The best-case scenario with the novel coronavirus is that this all blows over soon with relatively few fatalities, and the world will be back to normal by Memorial Day.
Whatever normal is at that time.
The virus is the worst thing to happen to the United States since 9/11. That event changed us as an open society got used to more fences and more security checkpoints.
The first casualty of the virus could be the sports and entertainment industries. What happens if people decide they got along perfectly fine without sports on TV 24/7 or if they discovered there are pastimes other than movies and ball games?
It’s unlikely, given how many people pin their identities on the success of their favorite teams, but casual fans might go away.
Then there’s education. The shutdown of school buildings and the expectations that students will do some of their work online could accelerate trends that have encouraged online learning. Person-to-person contact will still be needed in most cases, but we’re about to learn if more schoolwork can be done remotely with the expectation of success.
What about retail stores? Some big box grocery chains have cut back from 24/7 to limited hours so their employees can restock shelves, particularly of cleaning and hygiene items, and so they can ensure stores are sanitized.
We’ll have to see how long it will be before the 24/7 business model returns.
And for all of us, this outbreak has gotten people to think about personal hygiene more. How many of us will look at the handle on a public restroom door the same? Will social distancing become a permanent habit during cold and flu season?
How many people packed their lunches last week instead of going to a dine-in restaurant? When you get used to making your own lunch, you begin to count how much you spend on eating out. Dine-in eating will come back, with the question being how long it will take for the restaurant industry to recover.
The legacy of the novel coronavirus could be that people re-evaluate how they spend their money and how they interact with other people. We’ll likely see a lot of little changes in our social habits that add up.
A side note: It was nice while it lasted, but the jokes about West Virginia being the only state to not have a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus have stopped.
West Virginia’s first confirmed case of the virus was in the Eastern Panhandle. The next cases showed up in Monongalia, Mercer and Tucker counties. However — and there’s always a “however” — Kentucky had already reported at least one case in the Lexington area, and there have been several in Ohio in the Columbus area. Those places are a lot closer to Huntington than the Eastern Panhandle is, and people from here are a lot more likely to go to Lexington or Columbus than to Martinsburg, Morgantown or Parsons.
In addition to that, the Northern Panhandle borders on one Ohio county and at least one Pennsylvania county with confirmed cases. So, while the virus had not yet been confirmed in the Northern Panhandle, it was confirmed right across the state lines.
The novel coronavirus was closer than we might otherwise have thought. Even after it’s gone, its effects will still be with us.