Suppose we knew the current situation would be the status quo for an extended period. What should we do differently?

(I am human, and I’m certain that there are factors and questions in this scenario that I’m not addressing or just plain not seeing. Please try to take this in the spirit in which it was intended.)

Suppose we knew, for a fact, that the current state of the virus would remain about what it has been for the past three months or so for the near long term, let’s say at least five years, possibly longer. Let’s say we knew that it wouldn’t get any better barring a sea change in human behavior or a China style worldwide lockdown and praying for no animal reservoirs.

How would you live life differently, if at all? Would your mask wearing habits change? If, say, you were demanding WFH purely for fear of the virus, would you continue to do so with equal fervor? What about on a macro level? Would/should countries continue to restrict international or even internal travel? Would/should China keep doing what they are doing for that entire time?

Basically, I can’t help but think sometimes that everyone’s current beliefs and plans are predicated on the idea that this will “end” within a few years somehow, and I’m wondering what would happen if it didn’t.

I genuinely don’t see what’s so bad about things being the way they are now. Sure, ideally things would be better, but it’s not like the current situation is particularly bad. Work from home is desirable. Wearing masks is not a big deal. The one thing that sucked before was not getting together socially, but that’s okay now as long as all parties are vaccinated. And right now masking can be decided on based on local conditions, with most counties in the US being in the clear for now. The only reason some things are ramping up is the anticipation of what could happen, but you’re proposing we stay as we are now.

International travel is rarely a necessity, and can be handled if you plan ahead. Sure, China’s attitude is not the best, but that’s largely their own fault choosing to use their homegrown less effective vaccines and go for far more strict lockdowns.

The main issues currently are with supply side issues. Those are something that would be good to deal with, but I don’t see companies sitting on the sideline sticking with the status quo there. If things aren’t going to change, they’ll just have to do more. And they are already positioning themselves to do so.

There’s a reason why there are a lot of people who feel like we’re actually out of the pandemic phase. We’re not, but there’s a reason it feels that way. Things are just far less restrictive than they needed to be before.

If anything, I wish more people wore masks, at least when sick. I hate that the intake nurse at my eye appointment clearly had some sort of respiratory issue, but didn’t wear a mask. And, even though I did, I did get sick for a couple days–even though it wasn’t COVID.

I had very much hoped that we’d at least get to East Asian levels of masking from this, if only because employers would realize that keeping their workforce healthy increased productivity.

Around here (Seattle area but not Seattle) everything seems back to normal. It’s very rare to see someone wearing a mask in public. Restaurants are full and we go several tines per week. We fly when we have a reason to. I can’t recall the last tine I wore a mask.

You do hear about people getting Covid. They take a week off and then are back at work.

I’m not sure it should be this way, but it undeniably is.

Not always. For example, travel to Japan is still highly restricted.

I’m not sure how I’d answer the OP’s question, but I know I wouldn’t be happy with the status quo. Just because something isn’t a necessity doesn’t mean I don’t care whether I can do it or not.

I don’t think covid is going away. I read the start of your post, and thought it was “what if you knew for sure things wouldn’t get a lot worse?”

I’m in this for the long haul. I’m waiting for the results of a rapid test as i type this, because i plan to go out tomorrow. (To the office, to see a doctor, and to a dance ) I’ll wear a mask on the commuter rail. I’ll probably wear a mask on mass transit for the rest of my life. I budget my “eating with people outside my household”. Sadly, i may have to do that for the rest of my life, too. But right now I’m freshly boosted, so I’m taking more risks than usual.

Speaking of masks, I’ve felt that our relationship towards them has needed to change long before covid.

I think wearing mask for food servers should be a standard. And people who go out in public with the sniffles should also wear a mask.

Maybe this covid thing will make that the paradigm now. And I’m okay with that.

My kids are masked in school still. I’m not okay with that continuing for an extended period. Especially since masks are required nowhere else. It’s unequal yolking that provides little benefit since no one else is doing it.

Yep. Their tourism industry is starving. My wife and I haven’t seen her mom in person in almost three years now. If an emergency came up and we needed to get in, it looks like we could visit a Japanese consulate here in the US and get some kind of exemption.

I wonder how Japan’s policies would change if they knew that the status quo would continue for a long time per the OP.

Yeah, it seems “the way things are now” varies quite a bit depending on where you are.

I think we have basically reached an equilibrium that is sustainable, at least where I live, so there really isn’t anything I would favor doing differently at the moment other than dropping the 24-hour testing requirement for air travel into the US (which is really NOT sustainable, and is giving me headaches at the moment since I’m in Ireland with a cohort of 17 study abroad students who will all need to be tested).

