A realistic look at the future in a COVID world -- 2020, 2021, and beyond

COVID is not just going away – poof! :woman_mage:t4: That’s a given.

If and when an effective vaccine is developed (and that’s by no means an absolute certainty) there’s still manufacturing it, distributing it, getting everyone enough people to take it, etc. – let’s not pin our hopes on that happening on a mass scale any time soon. And that subject is already being thoroughly discussed in the Breaking News thread.

I’m asking how and when you think life will return to anything approaching “normal” – or will it? By normal I mean kids sitting in classrooms, people going work, riding buses/subways, eating in restaurants, attending sports events, hosting parties, dinners, and book clubs in your living room, singing in the choir (my most painful loss :cry: ). I’m guessing hugging and handshaking could be out permanently – or at least for a generation. Will we be wearing masks a year from now? I think we will.

I’d like to hear optimistic and pessimistic (i.e., realistic) speculation about the shape of our daily lives long-term. Discuss “herd immunity,” if you can give it a realistic foundation. What does our future New Normal look like, 2021 and beyond?

I’m thinking that we’ll be wearing masks for the next couple of years, and doing the social distancing for that long as well.

Things will return to normal eventually, I think anyway. Think about how many people died during the Spanish Flu, millions dead, many times worse than Covid, life went back to normal all the same.

I think “normal” will mean adjusting and adapting to this virus, which we are already doing to some extent. We’re going to make incremental, gradual improvements in dealing with this virus. This will be true regardless of how bad or Polyannish politicians want to be about the situation; it’s just that the severity of our problem would be less, and these adjustments and our process of normalization would go faster.

I think that we are about to enter the very worst stage of this pandemic, not just because of COVID but because of its timing and proximity to other seasonal factors like the flu and cold season. This period will last from now until about next February or March, when the weather begins to warm up and the flu season typically comes to a gradual close. That being said, I don’t know if this will be significantly worse than what we’ve already been through. It may just seem like more of the same, but a little worse.

Meanwhile, sometime toward the end of this year or early next, we will have some sort of vaccine breakthrough. The vaccine won’t be perfect; it’ll probably work 50 or 60% of the time - if we’re really lucky, maybe 70% of the time. However, the added benefit of the vaccine is that even if it doesn’t prevent an infection outright, it may lessen the severity of symptoms. So we’d be wise to get it. Unfortunately, a lot of people won’t; however, if even 40-50% of the population gets it, that might be a start in terms of slowing the spread.

At the same time, much of what we have in put into place will still be there and these adaptations may be with us for a long time. I think tele-work is going to be a thing for a long while. Online shopping will be something that more people do. People will still wear masks. Restaurants and businesses that need people indoors to do businesses will find ways to adapt as well. Treatments will gradually improve. It’ll just take time, but we’re already living in the future, I think. Some of what we’re doing now will be the new normal.

I’m pessimistic for the next 6-8 months or so, but I am optimistic about the months and years that follow - at least in terms of COVID. I am more worried about climate change, but that is another thread.

Well, we already know it’s going to be different in different places. And might as well just call them Red and Blue, and throw out geographically sparse areas.

Just very very broadly, the behavior I expect both as a matter of governmental policy and majority of individual behavior is not different that what we’ve already seen:

Red: accelerated attempts to just plow through it, with no further backtracking, then totally throw in the towel either the day a vaccine is approved or March 1, whichever comes first.

Blue: continued slower steps and assessment, possible backtracking if the numbers indicate it’s appropriate. Possibly mask mandates stay in place until a first group of highest-risk candidates have had a chance to get a vaccine. Personally, I think that’s what should happen.

In general, I think if/when a vaccine is available, there will be tremendous pressure everywhere to just say “it’s over,” open everything 100% and tell high-risk people, we did what we needed to do, now it’s every man for himself.

So let’s say a 50% effective vaccine is available by March 1 and high risk groups are vaccinated by July 1.

