Have we reached the “peak” of the COVID-19 pandemic? That is for scientists, doctors, and data analysts to say, and some are saying, “Yes.”
According to the analysts at Healthdata.org and research conducted by IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation), the peak in deaths in the United States from COVID-19 may have occurred on April 15, 2020.
If that is accurate, the number of deaths per day from this disease will diminish from that point forward, and the predicted drop is fairly dramatic.
Their model shows that on April 15 in the US, there were 2,481 COVID-19 deaths. They are projecting that on May 15, just one month later, there will be 82 deaths, and by June 15, there will be 1.
That, to say the least, is encouraging. It means we can get back to normal. Or maybe not.
The Old Normal
Before the novel coronavirus (formal name SARS-CoV-2) began spreading around the world, normal in the United States looked kind of like this:
- airplanes were full of passengers
- international travel was huge
- the stock market had hit historical highs and was strong
- political bickering had also reached a high
- disruption was thought of as a good thing
- major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) were enjoying record attendance
- the entertainment industry was rocking
- people generally felt safe
- healthcare was readily available, even for the oddest of elective surgeries
- the restaurant industry was growing
And the list goes on, with almost every sector of society enjoying peace and prosperity. That is not to say there were no problems, no trouble spots, no room for improvement. There is always room for improvement, or there would be no need for Do Good University. And there is a need for DGU.
The New Normal
Enter COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus named above, and with it came The New Normal.
- airplanes are empty. (One major carrier estimates that in May 2020, they will carry as many passengers in the month as they carried in one day in May 2019.)
- International travel is almost non-existent
- the stock market dropped like a rock through thin air
- political bickering actually slowed down a little with both sides working together on important legislation
- disruption might have been good in business, but disrupting our lives?
- major sports leagues shut down completely
- the entertainment industry got rocked
- people often don’t feel safe, even with their own friends
- healthcare systems are (were) overwhelmed
- eating out means picking up, with many restaurants closing completely
Perhaps the biggest change from the Old Normal to the New Normal came in the form of what is called Social Distancing.
I like to call it Physical Distancing because there is a fair amount of socializing still going on. Much of it is done online or on the phone, but people are still talking to other people. For the most part, they just aren’t with them physically.
As I write, there is a county in California that requires anyone who leaves their house to wear a mask. It’s a mandatory $1,000 fine if you’re caught outside without one.
There was a time, of course, when wearing a mask in public made you look like a criminal. Now, at least in one county in California, not wearing a mask actually makes you a criminal.
There’s a reason for all of this
For thousands of years, we’ve known that if a disease is transmissible—that is, if it can be “shed” in some form by one human and picked up by another—that one of the best things we can do to slow down or stop the disease is to stay apart.
The book of Leviticus in the Bible has a lot to say, for instance, about leprosy, also known now as Hansen’s Disease. Leprosy was highly transmissible.
In Bible times, one who had leprosy had to stay “outside the camp.” When lepers traveled along the road and saw other people were coming, they had to say, “Unclean, unclean” to warn those people.
When someone in the nation of Israel thought they might have leprosy but weren’t sure, they had to be examined by the priest. If the priest wasn’t sure, he quarantined them for seven days. And if he still wasn’t sure after a week, he quarantined them for another seven days.
COVID-19 testing, staying in quarantine for fourteen days, staying away from others if you know or think you might have the disease—none of that is new.
Perhaps the worst pandemic of all was the Spanish Flu, which ravaged the world in 1918, 1919, and 1920. We’ve been dealing with COVID-19 for three months, and we’ll deal with it a little longer. The number of deaths around the world is heartbreaking but is tiny compared with the Spanish Flu.
Back then, the population of the US was about 105 million, about a third of today’s population. Out of that number about 29,000,000 were infected, and 500,000 to 850,000 died.
If those same percentages were applied to the US today, more than 92,000,000 people would be infected, and between 15,000,000 and 27,000,000 would die.
When I learned all that, physical distancing was no longer a burden for me.
The best recommendations at that time are the same as today: wash your hands, keep your hands away from your face, physically distance yourself from others.
