Akron Beacon Journal
A year ago, our lives as we knew it completely changed. We had never heard of COVID-19 or coronavirus, or if we did, the information was trickling in.
What a year it’s been.
And yes, I know — this isn’t an anniversary any of us are celebrating.
Our lives have been overturned by this virus. We’ve had loved ones who have been sickened or died from the virus; we’ve lost jobs and opportunities. We miss our friends and get-togethers. Many of us who have been cooped up in our houses wonder when things will ever become “normal” again. Still others have had to go to work daily during the pandemic, despite the risks.
The list could go on and on.
But let’s take some time to look at what things have developed during COVID that might stay – for good or bad. This isn’t an all-inclusive list, but just some highlights.
1. Curbside pickup
Did you ever think you could place an order on your phone or computer, pull up to a grocery or retail store or restaurant and someone would run out to put your bags in your trunk?
That wasn’t a regular thing before COVID, unless you were going to a drive-thru for food or Swensons for a burger. It’s now become a convenience born out of necessity for safety for consumers and spawned new or updated job descriptions for employees.
Akron-based Acme Fresh Markets started grocery delivery and curbside pickup services about two to three years before the pandemic, said Acme Vice President of Marketing Katie Swartz. But with COVID, both services went “off the charts.”
Curbside pickup and delivery services are here to stay, Swartz said.
“We’ve made tremendous improvements to the system out of necessity. Now we feel we’re in a very, very strong position for whatever comes next to be able to offer this very improved service,” Swartz said.
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For instance, Acme has improved its website to make online ordering more organized. There’s even locally produced recipes on the website featuring items on sale in the grocer’s weekly ad.
Customers can also now edit their online cart “after they place their order, because you always forget that one thing,” she said.
2. Virtual meetings
“Zoom” was not a verb or even in most people’s vocabulary a year ago. Now that we have Zoom and other video chat platforms, they seem to be here to stay for work meetings, after-work commitments like organization meetings or even family catch-ups.
During the pandemic, the Beacon Journal newsroom team has had a daily virtual meeting at 9 a.m. Pre-pandemic, our editor started an in-person morning meeting first at 9:30 a.m. for us to discuss our plans for the day. That was a stretch for many in the newsroom, who may have come in closer to 10 a.m. and worked later. Attendance wasn’t great. Right before the pandemic, he moved it to 9 a.m. and let’s just say attendance was not better. But now that we have the virtual meeting — with cameras optional — meeting attendance is much better. There are a few colleagues whose faces I have not seen on camera in over a year!
I know we’re all Zoom-fatigued, but I’ve appreciated being able to attend some after-work commitment meetings virtually instead of having to drive somewhere after a long day at work and then driving home. I hope those stay an option.
I’ve also never talked to my extended family and my husband’s extended family so much virtually. I’m sure, like you, we’ve been craving literal face time with our relatives, so virtual options have helped connect us over the miles in a way that we never did before.
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3. Working from home
Work-life balance and working from home before COVID was a lot of people’s dreams. I shared this fall when I wrote a column about being lonely while working from home that I wished when my kids were younger that I could work from home more. But it wasn’t as easily accepted in many workplaces or with certain jobs.
Now that so many of us and our companies were forced to adapt to working from home during the pandemic — and showing that it can be done productively — will offices ever go back to being a bustling center full of people in their cubicles? I’ve also heard managers tell me when people return back to the office, they’ll lose productivity themselves and for their employees with commute times.
But with that work-from-home flexibility also comes a negative — the lines between work and home have been blurred and that can cause problems for a healthy work-life balance, too.
During the recent snowstorm, I had a regular checkup at my doctor’s office scheduled. The office had wanted me to come in-person. I called my doctor’s office, asking if I could switch to a virtual visit, since I wasn’t sure I could get out of my hilly neighborhood.
Before the pandemic, I would have trudged my way to the doctor’s office on the snow-covered roads. Instead, I was able to stay at home and and chat with my doctor on my computer.