If there’s a vaccine, will people be wearing masks a year from now? Sure. Will anybody be required to? Doubt it.

If there’s a vaccine, will things look like normal, leaving aside

  1. the economic ripple effects that will still be in place, and
  2. Number of people who continue to work at home because their employers decide it’s more cost-effective?

Probably close to it.

Of course, it’s probably a mistake to assume that vaccine distribution and administration won’t get as fucked up as everything else has been.

No vaccine by the middle of next year? Probably close to 100% open anyway, but more people will be wearing masks than otherwise. Masks still mandated in blue areas? Dunno.

If winter is hell or Biden wins, the equation could change, the former having more of an effect up until Biden takes office.

I think once we get an effective vaccine in the pipeline you’ll see things returning to normal. Hell, people are already trying to return to normal now, when there are significant risks in doing so. Hugging and handshaking will come back, just like they did after other historical pandemics in the past.

The real unknown is going to be how long one will have protection using a vaccine and how often Covid-19 will mutate and into what forms. Will it be more like the seasonal cold, like the seasonal flu, or something else? How often will it mutate such that a new vaccine is needed? If you have to get a shot 3 times a year that’s going to be pretty hard to maintain going forward, in which we may see a new norm that constrains things.

Pessimistically, this thing mutates at a higher rate and in more destructive ways than either the cold or flu virus, in which case there won’t be any herd immunity and vaccines won’t be as effective. Optimistically, it begins mutating into something much more benign and it’s at worse like the seasonal flu and, more probably like the cold virus in effect.

I’m definitely not planning on going back to the office until April 2021 and only if a vaccines are available in January. So proven 80% effective vaccine plus three months is my prediction.

I think, and hope that the millions of us that are now working from home are allowed to continue to do so. It’s been proven that it works. I’m one of them and hope it continues for me. It’s working out fine for my Wife and I. For instance, I’m driving about 50% less. That helps myself and the environment. I can work and do work anytime I please, that helps me and the job I’m doing. I am edging up to retirement, and hope I can continue to do this.

Hope that doesn’t sound selfish, but it’s true.

Many that have kids, or inadequate workspace are having a very hard time with this. Although my Wife and I are DINKS, I think I do understand how difficult that would be. Heck, I have two dogs and they interrupt me.

I have a coworker that is having a very hard time dealing with a 5 year old that isn’t in school or daycare, and working from home with laptop. But she is adjusting. The child is now ‘in’ kindergarten from home using an iPad. Apparently the child has got it mastered in just 3 days. But, that’s not really social interaction for a child in their formative years. That, IMHO could cause problems for the future. Or “and beyond” IMHO.

Things have already changed. But it’s the new normal for me.

This article from The New York Times (paywall warning) talks about how grocery shopping changed, and how some of the changes may stick. For example, it talks about people going to the supermarket less frequently but with a list. And it mentions the rise in shopping online (either for delivery or curbside pickup). Wider aisles in the markets and more self-service registers, fewer options, more store brand purchases and more frozen food purchases than before.

All of these things were possible before the pandemic, but not everyone did them. After the pandemic some habits will change.

While I agree with you in general, there is a matter of degree to consider. For instance, I can see wearing masks to groceries and public retail for another 2 years … but I’m not sure I can see wearing masks with family, friends, and book clubs that long. Somewhere, sometime, there will be let-ups.

I also think that case/death numbers that were alarming in spring 2020 will be “Hey, that’s not bad!” numbers fairly soon. Perhaps by the turn of the new year (early 2021).

^^I think you’re right about that. I did mean wearing to the stores and stuff, and not necessarily around family of friends. I should have clarified.

I know I only wear a mask when at the store, laundromat, etc.

Good point about the numbers not being deemed so bad.

That does, and doesn’t surprise me. On the one hand, many people would always go to a restaurant or get take out. On the other, many are at home and have time to cook.

So will people continue to eat homemade meals? Some of the changes that were forced by the pandemic and the social distancing will become new habits.