There is also not really anything I would personally do differently, since I’ve been living my life normally ever since I got my second shot back in April of 2021, other than complying with whatever local / institutional rules were applicable. It was perfectly clear even then that there wasn’t some further game-changing event on the horizon, so I figured getting vaccinated and getting on with life was all that I could do, and certainly all that it was reasonable for society as a whole to ask people to do indefinitely.

Concur. Though I do go to the office 80% of the time (by choice - I could WFH all the time if I wanted) but I wear a mask when I’m not at my desk, and I wear one when I’m in buildings with any sort of crowd. I would get vaxxed monthly if I could.

My big concern is long covid. I have a co-worker who now has memory issues as a result of her covid exposure, and there’s a very sad episode of a 22 yr old woman in Halifax who had to kybosh her start of a graduate degree, and needs a wheelchair (if she wants to go for a “walk” (such as it is) her roommate pushes her around in it). She had to quit work and she’ll be moving in with her parents.

So a mask and vax to possibly avoid that is nothing.

Whether they’re “required” or not should be irrelevant, since the requirements usually seem to be based on policy and whining rather than science. Correct me if I’m wrong but I assume that your talking about policy requirements rather than medical requirements.

Chicago area - I’m pretty much fine w/ how things are currently. Only change I wish for is to allow max for younger kids. I haven’t put on a mask in some time - outside of getting to/from my office where I go 1-2 days/week. Once in, I close the door and unmask. I tend to avoid crowds when I can - as I always have.

Doesn’t bother me at all if unvaxed adult Americans catch it and die.

Well, that’s part of my question: how long are you willing to take what measures to avoid long Covid? If you wanted to return to the office, but were concerned about Covid, would knowing that you’d have to stay out for the next five years change your mind? If you avoid social gatherings now because of it, would you continue to do so for the next five years? There is a non zero number of people who plan to make their precautions permanent and lifelong; do they think the same for government imposed ones? My questions were meant to be a little larger in terms of perspective, if that makes sense.

Yep, this is definitely the kind of thing I was wondering about!

These at really good, relevant questions. I assume many people have their own calculus, but I would really like these things to be guided by good science-guided policy.

My issue with this is the fact that it’s “unequal” doesn’t mean that it’s unfair for the kids; have you considered that maybe they’re doing the right thing and that everyone else is doing the wrong thing? (I’m not saying one way or the other but I’d be willing to bet that the no-mask policy outside the school probably isn’t based on science rather than political expediency.

I’m not really sure what the current situation is, for starters. It seems, from what I’ve been hearing and reading, that things are rapidly getting worse again. Case counts are going up, flights are getting canceled left and right because of COVID-related staffing issues, there are rumblings about LA County reinstating mask requirements, etc. It’s also a little hard to conceptualize the idea of the status quo not changing. Like, does that mean things will be about the same no matter what we do in terms of masking and other public health measures? Obviously I wouldn’t want to bother if those things made no difference. But I’m not really sure exactly how much of a difference they do make, and that makes it hard to say what is and isn’t “worth it.” I swear I’m not trying to fight the hypo; it’s a great question, I’m just struggling to answer it.

Anyway, some scattered thoughts:

-I vote for vaccine mandates forever, with a slightly-behind-schedule booster requirement (e.g. if the CDC starts recommending a third booster for everyone, let’s give it at least six months to a year before people who haven’t gotten it can’t go places.) Medical exemptions should only be available through a list of pre-approved non-quack doctors; no religious or personal belief exemptions. Those who don’t get vaccinated and don’t have medical exemptions can go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the courts, the hospital/doctor’s office… and that’s about it. No concerts or restaurants or anything fun for you. And you’ll need to wear an N-95 or similar to go to those necessary places. (I’m assuming we’re getting a vaccine for little kids soon, but obviously anyone too young would also be exempt.)

-I kind of hate everyone on both sides of the mask debate right now. Sorry, I know I just insulted everyone, and you’re mostly wonderful folk here. But I get irritated with both the “I find this mildly uncomfortable so I refuse to do it ever for any reason” types, as well as the “I personally don’t mind it; I even like it, so let’s all do it all the time forever!” types. Ugh. I find masks somewhat uncomfortable for long periods at the best of times, and seriously uncomfortable at the worst. If it were just about me, I’d be a lot more inclined to take my chances. But I’m tryna be a good citizen and all, so I’ll certainly wear them when required, and sometimes even when not required, when it seems like it would be imprudent not to. As a matter of public policy, I’m grudgingly on board with masks on airplanes, public transit, stores, and other crowded indoor spaces, even if that’s indefinite, if that’s what it takes. But I’d really rather see us come up with some better ideas. Such as…

