The stay-at-home orders issued in an increasing number of US states may be necessary, but the psychological effects that come with them are heavy all the same. It’s no longer a suggestion to stay home, but a directive.
While those under stay-at-home orders can still go out for essential activities – exercising and obtaining vital services and supplies – businesses have been told to scale down operations and unnecessary out-of-state travel is off the table.
And the question on all our minds is the same: When will it end?
We talk about social distancing and stay-home orders in terms of weeks or a single month at a time. But the reality is that “normal” is many months away. We may not see it at all in 2020.
Even if we largely reopen for business within a month or two (or three), we’ll still be living under the shadow of coronavirus. Scientists predict that the pandemic will last until as much as two-thirds of the world’s population has developed some kind of immunity, either by surviving an infection or receiving a vaccine, which is still as far as 18 months away from becoming a reality.
The social distancing and business closures we’re enacting now are slowing the spread of the disease, and helping prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. But they’re also lengthening the time it will take to achieve such “herd immunity” – when the virus will begin to fade, as it runs into invulnerable hosts, and becomes less of a threat.
Perhaps the vaccine timeline is the most realistic for a return to pre-pandemic times. Maybe not for stay-at-home orders and lockdowns, but for getting out from under the fear and uncertainty of this particular coronavirus. We will undoubtedly get back to bigger business before then. And it will undoubtedly come at a cost.
Drs Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, both members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said the US is likely facing between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths occurring through June under the current Covid-19 mitigation efforts, which the president recently extended through April 30. But what if we extended social distancing to May 30? Or June 30? How many lives could that save, and how many businesses could it destroy? Those are difficult questions we must ask.
Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus originated, is now starting to reopen certain businesses, 10 weeks after officials implemented a strict lockdown on January 23 that barred some residents from leaving their neighbourhoods, even to seek out groceries. The lockdown is now set to lift April 8. Malls are reopening, public transport is running and some folks have resumed walking their dogs.
But all 11mn residents are still expected to practise social distancing, and officials know they are risking a resurgence of the virus by restarting economic activity.
If we, too, loosen restrictions, we will face the same challenge. There’s also the question of public demand. After a few weeks, will people want to risk clothes shopping? Going to a movie? A party? Will parents be ready to send their children back to school?
We know many didn’t initially take social distancing seriously, but as the deaths and hospitalisations mount, that’s likely to change.
It appears we will likely come out of this as gradually as we went in. So maybe it’s not an end we wait for, but an emergence. - (The Baltimore Sun) Tribune News Service
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