The New Normal
Within the last few weeks, people have started talking about ‘The New Normal’; basically, how the world will have permanently changed due to effects from the recent virus outbreak of COVID-19.
Some of these changes are due to the nature of COVID-19 itself, and others are the secondary effects caused by these changes.
1: Social Distancing – New measures, and recommendations, have been put into place for people to maintain a distance of at least 6 ft from other people, or at least people that they do not live with. The thinking and idea is that being more than 6 ft from other people makes it hard for COVID-19 to spread. Some places are experimenting with various kinds of Plexiglas dividers to keep people semi isolated from each other. I have seen examples for use in restaurants, beaches and parks. All of them seem interesting but I do not think any of them really will work well enough for people to want to put these into enough use to keep business at the pre outbreak levels.
2: Wearing of masks and goggles and other personal protective equipment (PPE) – New recommendations for everyone to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) of masks, goggles and even gloves when out in public. While wearing PPE out can’t hurt, unless worn incorrectly, there are problems with this approach. I have seen people wearing PPE when they were out by themselves and even driving alone in a car. These are two examples of PPE doing nothing since there was no one around the person for COVID-19 to spread to or from and the person was simply wasting a mask. Currently there is a shortage of masks so bad that many medical facilities are reusing masks, which is something that would have never been done pre COVID-19 outbreak. My best estimate of world wide mask production is about 110 million masks per day; but since there are about 8 billion people on the planet, that would mean that on average each person could have a new mask every two or three months or so.
I am particularly alarmed at medical facilities have to reuse masks instead of the standard practice of using a new mask every time a new patient was seen. It seems that a more defined standard of use of masks should be published to the public with:
A: Supply enough masks to medical facilities so that a new mask can used each time a new person is in contact.
B: Masks for people that are in contact with elderly or people with health conditions; like nursing homes or senior centers
C: Anyone else that is in close contact with people and can’t maintain a distance of 6ft.
I have also noticed that many people are wearing masks as though they think the mask will protect them from COVID-19. This is not how mask wearing really works. When you wear a mask, you are mainly making it so you do not spread germs from yourself. The mask acts as a barrier to stop particles that the virus can ‘ride’ on from spreading to other people. In the same manner, when you come across other people that are wearing a mask, protection from the spread of COVID-19 is provided by the mask the OTHER person is wearing. I have noted that some people are wearing the masks when they are outside even though they are not near anyone and will not be near anyone. Wearing a mask in that situation is simply a waste of a mask.
The best studies that I have come across indicate that mask wearing is, at best, 90% effective, so it is not 100% and a better choice would be to maintain distance.
3: There will probably be a second and even a third wave of COVID-19. If the Spanish Flu of 1918 is any guide, there will probably be a second wave and even a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks. I expect COVID-19 progression to follow the same course as that outbreak. Assuming this is correct, we can expect the first wave to end in June or July and almost seem like the whole thing with COVID-19 is over. Then in late fall or early winter 2020 the second wave will start and it will be worse than the first wave. After several weeks that wave will be over and then a third wave will be in late spring 2021. The third wave will be worse than the first wave but not as bad as the second wave.
From looking at a charge of deaths per 1,000 for the Spanish Flu of 1918, it looks like the first wave peaked at 5 deaths per 1,000, the second wave peaked at 20 deaths per 1,000 and the third wave peaked at 10 deaths per 1,000. My impression of what I have seen of COVID-19 so far seems to be a peak number of deaths in the first wave of 1 per 1,000. Based on that it looks like COVID-19 is about 20% of what the Spanish Flu of 1918 was which would mean a second wave of COVID-19 we can expect 4 deaths per 1,000 and the third wave of COVID-19 2 deaths per 1,000.
4: There is a question if a vaccine will be developed in time to matter. – From looking back at the Spanish Flu of 1918, it looks like there was never a vaccine developed. The most recent discussions about a vaccine for COVID-19 is 12 to 18 months, and some estimates put that it will not be until the end of 2021 that a vaccine will be developed. While useful, if it works, by that time COVID-19 will probably have already spread through the entire population making a vaccine not needed anymore. There are also discussions that COVID-19 may undergo various mutations over time and make it something like a seasonal illness, like colds or flus are today, and something that can’t really be vaccinated against because it keeps changing too much. hopefully this is wrong but if it turns out that is what happens then it will be a difficult time for the elderly or anyone with any kind of medical problems.
5: Multiple secondary effects on the economy. With the massive disruptions to many lines of business there are many industries that will need to completely redo how they conduct business and restructure how they are financed. Many loans are probably going to go bad in these businesses. Foreclosures and repossessions may not work as well in the past to cure default debts since what good is to foreclose on a building if there is no market to resell the building and no one to rent it out to. Many lenders are probably going to be forced to renegotiate the amounts of the loans they extended in an effort to keep businesses going so they can recover at least some part of the debt. While not ideal, I can not see any other way for things to move forward. At the moment there are a number of lenders that seem to be acting and pretending that things are going to go back to ‘normal’ within a few months, but I think they will be shocked when it is clear that in ‘The New Normal’ things have changed and are not going back to the way things were.
One example are comic book stores. Comic book stores, at best, get by in good times in recent years but with COVID-19 they had had no new shipments since mid March. Some stores are doing curb side pick up and at least are getting some sales, but I fear that many stores will not be able to recover from being closed for a number of weeks plus having large numbers of their customers on unemployment. I have been surprised to hear of the efforts that a number of customers have made to do what they can to keep their local comic book store going and hopefully these efforts will help them to make it through all of this. So far it seems that the only stores to close during these COVID-19 lockdowns were ones that were already scheduled to close in March, April or May 2020 and the lockdowns just caused them to move the final date up by several weeks. Diamond Comic Distributing is supposed to ship a weekly order this week so starting on Wed, May 20 there will be new comics in the stores for the first time since mid March and hopefully that will keep the stores going.
I will write move about the economic and social changes in my next part talking about ‘The New Normal’.
Good Luck and Take Care,
Louis J. Desy Jr. – LouisDesyjr@gmail.com
Sunday, May 17, 2020