One other recommendation from back then was also equally important today. Instructions from a hospital in New Zealand started with staying away from others if you are sick, even with a cold. But the fifth point of instruction was this:
5. Don’t depress yourself by looking at the bad side.
Good advice, even now.
That pandemic ended, and so will this one
As terrible as this pandemic is from one perspective, and as light as it is from another, it has one thing in common with all pandemics: it will end.
Based on the predictions noted at the beginning of this article, the first wave of COVID-19 will end within months.
I say “first wave” because there is almost always a second wave. Why? Because we try to get back to The Old Normal too quickly.
Sometimes the second wave is not so bad; sometimes, as with the Spanish Flu, it’s worse. In either case, we should do all we can to prevent a second wave, and that plays a role in The New New Normal.
The New New Normal
The Old Normal is gone, never to return exactly as it was. At least I believe that will be so for several years to come, perhaps even a generation. The parts of it we’ll lose are things like carelessness in personal hygiene, carelessness in thinking about our surroundings from a health perspective, and taking for granted the amazing healthcare systems and people we have in the US.
The New Normal, wearing masks, staying home, not shaking hands, not hugging, keeping our distance, and being hyper-vigilant about the people around us, will fade away fairly quickly.
And so we’ll transition to The New New Normal, and I think it will look something like this.
I believe we’ll all be more aware of our social contacts; we’ll continue to wash our hands more often and disinfect surfaces.
In general, we will be more appreciative of doctors and nurses, and people on the front lines who stepped up waded in and did all they could to get us through this pandemic.
New medications will soon come along, both for prevention and possibly even cure, of coronaviruses, or at least this coronavirus. We’ll also recognize the symptoms sooner, have accurate tests readily available, and catch the illness sooner. And we’ll know the very best ways to treat it.
For a while, at least, people will be more aware of the health resources we have and use them more wisely.
The economy in the US will come back rapidly, fluctuate a little here and there, and be even stronger than it was before the pandemic.
I say that because I know that people will be glad to get out, and they’ll be happy to spend money on food and entertainment. There will be a sense of euphoria nationally, and, I hope, a sense of thanksgiving. That’s always good for the economy.
Businesses that are perceived as doing good during the pandemic will be rewarded by the public. They are paying more attention to that than ever before, and it will make a difference.
The restaurant business will recover, though some restaurants won’t. Once again, those who “did good” in the pandemic will be rewarded.
Online video meetings
The travel industry will recover, but more slowly than other sectors. Business travel will be replaced in some part by electronic meetings because now everyone can use Zoom, and it really is faster and easier than getting on a plane and going somewhere.
Speaking of which, Zoom, now a household word, will face much stiffer competition from its rivals. Microsoft and others (a disruptor?) will vie for a bigger place at the table, and they’ll get it.
Fortunately for Zoom, they were available and easy to use. Unfortunately, the massive use exposed security issues. But for Zoom and others, online meetings will become much more secure and, therefore, a better option.
Sports will come back strong, though not immediately. I predict that The Masters, normally played in April but scheduled for September in 2020, will be a huge hit with golf fans.
MLB will play most of a season, skip the All-Star Game, and have a good year. Somehow the NFL will also make it happen, and so will the NBA and the NHL
All businesses will be more aware of public scrutiny in the area of corporate citizenship. In other words, businesses will know they are being evaluated more than ever on whether or not they do good.
Life in general
My hope is that the hundreds and even thousands of examples of doing good that we have witnessed during the pandemic will decrease very slowly. They will decrease because people’s focus will be back on themselves.
That’s natural and understandable. We’re more self-centered when everything is OK, and we’re more other-aware in tough times.
More and more people will continue to turn to God, as has been happening during the pandemic. Things like this cause people to search for answers to big questions, and God is the answer to most of those.
For a long time to come, people will smile more and greet each other more warmly. We will have all come through something bad together, and that creates a bond.
I’m not guaranteeing any of the above, of course, but I think it’s all pretty much a safe bet. All you have to do to predict the future, after all, is to take a look at the past.
We will grow from this, and in many ways, we’ll be better for it. The price has been high, and we should never forget that. But we should, moving forward, focus on the future. It looks to me like it will be very bright indeed.