We are amid a global pandemic, the likes of which we haven’t seen in one hundred years. In the spring of 1918, an outbreak of the H1N1 influenza A virus, commonly known as the “Spanish Flu,” ravaged the globe, infecting over a third of the world’s population. People across the world were quarantined to stop the spread of the disease. Nowadays, we are also sheltering in place and social distancing 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 primarily closed off to visitors to maintain public health and safety, many of us are unsure about the future. Yet, in many ways, the coronavirus is giving us a peek 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 how the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has changed their everyday lives. 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. Most countries have shut down much of public life to combat the virus and have urged their citizens to wear masks and practice social distancing 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 public institutions, there is still much uncertainty about the public gathering. A fifth (21%) of Americans say they will avoid using public transportation for the foreseeable future. Many believe that the virus will change the way they live their lives entirely, especially black and brown Americans whose populations have been hit hardest by the virus. 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 for 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 recover from the virus’s economic impact. In a recent poll conducted by SMB Group, researchers discovered that the industries most 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 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 with their companies 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 look at you in confusion as to what that was. If you ask them that same question today, they’ll probably tell you that they use it to teach their graduate school seminar or 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, many of us are now conducting 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 left 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 rapidly, the choice to use Zoom instead of teaching 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 out-of-state/country students s continue with their lessons and connect with their professors and classmates in real-time to 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 fabulous pair of shoes we just had to purchase, or we were just too lazy to cook breakfast…and….lunch…and maybe dinner. But as retail stores and restaurants shut their doors and the lines to enter grocery stores extend past the parking lot safely, online ordering has become more than a tool of convenience; it has become a necessity for many. 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 hazardous for the elderly and those with 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 at risk of fatality from the disease reduce their person-to-person contact while still maintaining relative independence.
But there is some Hope
Though much of public life remains closed, restrictions have proven to slow down the spread effectively. 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 profoundly. Almost every country on earth has been affected by this disease. It has forced us to recognize that we are connected with one another, and our actions impact ourselves and our communities at large. As a result, many of us have become much more empathetic and work hard to be more conscientious with our actions. And our collective organization has helped to prevent the deaths of thousands of people.