How Will Our Lives Change After COVID-19 Is Gone?

    07 December 2020

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many of our daily habits – from how we greet our friends to how we work.

    These changes have developed to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. And it raises a question: What habits or customs will remain after the pandemic ends?

    Barun Mathema of Columbia University is unsure. Mathema is a doctor and an assistant professor of epidemiology, the study of the spread and control of diseases. He told VOA News that people may keep some of the habits. Or perhaps, he added, "as the memory of the pandemic itself fades, so will these habits."

    Students wearing face-masks, wait for their morning school class at Santhormok high school, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
    Students wearing face-masks, wait for their morning school class at Santhormok high school, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

    Wearing face masks

    Even before the current pandemic, it was normal in many countries for people to wear a face covering in public. For example, face masks became more common in East Asia in 2003 with the rise of SARS, a viral respiratory disease.

    However, there is no tradition of mask-wearing in the United States. A year ago, if you saw someone here wearing a mask in public, you might think they were sick or even strange.

    Today, however, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the new normal for many Americans. As of November 20, 37 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require people to wear face coverings in public.

    But is this a habit that will remain after the pandemic is over?

    Boris Lushniak leads the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland. He says Americans will most likely wear masks this winter to protect against the common cold and influenza.

    However, he does not think mask-wearing will become a new nationwide habit. He noted that it has been difficult to get some people to wear them in the middle of a pandemic.

    Personal greetings

    Lushniak says the custom of shaking another person's hand is likely to become less common in the years to come. He predicts that people will chose to wave or use some other greeting.

    Overall, Americans might be less willing to touch others, says Aaron Glatt, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He predicts that the ease of touching friends and co-workers will happen less often.


    Another lasting effect could be an expectation of higher levels of cleanliness.

    Mathema, of Columbia University, told VOA that "going through something like a pandemic, regardless of how you feel politically," is a frightening event.

    He added that some hygiene habits, like frequent hand washing and cleaning surfaces, are likely to stay. And that could be one of the pandemic's silver linings -- a good result from a bad situation.

    Another silver lining, added Aaron Glatt, is that people know more about the spread of some diseases. They also may not accept "uncleanliness or poor hygiene."

    Changes in public services

    Some businesses have had to make changes too. This is especially true of service industries such as airlines, restaurants, and stores.

    For example, many companies use less contact during the pandemic. There are fewer paper receipts to sign when purchasing products or meals. Airline companies have new rules for disinfecting surfaces and the air inside the airplanes.

    Lushniak, the University of Maryland professor, told VOA that the more important part of the post-pandemic world will be changes to businesses.

    "We learned that cleanliness is important, that disinfection is important," he said, "and we will continue doing that in the workplace."

    Staying home when sick

    Another long-term effect of the pandemic could be more people working from home and staying at home when sick.

    Lushniak added that the pandemic has created more opportunities for working online. If people are not feeling well, they can simply work from home. In a post-pandemic world, he said, working from home might be an important part of stopping the spread of disease.

    And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.

    Dora Mekouar wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    pandemic medical noun an occurrence in which a disease spreads very quickly and affects a large number of people over a wide area or throughout the world

    habit – n. a usual way of behaving : something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way

    fade – v. to lose strength or freshness : to become weaker

    respiratory medical : the act or process of breathing

    hygiene – n. the things that you do to keep yourself and your surroundings clean in order to maintain good health

    receipt – n. a piece of paper on which the things that you buy or the services that you pay for are listed with the total amount paid and the prices for each

    opportunity – n. n amount of time or a situation in which something can be done