There are obviously still certain medical appointments where it is necessary, or better, for your doctor to physically see you. But will the option of telehealth for appropriate circumstances continue to be an option moving forward?
At the Cleveland Clinic, the health system went from nearly nearly 37,000 virtual visits in 2019 to more than 1.2 million in 2020.
“At Cleveland Clinic, we expect telemedicine to become increasingly commonplace,” said Dr. Steven Shook, lead for Virtual Health for the Cleveland Clinic.
“Even after the pandemic is over, we foresee that virtual care will remain prevalent as patients and health care providers alike have discovered its convenience and ease of use. By removing geographic barriers, this technology allows us to extend our reach and care for more patients in need,” he said.
5. Business on top/casual bottom
Admit it: Yoga pants, sweatpants and jeans are comfy at home. If virtual meetings stay a thing, I’m sure business wear on the top and yoga pants/comfortable pants on the bottom will stay a thing, too.
Will plexiglass or the bank-teller look stay up in retail stores, doctor’s offices or any public-facing places after the pandemic is over? While they have been put up as a way to protect employees and the public from spreading the virus to each other, sometimes with the plexiglass, plus mask-wearing, it is difficult to hear what the other person is saying, resulting in people leaning in really close to the plexiglass, bending down to try to listen through the hole in the plexiglass, or worse, leaning around the plexiglass, thereby defeating the purpose.
Similarly, if we officially reach herd immunity, or a point when enough people are immune to the virus and can no longer spread it, will masks be a thing of the past? Dr. Thomas File, past president of the Infectious Disease Society of America and chair of infectious disease at Summa Health, has told me he thinks there will still be a portion of our population who will wear masks when out in public, much like it was more commonplace in Asian countries to see mask-wearing in public pre-pandemic.
With strict restrictions of spectators during this pandemic, high schools had to quickly pivot and find a way to share athletic events and other school events taking place. Will livestreams continue to be available post-pandemic for high schools and colleges? Many hope so. It gives local and out-of-state family members of a student the chance to experience the game or event together.
Livestreaming: With COVID-19 fan restrictions, area high schools turn to livestreaming athletic events
9. Binge-watching TV
Thank goodness for streaming services. My husband and I have watched a lot of TV and movies during this pandemic. We’ve caught up on shows we never had time to watch and checked out a lot of new shows. During the height of the shelter-at-home period, when our college-aged daughter and high-school son were both home regularly, we filled a bowl with movie titles that different members of the family wanted to watch. Whatever came out of the bowl had to be watched, and there were some doozies.
I know we’re not alone hanging out and watching a lot of TV. Will we return to a movie theater when things feel safer? Probably, since we still like seeing movies on a big screen (and my husband said he misses movie-theater popcorn). But, ironically, we scoff at paying movie-theater prices for a direct-to-streaming movie. It’s just not the same.
10. Hikes/Being outside
Before the pandemic, I’d say my husband and I were casual hikers. I mentioned this in a column in January discussing the health benefits of being outside, especially during this pandemic.
Doctor’s orders: Go take a hike; your body will thank you for it
We’ve done several of the Summit Metro Parks Fall Hiking Sprees. But usually, we were busy with life and other exercise activities first. Last spring, when we were all cooped up, our family definitely walked a lot. In the summer, we biked a lot. In the fall, we hiked a lot. Even in the winter — even though I complain each weekend before we go out on a hike — my husband and I have been going on hikes. That’s definitely a pandemic plus. It’s been fun to see our parks’ landscapes in a different season.
COVID-19 anniversary series
This is a column that is a piece of a four-part series on the anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Northeast Ohio. For more the complete series visit:
Part 1: ‘We are at war.’ When coronavirus first came to Northeast Ohio Part 2: ‘Lives will be irreparably destroyed’: Pandemic unmasks growing political divide Part 3: ‘COVID just hit us really hard.’ Bucking the rules, an ill president and upended holidays Part 4: ‘You could not have written a better horror story.’ Experts say end to pandemic in sight What pandemic changes are here to stay?
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Betty Lin-Fisher: 10 things from COVID-19 life that might stick around
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