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21 questions about our future after COVID-19



A friend recently sent me my uncomfortable senior picture and asked what the girl in the photo would say about today's quarantine. "She would probably spread her annoying optimism everywhere," I wrote. My friend said, "Ugh, send that back in time before I went to barf." I agreed. Staying positive now feels as easy as buying a roll of toilet paper.

A week before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the corona virus a pandemic, an EF-3 tornado devastated my community. Against the backdrop of fallen trees, crumbling buildings and tarpaulin roofs, people got up to buy supplies ̵

1; that is, if they had any shelter at all.

Now, more than a month after isolating myself at home, I've watched COVID-19 cases and fatalities continue to increase, and like many others, I don't know when I'll be my parents or others I will see relatives again. The toll the virus will take on the economy looks bleak too.

I only take things day after day, but I wonder what the future holds. And through my questions, hope can creep in. Every glimmer of it is worth sticking to.

So here I am spreading annoying optimism for anyone who wants it. But do not worry. I'll temper any leftover teenage idealism with the realism of a 41-year-old who faces the facts and some hard truths.

We know that life after COVID-19 will definitely not be the same. But how will it be different? I have clarified 21 perspectives on the potential for a better 21st century.

The pandemic is forcing us to redesign our lives, work and connections. We are going through this difficult metamorphosis and even after the threat from COVID-19 is over, life will change. We just don't know what it will look like.

Michael Weakley, 43, describes his attitude: "I am a gay man who lives in Mexico City," he says. “My hopes after recovering from all of this are new light. I hope everything is different, from the way we communicate to the approach to education and employment, class and countries. It would be a dream to reduce ourselves to the bare essentials and to enable us to develop beyond so many labels, expectations and occupations. “

Many of us are separated from parents, grandparents, siblings and worry about them. or people we consider related. We don't know when we'll see her again, but we can't wait to get the all-clear for a big hug. "I hope people will appreciate family time a little more," says Jenny Wilde L’Heureux, 44, from New Brighton, Minnesota.

We canceled everything. Aside from the occasional zoom happy hour from the couch, our social calendars are empty. We only have our devices or the people (and pets) with whom we are quarantined – or, if you are a significant employee, your employees.

When we go outside and go to concerts, sporting events, our favorite bars and restaurants, or just hang out, we'll enjoy the present without worrying about our social media feeds or to-do lists have to?

"One thing I definitely hope for," says Mary Ganser, 20, from Carmel, Indiana, "is a new appreciation and priority for real relaxation with loved ones without distracting from what's next on is on the plan. " [19659007] Even if we stay away from each other, efforts to smooth the curve require teamwork. We all need to do our part to slow the spread of the virus, protect the people around us, and avoid further overloading the health system. When we see that these efforts work, it is an indication of how great we are as a society when we work together for the common good to influence the future.

"In general, I hope people can work more together," says Lauren Glover, 32, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. "I'm 6 months old and I'm basically afraid that he's going to be 21 in a Mad Max universe."

The news of the pandemic triggered panic buying. The problem with overfilling the shopping cart, however, is that not enough is left for the next or the next person. And not everyone can afford to fill their fridges, freezers, and storage shelves with excess food and essentials.

Mere aisles in grocery stores have meant that many have had to do without them.

"It makes me sad to see what happened when people hoard more supplies than they need to quickly fight someone else's misfortune and take no precautions to prevent the spread of the disease to others," says Sheri Gartner Fleck, 41, of Edgeley, North Dakota. "I hope that this crisis teaches us that our own actions affect so many others and that we have to respect them so that we don't deliberately or unintentionally hurt others."

Panic buying cleaned up the shelves and we spent all our time at home. These two factors have seriously disrupted the supply chain of toilet paper and paper towels. People are turning to alternatives like bidets for the bathroom and reusable wipes for household cleaning. When we travel and commute, we have cleaner air.

"My hope," says Sasha Pruss, 23, from Los Angeles, "is that we will see how the world has started to heal in terms of the environment now that we don't cause as much pollution and people Keep working as soon as this is over to look for more sustainable practices that are affordable. “

The coronavirus is scary. It has taken lives young and old all over the world. And when we look for supplies, take precautions, and squat, the pandemic is a good reminder that many people face threats to their lives every day.

