A New Post-Virus World Order

Many of us, I know, have been contemplating the societal changes that could come about as a result of the devastation of covid-19. This disaster, horrible though it is, is an opportunity to step away from some of the bad decisions and policies we have followed for so long.

While some of us have thought and written about the possibility of a progressive — not to say revolutionary — future (guaranteed annual incomes, medical services for all, a rebalancing of corporate-human interaction, a fostering of community, etc), Politico has been looking at a decidedly more prosaic and worrisome set of possibilities. The following is from their email of today:

Regular checkups — Singapore and other Asian countries adopted widespread fever testing in the aftermath of the SARS epidemic. After coronavirus, the same could become the norm in the U.S. Before someone enters a store, office building, school, stadium, airport or other public space, they could be subject to thermal scans to check for an elevated temperature, much like they sometimes have to go through a metal detector to check for guns today.

Tracking — China and South Korea are already using apps to trace people’s movements and record symptoms in order to track the next hotspots. Americans may have to get more accustomed to logging and sharing their movements to help officials track and contain the virus spread. Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo is urging residents to keep a daily log of where they have been in case they become infected. She suggested today that such logs could become a requirement for coronavirus testing in the state. “There is going to be a discussion about how to manage security and privacy concerns while meeting this gargantuan challenge of tracking sick patients in any given community,” said Dan Hanfling, an emergency room physician and vice president of In-Q-Tel, which invests in security technology.

Random sampling — Ohio and Masschussets are planning to randomly test people in order to get a better handle on case counts and virus spread. Until widespread testing is available, random testing could allow a region to track the virus spread and know when to re-impose stay at home orders.

Certifications — Germany is already creating certificates for people who have recovered from the virus, which confers on them at least short-term immunity. The certificates allow people to sidestep lockdown restrictions. If antibody testing becomes more widespread, the idea of certifying the recovered could take off here as well.

Staggered seatings and at home services — Restaurants, museums and concert venues could offer staggered seatings and shows with smaller, separated crowds. Painted lines on floors could help people appropriately space. In addition, hairdressers, manicurists and other service providers could move to home services that limit customers’ contact with one another.

More public spaces and micro-transit — Cities could accelerate new forms of transit and rethink public spaces, said Steven Pedigo, a University of Texas urban affairs researcher. More cities could build bike lanes or widen the ones they already have. Wider sidewalks, too, could help people commute without contact. Cities won’t disappear as the result of the pandemic, but they could become less dense.”

What do we think of those as the future we grow into?

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