to be hesitant to shake hands or touch our faces. People may find that they cannot stop washing their hands. Instead of finding comfort in being around others, we may find more comfort in isolation. “Instead of asking, “Is there a reason to do this online?” we’ll be asking, “Is there any good reason to do this in person?”—and might need to be reminded and convinced that there is”. COVID-19 is ironic in the sense that while it creates more distance, it is simultaneously creating more connections. As people communicate more often with people who are physically father away, we may develop ideas that these people are safer to us because of that distance. However, as COVID-19 has the advantage of potentially fostering new relationships with people potentially across the world, it puts others who do not have tech access at a major disadvantage. In a sense, a person must be online to be a part of this new found community. Moving our relationships online may further alter connections to people past the physical aspect. Small things like introducing yourself or even going on a first date can likely shift with this online format.
Now, let’s take a look at the broader picture. The first thing that we will examine is our beliefs:
American is a highly patriotic country. COVID-19 may unsuspectedly bring a new sense of Patriotism to the table. You may be wondering, how so? As a country we build statues and salute those who risk their lives for our citizens. With COVID-19, the title of hero may extend from soldiers to doctors who, without a choice, risk their lives everyday to support the ill. Saluting or saying “Thank you for your service”, as we do now with the military, does not seem so far fetched.
Another big characteristic of Americans is our individualism. While COVID-19 can be thought as creating more individualism, it is in fact doing the exact opposite. Every single person that has lived through this past year has fear of getting sick. Although this is a vice, COVID-19 has become everyone’s common enemy. While in the past people would show up to school and work with fevers and illnesses, COVID-19 has created a social responsibility. It is expected of everyone to stay home when they are sick, and to not expose themselves at the risk of exposing others. People are now also educating themselves on how viruses work and will be more hesitant to enter the public without a mask on. As we learned in AP Biology, Viral fusion proteins bind to receptor molecules in order to enter a cell. Our greatest defense of beating a virus is if our white blood cells have memory of this virus and know how to kill it. Since most have not yet been exposed to COVID-19, getting this virus is very tough on the immune system. When COVID-19 ends, people will not easily forget how easily sickness is transmitted and will not take being sick so lightly. Things like the common cold will not be overlooked. “Millions of cases of the common cold occur in the United States each year, spreading easily from person to person” . People will be socially obligated to stay home for something as small as cold symptoms, and will easily be able to work from home due to remote work and learning. While this is a benefit because it has the ability to potentially reduce the spread during flu season , having the ability to work remotely will essentially end the divide between work and home life. There will no longer be snow days! Why lose a day of education when you can hop on zoom? Home will no longer be an escape from the sometimes overwhelming work environment.
Something that many people have overlooked is COVID-19’s impact on Religion. Corona may make Religious worship look very different. All faiths have had to deal with the challenge of keeping faith alive during adverse times, but there has never been a time where all faiths have struggles at the same time. “How do an Easter people observe their holiest day if they cannot rejoice together on Easter morning? How do Jews celebrate their deliverance from bondage when Passover Seders must take place on Zoom, with in-laws left to wonder whether Cousin Joey forgot the Four Questions or the internet connection merely froze? Can Muslim families celebrate Ramadan if they cannot visit local mosques for Tarawih prayers or gather with loved ones to break the fast?” . Quarantine will challenge connections of what it means to be a minister or a religious follower. However, religious gatherings moving to Zoom give people who have no local congregation where they live a sample of from afar. It is predicted that during these times contemplative practices will gain a lot of popularity.
Now, let’s analyze how COVID-19 will affect something that seems to be on everyone’s minds – the government. First off, Congress can finally go virtual! Going virtual can greatly benefit the U.S Congress, as it is essential they continue to work through this crisis. As gatherings are limited to ten or few people, The House of Representatives does not seem like the best option. Congress has already had two members test positive for the virus. This is a great time for members to go virtual and return to their districts permanently. Not only is this necessary for the health of our representatives at the moment, but it also has other great benefits. Having members of the Congress work in their district keep them close and connected to the people they are representing. This can make the lawmakers more “ sensitive to local perspectives and issues” . Party conformity may also loosen when members remember local loyalty over party ties. On the other hand it will be extremely difficult to lobby congress and replicate parties and receptions across the entire country. Also, Big Government may make a comeback during this pandemic. “The battle against the coronavirus already has made the government—federal, state and local—far more visible to Americans than it normally has been”. As we listen for daily health updates, we find ourselves looking at government officials for guidance and our national leaders for hope. According to Politico, not only will America need big government to get out of this crisis, but we will desperately need it in the aftermath of COVID-19 . But that’s not all! Let’s think about the election we just had, It is very possible that Electronic voting will go mainstream. “We have been gradually moving away from this model since 2010, when Congress passed a law requiring electronic balloting for military and overseas voters, and some states now require accessible at-home voting for blind and disabled voters”. With the old way of voting putting US citizens is a compact, dangerous situation we had to shift. Voting online will become more mainstream in the future. There is proven technology that includes voting on a mobile device that transfers the information to a paper ballot format. This system has been used in more than 1,000 elections in the past decade and will become the new normal.
Wow, that was a lot ! How can COVID-19 effect so many diverse fields of life? Well, this is not even brushing the surface of the magnitude of change that is to come. We need to brace ourselves for a true paradigm shift, and take this opportunity to make the change a change for good. And, in the process try to stay united in a world of distance.