"My hope for the world after COVID is that we give priority to giving," he says Sarah Calloway Brown, 41, from Cape Town, South Africa, "which we don't only give when it is easy or fits the budget . And that we always act, regardless of whether the threat could affect us directly. “

Calloway Brown is a co-founder of Mighty Ally, a nonprofit and B Corp hybrid that shapes growing NGOs. "Now is not the time to publish statistics about the preventable disease and suffering out there," she says.

"But the number of waterborne diseases alone is staggering." It is a daily reality that is easy for us when we have the privilege of dividing ourselves up as “others”. Perhaps now that we are forced to live with uncertainty and fear without a clearly defined end, we can authentically find a new level of empathy and understanding for the suffering of "others". “

We experience the incredible value of workers in grocery stores, delivery drivers, administrators, first responders, childcare workers, farm workers and much more. These are just a few of the key workers who feed, bring to safety, and stockpile people. They rule the world in many ways, but can they pay their bills?

Andy Earthman, 54, of Pembroke, Virginia, hopes that the coronavirus will shed more light on the need for fair compensation. "Local people should be well paid and paid," he says. "I believe that the minimum wage has to be raised to a more livable wage and adjusted regionally."

Early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on COVID-19 patients in the hospital indicate disproportionately to the disease affects African Americans.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speculated in a White House task force informing that health inequalities such as the prevalence of underlying health conditions and lack of medical access are to blame. But the root goes deeper. Systemic racism is to blame if communities cannot afford health care. And we cannot overlook exposure at the workplace.

"There also seem to be a lot more whites than colored people in positions where we can work from home," said Maisha Z. Johnson, 33, of Vallejo, California.

"We are now seeing discrepancies in how black people are underpaid, underestimated, and at risk in" essential "industries to ensure that the rest of us can live on," added Johnson. "I hope it is now clear that this has always been the case, so that with this knowledge of how harmful it is, we can focus on less exploitation of vulnerable people."

"Shelter-in-Place" and "Safer-at-Place" According to the home guidelines, many people cannot earn an income, especially in industries where it is impossible to work from home. According to experts, the unemployment rate in the United States among unemployed workers in the United States is over 13 percent, the highest level since the Great Depression.

In just four weeks, more than 17 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits. more than 20 million since the closure.

Food banks are flooded and the number of applications for social assistance programs such as food stamps is increasing in the states. The pandemic and its immediate economic strain underscore the need for better safety nets in the United States.

"I want to both better understand the need for more robust government programs for people with disabilities and poverty, and improve them by expanding access to them and changing the algorithms for calculating performance so that people are not kept in poverty by the same programs, to help them escape poverty, ”says Charis Hill, 33, a disability activist in Sacramento.

A question that arises One answer on the way to our life after COVID is: Could more people work if employers made working from home an option?

You saw the memes. All of these meetings could really have been emails. Yes, probably. Or a zoom. We work from home, we teach from home and we learn from home. It can be done, and in many cases it can be done well and with higher productivity than in a cabin.

Employers need to carefully review their accessibility measures and whether they are really accessible to everyone.

"Many of the adjustments for workers and students are the same that people with disabilities have called for a long time," said Kerry Kijewski, 36, of Ontario, Canada. "We hope that it will continue after the virus has subsided."

We also learn from the pandemic that some of these personal doctor appointments aren't really necessary, like the ones you just have to check in to get them replenished with your same old prescriptions.

"As someone with a disability and a chronic illness, I look forward to a future with readily available telemedicine appointments," said Jeannine Hall Gailey, 46, who lives near Seattle.

"As someone who has been chronically ill this month for 30 years," says Lauren Jonik, 43, from Brooklyn, "I hope people have a deeper understanding that sometimes it is not a choice but a necessity , being at home.

Jonik's statement highlights an important perspective. People with chronic and invisible diseases often go through phases of social distancing as part of self-care and well-being. Now that the whole world has had such an experience, there may be more support for those who identify themselves as “spoons”.

We can support other people's health needs by changing deep-seated behaviors. In the podcast "The Journal" Dr. Fauci proposes to make changes to social norms to protect us in the future.

"I don't think we should ever shake hands again, to be honest," he said. “It would not only be good to prevent coronavirus disease. This would likely dramatically reduce influenza in this country. "

Amy Dimeler Lerner, 44, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says she likes this plan. "I am the parent of a child who is immunosuppressed," explains Dimeler Lerner. “A minor illness can be life-threatening for some. I hope that this increased awareness of not spreading germs will persist in a less rigorous but still beneficial form. “

The pandemic is more than just a physical health crisis. It is a mental health tsunami where depression, anxiety, stress, grief and insomnia trigger a wild storm.

