To quote the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life.”
As we stare down the barrel of the coronavirus rifle, we must ask ourselves what will future changes be like. Which changes will be temporary? Which changes will be permanent?
Impact of Coronavirus
In my last two blogs, I’ve reviewed the impact of coronavirus on the restaurant industry as well as other commercial real estate sectors. Here, I contemplate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy, urbanization, healthcare and, perhaps most interesting, people and their habits.
Impacts from major societal events do not show up for a while. For example, people had fewer children following the 2008 economic crisis because they felt financially insecure; however, we are just seeing this impact now in schools, as current graduating classes outsize current elementary school classes. That recession also profoundly affected the housing market; people became more inclined to rent than own.
It will be the same for the impact of coronavirus—it might be years before some impacts become apparent and start to matter.
The U.S. will most likely experience a short recession, moving toward recovery in Q4 2020 or Q1 2021. Considerable debate as to whether the recovery will be U-shaped or V-shaped is ongoing.
Will the federal stimulus provide a safety net and give the economy the needed boost? Will manufacturing return as the U.S. tries to rebuild vital supply chains? Will the huge increase in federal debt trigger significant inflation? We shall see. What we do know is that there will be winners and losers.
Use of recent technological innovation will continue to accelerate. Throughout this crisis, we have seen restaurants pivot to survive, service providers shift delivery online, and distanced choir members record on smart phones to sing as one. I even wonder if Zooming will become the next Googling. Who knows? But I doubt this ingenuity will stop anytime soon.
Impact on Urbanization?
Even with all the creativity coming through the Internet into our homes, it is hard to stay indoors.
New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and Atlanta have been hit hard by this pandemic. After months of isolation in small apartments with little space to exist, will millennials and other city dwellers call it quits? An exodus to the suburbs or smaller cities could become reality as people may feel safer with more living space and as more companies allow their employees to work remotely.
Shift in Healthcare
We will see shifts in our healthcare system. I expect industry leaders are already considering what future revisions to make, so they are more prepared for the next crisis.
For healthcare, some expect weathering this crisis will actually improve the system as it has led to the quick adoption of policies to help vulnerable populations, including:
- providing paid sick leave, so employees do not have to choose between job and health
- reopening health insurance exchanges or expanding Medicare
- enabling Medicare beneficiaries to use telehealth services and healthcare providers to be reimbursed for such services
- supporting people with housing insecurity and the homeless to promote health
Many of these policy changes will likely become permanent.
Impact on People
When discussing the entertainment and sports industries in my last blog, I briefly touched on the pandemic’s impact on people, asking when people would feel comfortable returning to major events.
Just over a year ago, I enthusiastically attended the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta. An estimated 500,000 people, including 150,00 out-of-towners, flocked to downtown Atlanta to participate in Super Bowl events. I might have been worried about pickpockets, but certainly did not worry about getting sick from being amongst the throng.
Forced to Slow Down
A writer for The Atlantic claims this tragic event has forced many Americans to slow down: “With more quiet time, more privacy, more stillness, we have the opportunity to think about who we are, as individuals and a society.” He argues we have been living too fast, committed to “speed, efficiency, money, hyper-connectivity and ‘progress’.”
Maybe this will help us become a kinder, gentler nation with more appreciation for family, friends, healthcare providers, public safety workers, nonprofit volunteers and people who are “at-risk.”
More Questions Than Answers
Will Americans slow down once America is re-opened? Will families be more connected and better value their time together? Will people more often seek genuine face-to-face interaction with others or spend more time outdoors? Only time will tell.
A common theme in my blogs about the coronavirus pandemic is, for now, there are more questions than answers, but we do know those words about change from 500 BCE still ring true today.