Assuming America survives this: Name permanent changes to American life

I am an optimist. But make no mistake, our country will emerge from this a lot different from when it entered this Shit Show:

  1. Lack of need for live fans at sporting events. I think the advent of NASCAR returning with no fans later this month and maybe MLB playing a limited schedule with no fans later this summer, if successful, will transform professional sports from a fan to TV experience once and for all. This does not mean fans will not be allowed into games ever again, but will make fan attendance all but a non-issue with calculating a teams revenue, as a matter of fact, will skyrocket ticket prices and lead to smaller stadiums as rebuilt.

  2. Shopping malls: FINISHED.

  3. Corporate “in-person” meetings all but eliminated (creepily shown on many TV shows and movies pre-Virus). There is no reason to have dozens or hundreds of employees to spend hours of risky and expensive travel to attend a face to face meeting that can be handled for all but free online.

  4. Elimination of the Republican and Democrat Conventions. Lets be honest, these have become a joke: we already know who the Nominees are going to be, no one cares about 4 nights of boring speeches, there is finally proof that online, we can pick the Presidential candidates.

America will survive----but what else will we deal with once COVID-19 flies away???

I am not sure shaking hands is going to make a comeback.

Not much. It might accelerate some trends that were already occurring, like the death of many exurban and rural shopping malls (which isn’t the same as all malls being “FINISHED”) but there won’t be any huge changes to the way we live our lives. Meetings will bounce back to a level that’s much higher than “all but eliminated,” people will shake hands, political conventions will remain, etc.

In ten or twenty years, there will be some prestigious must-watch documentary about these months and we’ll be surprised at how quickly we forgot (and how unprepared we still are for the next one).

There will be malls , just less of them. Locally we are losing one mall and another is in bad shape. We have 2 that are doing OK. For sporting events the NHL does not get much TV money so they need fans the most. NFL gets a ton of TV money so they need fans the least. And their TV money is split evenly among teams.

They’re not going to stop going to Lambeau over this. Nope nope nope.

Recent reports indicate CO2 levels have dropped by 5% and plenty of anecdotal reports of the improvement in air quality at destinations. So you’d think the environmental movement might come out of this stronger. But not necessarily.

The problem being to hit the Paris target emissions need to drop by 7% and there would be plenty of examples for the climate change deniers over on the economic impact of achieving those targets.

Also with oil prices down at levels not seen since the 80’ the cost competitiveness of alternative fuels has copped a kicking.

I think blowing out candles on a birthday cake is canceled. So much potential for disease transfer.

Agreed. I think people are way, way overestimating the effect this will have on society in general. (For comparison purposes, we’ve heard a lot about the Spanish flu of late, but there are two pandemics within living memory that killed 1,000,000+ people worldwide, in 1957-58 and 1968-69. And … nobody remembers them. I asked my parents, who are old enough to remember, and they had no idea these events even occurred. There was, I have heard, a rather well-attended music festival in 1969, a matter of months after 100,000 people in the US died of flu.)

I tend to agree with this line of thinking. The most visible change to American life (and other countries) will be the prevalence of masks in public spaces - they will become more widely accepted and seen, especially in places with crowds, like airports, buses, trains, etc. Just look at SE Asian countries after the SARS outbreak - they went on with life with a few modest adjustments - they did not just retreat to their homes and become shut-ins.

I think sporting events will eventually be able to support fans in-person, once data shows widespread herd immunity and a vaccine is on hand. There will be less tolerance for vaccine waivers for non-medical reasons, hopefully (if you want to live in this community, get your freakin’ shots!).

Shopping malls in many cities were already on the bubble, as are many brick-and-mortar retailers. While this could accelerate their demise, many were already circling the bowl before the pandemic and were likely to be gone within 5 years anyway.

If this is what the economy looks like with a 5% reductions I’d hate to see it with a 7% reduction. It only reinforces the point some have made that we needed to get out of Paris to avoid having our economy look like this permanently and it’s a fair opinion that climate change is real but it’s too devastating to do something about at this current point in time.

As for changes, I can foresee the increased popularity of fast food drive-thrus, it would seem they’re a relatively safe method of getting food. They could be made even safer with adding a card reader to the menu board and having a double “sally port / automat” window for getting your food. Maybe places like Chipoltle and Subway will add them.

But overall I agree nothing much will change except for a rash of low budget documentaries in a few years.

And I think the demise of in-person meetings is over stated. For years companies have been trying to eliminate costly travel, promoting Telepresence and the like. But it just isn’t the same. A product launch workout is much better with the 10 key functions in the room. A contract negotiation is much more effective when we can sit face to face and go through the 100 pages with no distractions. And lots of activities- tech transfer, troubleshooting, etc really can’t be done remotely.

I’ve been through at least three cycles of “Travel is Obsolete” and not one of them has stuck.

It really depends on whether or not we get a vaccine, and when. If there’s a viable vaccine soonish–even if it takes a while to actually get it to everyone–we will all go in a holding pattern, waiting for normal to come back. If there isn’t, or if it starts to look like it will take years, we will have to make structural changes.

Will shaking hands go away?

I don’t think so. But, it will come back with more awareness about washing and sanitizing your hands. I think we all are going to be more aware of when we touch anything in public (shopping cart, handrail, buttons and screens of any kind, someone else’s hand) and immediately feel dirty enough to seek the nearest soapy wash or hand sanitizer. IMHO this is a welcome change and long overdue.

