While many of us have been entertained by the virtual DJ parties and happy hours over Netflix, the country has been eager to find out when life will return to normal. Since the start of the COVID-19 (also known as the novel coronavirus) pandemic, numerous cities and countries have issued mandatory lockdowns, advising residents to stay at home and closing businesses deemed “non-essential” to curb the spread of the virus.
Now, experts say large-scale events such as concerts may not return until late 2021.
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, experts from different fields spoke about the steps it would take for the country and economy to completely open back up. Zeke Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives and director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, told the magazine that he felt that the Trump administration’s initial plan to reopen the economy in June was unrealistic and that we would most likely not be completely open until fall 2021.
“Certain kinds of construction, or manufacturing or offices, in which you can maintain six-foot distances are more reasonable to start sooner,” Emanuel told the New York Times Magazine. “Larger gatherings—conferences, concerts, sporting events—when people say they’re going to reschedule this conference or graduation event for October 2020, I have no idea how they think that’s a plausible possibility. I think those things will be the last to return. Realistically we’re talking fall 2021 at the earliest.” Emanuel added that other institutions such as restaurants could reopen sooner under certain social distancing guidelines.
Other experts, however, worry about the consequences an extended quarantine can have on both the economy and people. “Yes, people will die if we open up, but the consequences of not opening up are so severe that maybe we’ve got to do it anyway,” explained Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton. “If we keep it locked down, then more younger people are going to die because they’re basically not going to get enough to eat or other basics. So, those trade-offs will come out differently in different countries.”
Last week the World Health Organization warned countries about easing social distancing and quarantine restrictions too early, which can potentially cause a new wave of infected cases.
“If people delay care or avoid it because they can’t afford it, they not only harm themselves, they make the pandemic harder to control and put society at risk,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an agency briefing in Geneva.
“This is an unprecedented crisis which demands an unprecedented response.”