Monday, November 30, 2020

It's not whether COVID-19 will change our lives. The question is what and by how much.

What changes after covid–19? I’m betting on everything predicts Megan McArdle at the Washington Post.

"We’re almost there.” That’s what I’ve been thinking recently, and especially during our eerily sparse Thanksgiving celebrations. Things may be unpleasant now, but if everything goes well, then sometime next summer, we should reach the end of this miserable journey through plagueland.

But on closer inspection, the more I realize I don’t really know what “there” will look like. For all the talk of a “return to normal,” large chunks of the old normal are due for a post-covid–19 rethink. And I’m not just talking about movies heading to video or takeout cocktails — though, please, let’s keep the takeout cocktails. The more I think about it, the more I think I’m talking about practically everything.

Just consider our social behaviors now on hold. Do we want all of them back?

… how about the nonmedical things we could be doing to control infectious disease? Are we going to bring handshaking back, and if so, why? Should we accelerate the arrival of a cashless, touchless payment economy, despite the loss of privacy? How much do we need to beef up the ventilation systems in public spaces? Any chance we’ll keep wearing masks on subways, in malls, in movie theaters? And if not, at the very least, can we collectively agree to stop going to work sick — even if that means more generous paid sick leave?

About that “going to work” …

.. a lot of us might just stop going into work — or at least stop going in so much. I doubt that the office is truly over; in fact, the pandemic has highlighted the value of personal contact. But it’s easy to imagine most office workers getting their collegial fix in a couple of days a week.

That trend has nasty implications for all sectors related to business travel. That’s a 60% permanent reduction.

Business travel is also due for reconsideration — and without business travelers, the travel industry will collapse. While you might expect that means some fantastic deals for leisure travelers, it’s more likely to mean the reverse, since travelers on an expense account often subsidize bargain-hunting tourists. The resulting declines will crush hotels, airlines and their workers, plus the budget of every city with a significant tourism or convention business.

I’ll close with another example. Even before the pandemic struck, I was skeptical of the viability of the motion picture industry - at least the theaters part. And after having chained myself during lock-downs to our TV and watching streaming serials, I feel even more strongly negative about that.

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