For over 3 years we have been waiting to hear this message. While we know that Covid is still killing people in significant numbers, it falls into a category of other cases of flu that kill vulnerable people every year. Mask mandates have largely disappeared and activities have resumed in a fashion that we knew pre-pandemic. It is nice to see people's faces again or shake hands.
Having said this we as a culture have been changed by experiencing a pandemic. We now know that we should not carry on our normal activities when we have a cold. Going to work or school with a cold or the flu is no longer seen as acceptable. Washing our hands has become more of a regular activity than it once was.
So what is the most significant change that the pandemic has caused? The answer is not a surprise--the movement to a digital world was greatly accelerated. I haven't been to a library building in 3 years for a book. All my reading of books is now done on my tablet. Many of my meetings are now on Zoom rather than in person. Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal, along with credit cards, have caused me to barely use cash or send a check. Online doctor visits seem to be normal now. Going to a travel agent to plan a trip seems so 20th Century now. Where would be without Google Navigation? And of course, online shopping has largely overtaken in-store shopping.
Finally, I mention maybe one of the biggest changes brought on by the pandemic--working outside of the office. Nothing compares to this change for its profound change in our society. Employers will try to get workers back into workplaces that existed pre-pandemic but it is a battle that is already lost. Office space will be more limited and shared which will change what cities look like. Many office buildings are already being changed into residential condos. There will be far fewer restaurants in cities as business lunch business will be dramatically reduced. It will take some time but eventually, this reality will decrease the need for cities themselves. Locally we will see Columbia grow as Baltimore declines. The population of Howard County is not that far below Baltimore City right now.
While many will bemoan the loss of direct contact and interaction, the conveniences that the digital movement has given us have freed up our personal lives to expand the time to do other more preferable activities. Thank you pandemic for speeding up this process.