We have a new normal today. And it’s probably not going to go back to the way it was even a month ago.
We live in a pandemic world now, a place where we have to think about how we greet someone, eschewing handshakes, instead offering an elbow bump or a wave. We wash our hands more often, use hand sanitizer even more frequently (when we can find it) and we try to avoid touching our faces.
Work life, for many, increasingly means waking up in the morning and turning on your laptop at home, not commuting to the office. And if your health isn’t great, or if you’re over 60, you’re encouraged to stay home.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced a series of bold steps Thursday afternoon to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and senior centers are closing, events with more than 250 people must be canceled and hospitals must restrict access to patients.
The state, Hogan said at a news conference, is entering a new phase of the pandemic as state health officials identified the first community transmission in Prince George’s County.
“The first case of COVID-19 community transmission in Maryland means we are entering a new phase of working to mitigate and limit the spread of this pandemic,” Hogan said in a statement. “What we are seeing now is what we have been anticipating and preparing for over the last several weeks.”
While the vast majority of people are recovering from this virus in a matter of weeks, health officials say some may take longer to feel better. And no one knows how long it might be before this spread subsides.
Until then, we’re likely to see more aggressive actions coming from government. They are likely temporary, but no one knows just how to define temporary. Are we talking weeks? Months? Even longer? No one can hazard a guess right now, because we’re in uncharted territory.
We’ve already heard comparisons to what’s happened this week to the days that followed Sept. 11, 2001. Those who lived through those days will likely remember the days of uncertainty, the fear of growing vulnerability and a reluctance, at least at first, to return to living a “normal” life.
Life did change that day, and with the benefit of hindsight, it’s become clear how sweeping those changes were. Security at airports, public events, and even how we apply for a driver’s license is far different now because of that horrible day when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a plane that was downed in Pennsylvania.
What’s happening with the new coronavirus, of course, is much different and far less sinister than what happened when our country was attacked by terrorists nearly 19 years ago. Instead of life changing because of security threats, now the country’s focus is on public health.
At this point, it’s hard to predict exactly how those changes will play out. We’re betting that we’ll see drastic changes to how we deal with public health. Will it be as simple as the availability of hand sanitizer, or will this spur more discussions of paid time off and universal health care?
There’s no doubt that years from now, we’ll be looking back on these days as a turning point in our lives. Much like Sept. 11, we’ll need the benefit of time to know exactly what that means.