I think we will also be more judicial about who we shake hands with and ask ourselves “is a handshake really necessary in this situation?”

I think the permanent changes are going to involve the sort of things where large, in-person gatherings don’t add anything to the experience. Sports with spectators will return and so will restaurants and movie theaters and bowling alleys. There may be fewer shopping malls and in-person meetings, but there will always be things that people want to look at/touch/try on before they buy and while meetings involving hundreds of people flying in from all over the country will be less common than the were before , the Web Ex meetings that involve five people who all work in the same building will probably go back to in-person.

But nothing is gained by requiring that marriage license applications be submitted in person, although that was a requirement up until last week. I don't think notarization in person adds anything over a video call and  ID, but in-person was required in my state until a few weeks ago.  In fact , there's nothing gained by requiring most applications/documents to be submitted in person rather than by mail or email. My son has had a few experiences* in the past six weeks where form letters have directed him to provide various documents in-person but the body of the email says in **BIG BOLD LETTERS** not to come in person but to email or mail the documents instead. I suspect that most of these practices will at least remain as options - maybe you'll be apply to apply for that marriage license in person, but online applications will also be available.      
  • affordable housing applications and a workers comp claim

Mail in ballots will be easier for some states (like here in Pennsylvania)
The trend to working from home will accelerate, but it won’t be that huge a change: most who worked in an office will do so again, at least for now. But this crisis will accelerate the trend of businesses allowing it as an option - for some.
Flex time will make further inroads
Some car makers will bite the dust, and not be replaced.
Many bars/restaurants will bite the dust. Most will ultimately be replaced - though in some locales this could take a couple years
Grocery delivery will have a continued larger share of the market. “Dark” grocery stores may become a permanent thing in areas: ie stores only used to fulfill online orders, in parallel with regular groceries
Some individual hotels will shutter, ultimately bought by new owners. I expect all the same chains to be around, though consolidation will continue
Massive changes to supply chains. This pandemic showed the weakness of a global just in time chain. I expect more of our parts production for US manufacturing to be in Mexico, US and Canada
In-person meetings will still be a thing
Malls continue contraction, and this will accelerate. There will still be groups of storefronts within 30 minutes of you 20 years from now, though.

I’m not sure that adds up to ‘a lot different’ even if one fully agreed with all those. I’d go in the squishy middle between ‘a lot different’ and ‘people will forget’. Although it obviously depends as others mentioned how long it takes to have vaccine and/or other treatments that remove most of the risk of very bad outcomes from the disease, and also assuming the virus doesn’t mutate into something much more dangerous and harder to combat. But on the optimistic to middling cases for vaccines and treatments say those are within 2020 or 2021 respectively, seems to me much less potential for permanent change than if there’s no defense but distancing for years.

All for an optimistic to middling scenario on vaccine/treatment:

  1. There is no ‘need’ but I see no fan events as very unlikely to become the norm.
  2. Accelerates a down trend for malls (somebody said in rural and ex-urban areas, but general trend away from people living in cities or close suburbs is also possible so not sure which malls are worst off). But not finished.
  3. Like malls, but also how big a change to overall life is this really?
  4. Most people don’t care.

I realize you were listing ‘for examples’ so one item being minor doesn’t refute your thesis overall, but I don’t happen to think it will be really big change overall.

A bigger though maybe fairly subtle one though would be as mentioned in 2, already a previous moderate trend toward Americans moving to cities seemed to be reversing (certainly for the few biggest cities). For example where I live, inner NY area, we may be hearing about the population decline trend accelerating in coming years and attributed at least partly to the pandemic. Whether that will be really be the ‘cause’ might be debated (less immigration which had been offsetting a steady net outflow of native born people, more incentive to escape the high state/local taxes since the 2018 tax law*, technology trends).

The point about people forgetting bad stuff remarkably fast has to be accounted for. Then again in particular industries and geographic areas, the pandemic could catalyze significant change, then in future years people will debate how much was really the cause of that.

*I doubt other than large Democratic majorities in Congress would restore the full SALT deduction. It is a benefit to mainly higher income tax payers mainly in certain few states. The incentive for Democrats who narrowly won in swing states/districts to spend their political capital on that? And when high income earners leave or don’t come that can have a broader economic impact in the affected areas.

I don’t know about NASCAR but I can’t imagine basketball or hockey without an in-person audience. Much of the excitement of March Madness is from the presence in the arena of the large crowds from the schools that are playing. I’m not much of a basketball fan, but it’s going to be boring to watch a game played in an empty room. The sounds of the sneakers squeaking on the hardwood and of the ball bouncing should not be the loudest ones in the room.

I’m pretty certain I’ve shaken my last hand. Never liked the tradition, now I have a reason for my peculiarity.

ETA: Working from home is going to be way more common. My gf actually has renegotiated her contract to eventually have her in the office two days a week and working from home two days a week.

A ton of people will wear masks in public even if there’s no known current outbreak of contagious disease. Even after a Corona virus vaccine is developed for a year or two we might see 50% or more of people wearing masks on the streets and in public transportation, planes, elevators, etc… I’d add sports and movies too but not sure if those will survive. Even after that I wouldn’t be surprised to see 10% or more of the population continue to wear masks, largely people at risk but also the cautious. Look at a playground and you’ll likely see kids wearing masks while their helicopter mask wearing parents and nannies have them on as well.