We are in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in one hundred years. In the spring of 1918, an out of the H1N1 influenza A virus, commonly known as the “Spanish Flu” ravaged the globe, infecting over a third of the world’s population. Cities and people around the world were forced to quarantine in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Nowadays we are also sheltering in place and social distancing in order to combat COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus. To date the global death toll due to illness caused by the virus has surpassed 500,000. In the US over 100,000 people have already died. With public and private institutions being largely closed off to visitors in an effort to maintain public health and safety, many of us are unsure about the future. In many ways the coronavirus is giving us a peak into a future that will be more digitized than ever, hinting at changes in public life that may last long after restrictions are lifted on public life.
How has it Changed everyday life?
In a national survey conducted by Consumer Reports, researchers asked Americans the ways in which their everyday lives have been changed by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Over 76% of us are very concerned about the transmission of the virus, and we have every right to feel so. Researchers have confirmed the virus is at least ten times more contagious than the flu. In order to combat the virus most countries have shutdown much of public life and have urged their citizens to wear masks and to practice social distancing in order to slow down the spread. Those who have been exposed to the virus are required to isolate themselves for 14 days. Even as many countries try to navigate the reopening of their economies and their public institutions there is still much uncertainty about public gathering. A fifth (21%) of Americans say they will avoid using public transportation for the foreseeable future. For black and brown Americans whose populations have been hit hardest by the virus, many believe that the virus will change the way they live their lives completely. As most of us are stuck at home, we have become much more reliant on the Internet, smartphones, and other electronic devices to get through our days.
How has it impacted SME’s?
The novel coronavirus has also created a lot of anxiety of small and medium sized business owners. Small and medium sized business owners have been forced to close up shop, leaving many of their employees out of work and uncertain of when they will be able to return. From January to March, confidence in an economic bounce back for these small business owners has gone down. According to Forbes, who published an article on the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses they found that over 38% of business owners now are uncertain that they will be able to recover from the economic impact of the virus. In a recent poll conducted by SMB Group it was discovered that the industries where small businesses were the most likely to be negatively impacted by the coronavirus included the personal services industry (beauty & hair, pet care), the hospitality industry, and the manufacturing industry. The challenge for many business owners, their communities, and they government officials is figuring out a way to keep these small and medium sized businesses from permanently closing due to the economic loss created by the pandemic. Many small business owners are reaching out to banks for loans and there are some new government sponsored programs designed to keep these businesses afloat during this uncertain time. But many business owners are still worried that the damage dealt to their businesses by the virus will be permanent.
The Rise of Zoom
A year ago, if you asked the average person if they used Zoom, they might shrug at you, shake their head, or just look at you in confusion as to what that was. If you asked them that same question today, they’ll probably tell you that they use it to teach their graduate school seminar or to host their kid’s 15th birthday party. Zoom is the latest online trend sweeping the nation as millions of people are forced to stay confined in their homes to safeguard against the disease. At the behest of government officials and public health experts many cities and states around the country have been forced to close public areas such as schools, recreation centers, and office buildings. With so many people unable to meet in person, a lot of us are now conduct our business online. And Zoom has quickly become the platform most frequently used to do so.
Zoom can be very helpful for schools, in particular. From kindergarten to graduate school, institutions of learning, their staff, and their students have been forced to leave the brick and mortar school building, opting to conduct lessons online through video conferencing platforms such as Zoom. As schools are areas where diseases can spread quite rapidly, the choice to use Zoom instead of conducting in person classes can help schools slow the spread of the virus on their campuses. Even after restrictions on cities are lifted, many schools, particularly universities might remain closed, even into the fall, as having many students traveling back and forth between them may cause an increase in outbreaks. Zoom can help students stuck out of state our out of the country to continue with their lessons and connect with their professors and classmates in real time so that they can keep up with their studies.
Online Ordering Went from a Convenience to a Necessity
Most of us are familiar with Amazon Prime, Door Dash, and other online shopping and delivery apps. Most of us probably used them more than we would like to admit, at times when we just “happened” to scroll past a cool pair of shoes we just had to purchase or we were just to lazy to cook breakfast…and….lunch…and maybe dinner. But as retail stores and restaurants are forced to shut their doors and the lines to safely enter grocery stores extend past the parking lot, online ordering has become more than a tool of convenience, for many it has become a necessity. Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, we all must be wary about interacting in large groups, even when cities begin to lift restrictions on quarantine. It is especially dangerous for people who are older or who have compromised immune systems to go out and interact in public. Doctors have confirmed that these groups of people are much more likely to have severe symptoms that can be fatal if they contract the disease. Online ordering can help people who are more at risks of fatality from the disease to reduce their person to person contact while still being able to maintain relative independence.
But there is some Hope
Though much of public life remains closed, restrictions have proven to be an effective measure to slow down the spread. Some countries have even seen a decline in the number of people entering hospitals that have tested positive. Though social distancing measures should still be adhered to, our efforts thus far have been working. Despite being more physically separated than we have ever been before, the world has been able to come together in a profound way. Almost every country on earth has been affected by this disease and it has forced us to recognize that we are connected
with one another and our actions have an impact on not only ourselves but our communities at large. Many of us have become much more empathetic and are working hard to be more conscientious with our actions. And our collective organization has helped to prevent the deaths of thousands of people.