In my classes to motivate senior citizens to write their memoirs, I often say, “Think how much the world has changed in your lifetime.” Identifying major changes that have occurred over several decades or perhaps a century is obvious. But the Wall Street Journal recently claimed that the Covid-19 pandemic has become a momentous event, one that is rewriting the rules of our lives in short order.
It is changing where we live, how we shop, how fast new drugs are developed, where we go to college and what we expect from the government. In fact, a WSJ team of journalists provided an analysis of numerous ways that our post-Covid-19 world will never again be the same. Here is a brief summary of a few of their key points.
The first major change is the fact that white-collar workers are trading their expensive lives in densely populated areas for cheaper, greener pastures. One major real estate company calls this change the “Great Reshuffling.” These moves will reshape transportation, real estate and an emerging fixture of American life: the “exurbs” (fringe outlying communities of major metro areas). These fringe areas were prized for their extreme privacy or more affordable housing before the pandemic, but were much less wealthy than the cities and affluent suburbs they surrounded. The Great Reshuffling will make these exurbs richer and denser.
The second change is that the pandemic has forever altered shopping habits. While the mall isn’t dead, the in-person shopping experience of the future is going to be a lot different. Big-box retailers (like Walmart and Target) are likely to enjoy permanent boosts in popularity as shoppers look to consolidate shopping trips — a habit picked up during Covid that is unlikely to go away.
Third: High expectations and low vaccine acceptance pose long-term recovery threats to the economy in this country and worldwide. Fireworks lit up the New York City skyline on June 15 when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 70% of adults in that state were at least partially vaccinated. But many parts of the U.S. and the world are a long way from any celebration. The consequences of the variation in vaccine distribution and the disparity in different parts of the world could roll on for many years. This will make the economic recovery less predictable and more uneven.
Fourth: As a retired college professor, I am well aware that the college-industrial complex is under threat from online schooling. The health crisis already took a big bite out of higher education revenue. But the pandemic’s long-term effect on colleges and universities will be the changing attitudes about remote learning. Now that a generation of would-be college applicants has grown used to online learning, the business of higher education will likely never be the same again. Hundreds of American colleges may not survive.
Fifth: Covid vaccines have delivered a health boost for drugmakers, and faster drug development will likely become the norm. Vaccine development was once the ultimate long-distance race for drugmakers, but in the pandemic, the industry showed it can run a sprint when needed. Moreover, there is reason to hope that technology like that used in Moderna’s and Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines can be effective against other serious diseases.