-Better ventilation, filtration, UV sterilization of air-- we have good preliminary data that this works. We also have good, better-than-preliminary data that being outside works. The former is expensive to install and maintain, but if we have reason to believe this isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s worth the investment. Throw a bunch of taxpayer dollars at local businesses to help them retrofit; I won’t complain. The latter, being outside, won’t work in all locations at all times of year, but let’s make it happen as much as practicable. Here in Pasadena, the city has allowed restaurants to take over most of the sidewalk and all of the street parking to build little patios so guests can eat outside. Let’s never go back on that, 'kay?

-Working from home: I’m somewhat ambivalent on the prospect in a non-pandemic context; I’m more in agreement with the reluctant bosses than most people I know. But at least while this thing rages on, let’s do the best we can to minimize people coming in to the office. I’d also really like to normalize the idea of working from home when you have a little sniffle, instead of coming in and infecting everyone (or staying home when you could easily work from bed and not inconvenience your colleagues.) That part can stay even if/when COVID is totally gone forever.

-I feel like a smart long-term strategy would have to involve some high-tech contact tracing with a lot of surveillance that, if hacked into, could be used for nefarious purposes. And that makes me nervous, honestly. I’m not sure how many lives it would have to save for me to be on board.

I was actually just thinking yesterday that i ought to write to my state rep to lobby for stricter ventilation standards for public buildings. I’d do it like the handicapped accessibility rules: new structures and buildings getting significant renovations need to meet the new standards. Yeah, it will take a while, but we’ll make constant progress, and it won’t put anyone out of business.

I wear masks mostly for me. It’s worth it to me to wear a mask to reduce my risk. There are things i won’t do unless everyone else agrees to wear masks, too. But now that it’s easy to get good masks, I’m willing to do most stuff even if the rest of you want to parade your naked faces around. As i said above, i expect to wear masks on public transit for the rest of my life. And possibly to the grocery store. But my grocery store has enough ventilation that i don’t mind if you don’t wear a mask.

I think there’s a lot that goes into answering this, and the prospective duration of the status quo is only one of those things. Other factors:

  • There’s going to be a big introvert-extrovert split on the issue. People who love hanging around in big groups of friends and/or strangers are going to find that this desire for togetherness outweighs whatever sense of risk aversion they may have. For introverts, it’s much easier to to say “hey, I’m fine with isolating for the next five years”.

  • Anyone who has a long commute and/or hates commuting is more likely to find telecommuting very attractive for the long haul. My commute is short and I kind of like driving, but I am enjoying the expanded telework policies my employer has implemented for the long term.

  • Individuals’ subjective experiences of wearing masks vary a great deal. Some people like the feeling of a blanket over their face (especially in cold weather), others feel claustrophobic. I suspect most people who wear glasses find masks to be a pain in the ass because of how difficult it is to keep their glasses from fogging.

Pilots used to get colds and flu and other illnesses; COVID is just one more health issue that can lead to the use of sick leave. The pandemic has caused headaches for the airlines, not just because it’s making pilots sick, but because it’s played havoc with supply and demand over a very short timescale. On top of that, there’s a systemic problem with the pilot supply pipeline that started well before the pandemic, with fewer people choosing aviation as a career path:

I suspect some high-profile crashes of regional jets over the past decade or so have spotlighted the shitty working conditions of entry-level pilots and may have helped discourage young folks from a career in the cockpit. It’s a problem that’s now coming home to roost, just as COVID is causing problems as well.

I dunno. I’m a extrovert. I have done a lot of hanging around in big groups of friends wearing a mask in the past several months. I think I’ve come to see a mask as a dog sees a leash – it means I get to hang out with people! yay!

The bolded is something I think about regarding the right-now status of COVID’s effect on society: Are a rise in case counts necessarily a sign that things are getting worse?

IOW: Is it “OK” in June 2022 for COVID cases to rise in a similar way that it’s “OK” (if not ideal) for rhinovirus cases to rise, enterovirus cases to rise, etc.? Does it matter more that (a) the increased number of cases merely exists or that (b) the increased number of cases are causing impacts to society?

Also: is it meaningful to consider “rate of case rise” versus just “case rise”? Given that COVID will never go away, in its endemic state there will be natural rises and falls – on a graph, it would look like undulations most of the time and not often look like sharp spikes up/down. Are things getting worse if we’re on a natural upslope of a COVID case undulation? Or are the ups and downs just “the way it is” now?