Heather Holloway McCash, 39, of Nashville, Tennessee, says we need to focus on having better systems for taking care of our wellbeing. "I want mental health to be provided and promoted with all insurance plans," she says. “And patients should be rewarded for participating rather than punished by their insurance companies. Health and happiness go hand in hand. If we have an accessible, clear path to a healthy lifestyle, we will be a healthier, happier nation. “

Just because we put our hands on deck to deal with a major health emergency doesn't mean that the other threats have subsided. We are still in the opioid crisis, both epidemics claim lives at the same time and one steals important resources from the other.

"As someone who works in addiction medicine," says Willow Rose, "I hope the immediate measures that we have introduced (previously in British Columbia) and that are essentially equivalent to safe care are permanent and end the war against Drugs. "

" I hope the pandemic will enforce the introduction of Medicare for All and better health education and welfare, "said Greg Bartik, 55, a nurse at the Veterans Health Administration in Chicago.

Bartik is not alone with this feeling. Almost everyone I interviewed and who lives in the United States mentioned some form of universal health care as a must for the future.

We currently have a system that binds many workers to employer-sponsored health plans. But a large proportion of the millions who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have also lost their health insurance at a time when they may need it most.

Healthcare is not the only system that is broken. The corona virus highlights the need for change in a number of questions.

"I can offer a well-informed political perspective," says Amy Roost, 57, from San Diego. "But what I think will happen and what I hope that will happen is very divided."

Roost gives us a wish list: “Granting student loans, universal basic income, a unitary party or a ticket, postal ballot papers, Keynesian economic plan including huge infrastructure financing, mandatory three-day work-from-home requirement to reduce CO2 emissions, corporate taxes, property tax "Law prohibiting members of Congress from owning shares … I could go on," she says.

Some guidelines contain prejudice, and the coronavirus can be a catalyst for permanent change.

"As a gay married man and parent," says Steven Sunga-Smith, 40, of Las Vegas, "I hope that the stigma surrounding the blood donation of gay men has decreased since it started [deferral period] during the coronavirus pandemic have alleviated. Especially in people who have recovered from the virus and now have antibodies, you never know whose blood can help develop a vaccine or whose plasma with antibodies could now help people. “

Judy Wilson, 69, parallels the AIDS crisis and her experience in San Francisco from 1983 to 2000. AIDS was a death sentence in those early years, she says. "As a gay woman, as a proud activist, it was morally important to me to interfere in the resistance of our community, basically to go quietly to death," Wilson recalls.

Ronald Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989. But he didn't publicly mention AIDS until 1985, Wilson adds. "He could have done so much, especially in those early critical years," she says. "I see the same disregard for the human condition in Donald Trump." Wilson says that she tries not to be cynical and expresses her vision for the future.

"Ultimately, if this ever happens completely, my hope for the world after COVID-19 is," she says, "that more Americans are starting to see themselves not as" the sinister other "but as every member of society worthy of a good life – food, shelter, health insurance (regardless of affordability), availability of information – and no more prone than your best friend to the anger of this virus. We need friendly voices in our world. “

We are all together and we need fellowship now more than ever. So hug yours in every possible way.

We are forced to close doors to ensure customer safety and employees, small businesses are also a potential victim of the corona virus. However, many communities together hope that online shopping, patronage of delivery services, and buying gift cards for future use will help keep loved ones open. They even put together virtual tip glasses for employees in the service industry. It is an uncertain and frightening time in many ways – from a health and economic perspective.

But that's why I would like to conclude with this reassuring thought from Joelle Herr, 45, owner of The Bookshop in Nashville, Tennessee: “I hope the increased level of empathy and compassion for others that we all experience continues our new "normal". “

My intention with this collection of interviews is not to cover up the situation we are in with glittering visions of unicorns and rainbows. This pandemic is traumatic and I won't deny that. But over this big, wide sea that we have to swim in, I see the potential that it will change us, and for the better.

If any or all of these 21 ideas resonated with you, dig a little deeper. Explore it. Find out what is being done or what you can do to join a collective movement and bring about the change you hope for.

Hope can be a lifeline to get us through, but it can also be a strong call to action. And if my optimism has actually made you fail, I'll expand a virtual offer to hold your hair back.

Jennifer Chesak is a Nashville-based freelance book editor and writing teacher. She holds a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern's Medill and is working on her first novel set in her home state of North Dakota.


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