The vaccine forecasts are pretty consistently suggesting that one or more vaccines will probably be approved in the first quarter of 2021, with widespread distribution (i.e. available for anyone who wants it) being completed over the next six months. People who get the vaccine will be leading the charge toward “normal”, i.e. they will feel most comfortable doing pre-COVID activities like restaurant dining, air travel, spectator sports, and other events that put you in close proximity to people outside of your immediate cohabitation group (i.e. family/roommates). My guess is that in-person schooling won’t return to normal until Fall 2021. Mask mandates will probably continue until some kind of official acknowledgement that the vaccine has been received by pretty much everyone who wants it - so maybe late 2021.

Many jobs require being physically present to get the work done. However, with the forced adoption of work-from-home policies and the associated IT improvements that have been made, I think most of the folks who are currently doing their work from home will continue to do so on a part- or full-time basis after 2021. There can be significant cost/time savings for the employee, not to mention greenhouse gas and pollution benefits, which might be a good thing for everyone.

Some will be forced to learn how to cook. For necessity. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper and better for you anyway. I feel very sorry for how this has hit the service industry.

When I was working 2nd shift in my 20’s, I would get home at 1am. I had roommates. I took up cooking to do something quiet and not wake my roommates. There was little else to do. A little like our current pandemic.

I already live rural, so I’m very used to it. I suppose if all grocery stores closed and I had to go to a restaurant that would cause a big problem for me.

Depending on what you make and how you make it, homemade food isn’t necessarily healthier or cheaper. I’ve made plenty of unhealthy crap.

I think that health insurance open enrollment this year is going to be a shock. Rates went up in 2017 and 2018 after the Republicans did away with the cost-sharing provision, but had stabilized by 2019. Now, with millions more out of work and not paying premiums, plus the enormous costs of the pandemic with potential long-term effects, insurance premiums are likely to skyrocket.

Open enrollment at my company starts in about two months. I’m anticipating a substantial hit to my take-home pay.

Yeah; also, even with Covid, people’s chances of dying of a contagious disease in 2020 are still lower than they have been at any point in human history prior to the mid-twentieth-century. People freak out about new risks and are basically indifferent to familiar ones. I would give this about two years, tops, before it becomes a familiar one.

First, barring either extremely strong and last immunity resultant from infection and/or immunization (unlikely) SARS-CoV-2 is likely to become endemic to some degree, with some level of infections occurring seasonally of every several seasons (based on how quickly immunity wanes and how often the germ mutates significantly enough), most likely with reinfections less likely to be as frequently as severe. What exactly that looks like informs the next bits.

Here’s a good model playing out different transmission dynamics long term based on varying assumptions.

FWIW the study out of Iceland demonstrating lasting antibody response for the four months it was followed, and the studies that show 30 to 40% (I believe the number was) T-cell positivity to SARS-CoV-2 in those never exposed to the virus, and the numbers seen with T-cell responses above and beyond the number with antibody positivity, all raise the possibility of longer intervals before possible new seasons, and milder seasons when they happen.

Second, different groups will react to whatever that future level is differently. I do NOT see that primarily as a Red or Blue division. The vast majority of those 30 and under especially, maybe 40 or even 50 and under, will go back to mostly normal within a season of rates being at some lower rate of frequency and of severity (say influenza-like of a thousand or so deaths a week during a season). I think a narrower majority of those older will but still a majority. The younger population cannot/will not give up the evolutionarily engrained drives to build social groups with real contact for very long (and for some at all).

Fauci weighs in.

The United States should not expect a return to normal until “well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said on Friday.

In an interview with “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC, Dr. Fauci addressed when people would most likely be able to do things again that they had done before the pandemic, such as going to an indoor movie theater “with impunity.” While a vaccine may be available by the end of the year, he said, “by the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccinations, and you get the majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that’s likely not going to happen till the mid or end of 2021.”