It was just a few months ago that we were ringing in the new year with resolutions and predictions for what the next 12 months would bring. At that time, no one imagined that our whole way of life would be turned upside down before winter was even over.
With the new coronavirus sweeping across the nation, here are nine ways it has changed life in the U.S.
1. Handshakes are taboo
Experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been urging everyone to stop shaking hands in an effort to help stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
One WHO infographic says:
“Respiratory viruses can be passed by shaking hands and touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Greet people with a wave, a nod or a bow instead.”
In fact, publications ranging from CNBC to The Times of Israel shamed President Donald Trump for shaking hands with numerous people during the same March 13 press conference at which he declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic.
2. Anti-social habits are hip
You no longer have to worry about looking standoffish if you refuse to hug an acquaintance or decide to make a wide detour around a stranger on the street. In fact, such reluctance to interact is encouraged by the CDC, which says:
“Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”
As everyone tries to stay safe in the midst of the pandemic, anti-social behavior is not only acceptable but could also be lifesaving.
3. Home is the new weekend hot spot
There has never been a better time to be an introvert. Social distancing means you have a ready excuse for declining invitations and staying close to home.
Even if people want to go out, that’s hard to do in much of the country. States from New York to California have banned dine-in service at restaurants and bars. The screens at movie theaters owned by AMC, Cineplex and other companies have gone dark, and nearly all of the nation’s casinos — including those on the Las Vegas strip — are closed, according to a report from the Las Vegas Review Journal.
As if that didn’t eliminate most opportunities to go out on the weekend, residents in at least a dozen states have been ordered to stay in their homes except to complete essential tasks, in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Guess it’s a good thing some movie studios are allowing home streaming of current theatrical releases such as “Emma” and “Onward.”
4. Sneezes look different
Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze is nothing new, but please don’t tell us you’re still sneezing into your hands. That means germs are transferred from your mouth and nose to your fingers and palms — and, from there, to every surface you touch until you wash those hands.
The proper way to sneeze or cough, according to the CDC, is to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue and then throw that away immediately. If you don’t have a tissue handy, sneeze into the inside of your elbow instead.
5. Handwashing includes a song
Everyone should know to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating. But in light of COVID-19, the government is reminding people to be more vigilant about doing this coronavirus-killing task properly and more often.
The CDC actually has a five-step process for proper handwashing that starts with wetting your hands, then working soap into a lather and scrubbing for 20 seconds. You should take care to wash the back of your hands, between fingers and under nails. Then, it’s time to rinse and dry using a clean towel.
To make sure everyone is scrubbing for the full 20 seconds, the CDC suggests humming the song “Happy Birthday” twice. Or if you want something peppier, the choruses of “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Jon Bon Jovi, “Africa” by Toto or “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo would work as well.
6. We’re obsessed with toilet paper
Hoarding hand sanitizer and cleaning products seems like an understandable reaction to a global pandemic. Piling up your cart with toilet paper doesn’t make as much sense and, yet, here we are. Online reports abound of store shelves cleared of not only toilet paper but paper towels, napkins and tissues too.
It’s not clear why people became so obsessed with buying toilet paper at the start of the coronavirus crisis. There’s no reason to think manufacturers will be unable to make more. However, the empty shelves at stores across the country are probably what continue to fuel the buying frenzy.
7. Telecommuting is in
In order to keep people safely separated as well as meet requirements of government shelter-in-place orders, many companies have transitioned employees to remote work. Twitter, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are a few of the businesses that have either encouraged or required their workforce to do their jobs from home.
For workers, that can mean adjusting to new routines and technologies, such as virtual meetings.
8. We’re all home-schoolers now
It isn’t just workers who are staying home. Tens of millions of students have been affected by school closures across much of the country. In fact, as of this writing, school is only in session in a handful of states.
The response from school districts has been varied. Some are shifting to online instruction while others are opting against it, citing concerns about being unable to meet federal mandates that require they provide equal educational opportunities to special needs children at home.
Regardless of the approach of the district, many parents have found themselves scrambling to try to fill their children’s days with something more than Netflix and video games.
9. Sunday services are now held at home
Sunday worship services have been another casualty of COVID-19. Many churches have halted their weekend services in response to government recommendations to limit large gatherings. Some, such as Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, are livestreaming their services instead. However, a few congregations continue to defy government orders and say they won’t stop meeting in person.
How has the coronavirus changed your life? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.