Over the past week, I’ve been informally contacting friends and colleagues in a variety of fields—sports, travel, architecture, entertainment, arts, the clergy, and more—to ask them how their world might look after social distancing. The answer: It looks weird.
We will get used to seeing temperature-screening stations at public venues. If America’s testing capacity improves and results come back quickly, don’t be surprised to see nose swabs at airports. Airlines may contemplate whether flights can be reserved for different groups of passengers—either high- or low-risk. Mass-transit systems will set new rules; don’t be surprised if they mandate masks, too.
Changes like these are only the beginning. After most disasters, recovery occurs days or weeks or a few months later—when the hurricane has ended, the flooding has subsided, or the earth has stopped shaking. Once the immediate threat has abated, a community gets its bearings, buries its dead, and begins to clear the debris. In crisis-management lingo, the response phase gives way to the recovery stage, in which a society goes back to normal. But the coronavirus will follow a different trajectory.