Wondering what the future will be after virus eases

Gene Deason
Opinion contributor
Gene Deason

It’s been several months since I first started wondering what changes we might see when COVID-19 is no longer the dark cloud hanging over our lives. Like everyone else, I had high hopes that we might have arrived at that point before October.

After enduring periods of lockdowns, re-openings, and whatever it is we’re in now, it seems some aren’t convinced that we still need to take precautions — simple and easy precautions, like washing hands, wearing face coverings in public, and limiting the size of gatherings.

My own personal, highly unscientific survey of the Brown County area leads me to believe that while many people are taking the precautions seriously, many others have grown weary of such restrictions, if wearing a mask can be used as an indicator.

Gambling with your health and well-being wouldn’t be so bad if doing so didn’t also mean gambling with the health and well-being of others.

Even though many cases of COVID-19 appear relatively mild, medical officials are continuing to study any possible long-term consequences. It might not cause health issues down the line, but it might.

I’m not running scared. I’m not locked down. I’m still going about my life. I just happen to subscribe to the “better safe than sorry” philosophy.

But let’s get back to the top where I wondered how things might be different after COVID-19 concerns have been put behind us. Things might not change drastically, but they won’t be the same.

People who track such things are already witnessing a migration of families from big cities to rural communities with top-notch hospitals, excellent schools, and appealing quality of life — places like Brown County. With the accommodations commerce and education were forced to make during the pandemic, such moves are more feasible now than ever before for millions of people. We’ve proven that employees don’t need to “be” in the big city to “work” in the big city. The benefits of wasting less time and energy while commuting will be far-reaching.

This year will be something of a washout for business owners who depend on customers coming through the door, and for their employees who lost jobs because business collapsed. Many storefronts and jobs may have been lost forever.

The travel and hospitality industries, to name only two, have a rough road to recovery. That won’t happen overnight after the virus is subdued, because I suspect demand will overwhelm those industries’ ability to provide services, at least initially.

Speaking of washouts, consider the great American pastimes that are major businesses in themselves. Entertainment and sports events have had to be reworked or reinvented, if not abandoned completely. Champions will be — and are being — crowned in the various professional leagues, along with high school and college sports, but you know the record books will have bold asterisks beside those results.

Better luck next year.

We’ll never know how things might have been different if games didn’t have to be cancelled or rescheduled, if key players had not been in quarantine whether they were sick or not, and if full seasons could have been played. Congratulations go out to the teams that manage to excel under these circumstances. They are doing the best they can and succeeding in a difficult environment in which just being able to suit up for the game seems like a victory in itself.

Nobody’s crystal ball is perfectly clear, but we have been able to discern a few other things that might be changed. When we finally get beyond this time in history, distance learning and doing business remotely will be more prevalent, but we will have a new appreciation for in-person connections.

But other things won’t change. Some people will get vaccinated as soon as it’s available, some will wait until its effectiveness is better proven, and some won’t ever trust its safety. Some will get sick, while others won’t.

Meanwhile, I’m more than hopeful. I’m convinced we’ll emerge from this twilight zone. It will just take more time.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column “TGIF” appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at tgifcolumn@yahoo.com.