Part 10: Embracing COVID-era changes
New habits in business, shopping, learning and more worth keeping
At the grocery store last weekend, of course wearing a mask, I was putting my groceries on the checkout conveyor belt and felt another customer encroach on my six-foot spacing. I quickly turned and looked at them, when the checker spoke up and asked the pushy shopper to step back and wait her turn.
I had to smile a bit – and I thought, now, that is a COVID change that I hope will stay.
It’s not like I am paranoid now, or even back when life was “normal,” but I do like the spacing and not having someone push my lettuce forward to make room for her gallon of milk.
So, as we start to breathe a little bit of liberty, there are some COVID-era changes and habits that I would like to keep.
Another one: I think it’s great that we don’t have to bring in our own bags to grocery stores. Sure, one could argue that getting rid of plastic bags and letting grocers charge us for paper sacks was a major environmental accomplishment. But when a top executive of a major Southern California grocery chain told me that cloth bags brought in by customers were not really sanitary and, in fact, were unsafe for his check stand workers, it made me think twice about the wisdom of the reusable bag mandate.
So, I would put that on my list of a good COVID change. For the sake of public health, let’s stick with grocers providing their customers with bags.
Here are a few more:
Online meetings: Big companies have done these type of meeting for years, but now even small businesses have become proficient using this convenient tool and see the opportunities that remote meetings can bring.
The reality is that holding meetings online or providing a whole myriad of ‘tele’ services, could save a lot of time, money, and open up more efficient ways of doing things in many parts of everyday life.
Tele-health: The use of tele-health has grown exponentially during the quarantine. My doctor told me last week that he went from seeing virtually no patients online prior to COVID to 80% of his patients online over the last few months. That is a tremendous shift, made out of necessity. Might a number of patients shift to tele-health visits in the future? This could enhance medical access, limit sick patients from co-mingling with healthy ones in a waiting room, and even reduce the overall cost of medical care.
Remote ‘courts’: Some legal issues have been addressed through tele-courts during the pandemic and a number of court procedures could continue to be conducted remotely if we follow this example. Many in the legal field see the benefit of having those in custody participate in courtroom actions through online access, rather than being transported to court for each “appearance.”
Online education: And even though it has not been easy for multitasking parents of young students, I do think that online education should certainly expand in the years ahead. Even though it might not be the best solution for all grade-school level children, it has been successful and should be expanded for high school and college classes and programs.
College education costs have risen dramatically in the last couple of decades. Online education has been a real solution offered by some private schools, but public colleges and universities should consider making fully online education a permanent option to broaden access and flexibility and lower costs for all students.
Restaurants and cocktails ‘to go’: Restaurants have been dramatically impacted by the coronavirus. The shutdown forced many to create new ways of doing things – expanding take out options, increasing door-to-door delivery, and selling products in unique ways.
As we see restaurants coming back to life, shouldn’t all of those unique offerings remain and shouldn’t state laws allow them to continue for years to come?
I have bought a number of meals to take home over these last few months, including dinners to be cooked or at home from some of my favorite restaurants. These innovative ways to provide dinners has opened my eyes to what restaurants could add to their menus permanently.
Additionally, the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) waived or reduced some restrictive alcohol rules – like ‘cocktails to go’ benefiting many restaurants’ and bars bottom line. Here’s to that practice continuing beyond the emergency!
Dining al fresco: Land use issues should also be re-examined in the coming months and years. As they apply to restaurants, cities should relax and encourage dining outdoors more on sidewalks, patios or newly created options. Like so many European cities, outdoor dining helps restaurants expand their capacity especially with the current re-opening limits for indoor seating. Easing rules to allow the use of more outdoor spaces and eliminating government restrictions for this, is a relatively easy way for local governments to help restaurants recover and grow.
More ‘mixed use’: Speaking of land use, one area that may see dramatic changes is office space. As many companies and employees have grown to accept working from home, office space may not be in as high demand as it was just a few months ago. Cities should modify their zoning laws to allow for greater flexibility in office space areas, adding more commercial / restaurant uses on the ground floor and even taking a big step in allowing residential uses throughout the building.
Many things have negatively impacted us during these last pandemic months. But as the economy continues to recover and as communities reopen, let’s all think about the changes worth embracing in moving forward.
What COVID-era changes do you think are worth keeping?