03 andrew neel ute2XAFQU2I unsplashLike every other life experience, we are all going through our quarantines differently.  Some of us are alone and feeling isolated, while others are reading, live-streaming, doing yard work or keeping quarantine journals. Still, others are with our families in varying degrees of harmony. Some are dealing with young children with pent-up energy and school work, and others have responsibilities for elderly relatives.  Some are quarantined with friends, and some are on the front lines in medical arenas fighting the virus. And, for some of us deemed essential workers, life is much the same in service industries — except there are fewer clients and customers, and people are now wearing masks.

I am old enough to know that almost everything has an end, and I believe that quarantine will end at some point, though it is far from clear when that might be. Researchers will eventually develop a vaccine against COVID-19, and most of us will take it.  National and international politicians and policymakers will reinstate actions to anticipate and combat future pandemics.  Those of us who suffered the virus will try to rebuild our health, and those of us who lost dear ones will mourn as we move forward.

Post quarantine, life will be different. As much as we may yearn for life as we knew it before the pandemic, we are experiencing massive change not only in public health but in our global economy. Some of it may be long-lasting, even permanent.

We are going to be much more careful about physical contact, including shaking hands. We will keep more distance than we have done in the past, and hand sanitizer will be on our shopping lists for the foreseeable future. Some of us will have lost our livelihoods, through job loss or the demise of our industries. The future of smaller, local restaurants is worrisome as they are less likely to have long-term resources to tide them over than larger regional and national chain operations. Daily newspapers are gasping for breath as well. Television and various other media are excellent at covering breaking news and keeping us up to date on pandemic coverage. Newspapers give us backstories, deeper and fuller explanations of what is happening, and differing perspectives on why. It is something that is increasingly difficult to find in our current world of niche media, most of which are busily preaching to their own choirs. During this difficult time, a number of daily papers that routinely have firewalls against nonsubscribers have made pandemic coverage available to everyone along with pleas for more subscribers or even simple contributions to support their efforts. The internet and emerging media have ended the days when daily newspapers were licenses to print money and may yet kill them.

It is possible as well that we will see a renewed appreciation and revival of our communities and our relationships with the people who live around us. In the same way we know where and with whom we were on 9/11, we will know where we endured the pandemic and who was with us and whom we missed. As frustrated as we might be in quarantine, most of us will emerge at some point, grateful to those who helped us that we survived this bizarre and frightening time in world history.

The New York Times, a newspaper with a storied history and one that remains a force in national life, is hopeful about what post-pandemic America will look like. COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on inequities in our society — income, educational and health disparities in particular, and The Times is initiating a project aimed at building a nation that is “stronger, fairer, and more free.” Wrote the editorial page editor, James Bennett, “This pandemic offers the same opportunity that Americans have seized in past crises: to set aside petty differences, recognize national priorities and set to work again on creating a more perfect union.”

Hear! Hear!

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