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How do we make post-pandemic life feel safe and normal again?

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Dragan Otasevic
Dragan Otasevic Oct 14, 2020
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How should cities adapt to make post-pandemic life safe? How should we change our society in order to give ourselves a safe semblance of comfortable normalcy?
Creative contributions

Safe and Normal again?

Suchinder Paul Singh Dhillon Jan 24, 2021
I don't think safe and normal by their textbook definition will be reached again, nor do I think we should try to attain those. New safe and new normal by all means, but in the former safe and normal world, we were also unprepared and regularly partaking in actions that left us more vulnerable to a crisis such as the pandemic. I would think a better question is either "how close can we get to normalcy and still be safe?" or "how would we re-engineer our society in order to give ourselves a safe semblance of comfortable normalcy?" P.S. I'm new here so if I posted this in the wrong section, I apologize.
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salemandreus3 years ago
Through the world's experiences during the pandemic we've gained both experience (in terms of our work and personal life adaptions) and data (such as the discussions on how societies function, our exposed vulnerabilities in the existing system, and how the planet was faring significantly better with less destructive human practices like overfishing and industrial pollution.)

I think one of the biggest changes however will be the focus on individual and mental health and wellness. This article by CNN (https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/30/health/better-than-normal-wellness/index.html) addresses your point in some interesting ways, which has gotten me thinking more about the personal and individual-centric aspects not just the societal ones.
It focuses particularly on people’s needs in terms of wellness and living a meaningful personal life that is not consumed by work, or else being able to integrate work into our lives in a more sustainable and human-friendly way.

I think they raise a particularly good point in talking about self-care for one's mental health. This need for self-prioritisation was naturally facilitated by many people not being able to do their usual routine and being forced to sit at home or be isolated from people, and have to look inward to find ways to cope, but another aspect which led to its prioritisation was simply the necessity- it can be surprisingly easy to forget that we are going through a collective trauma with all of us being impacted in some way by the virus, many have had to face job uncertainty, and the fear of dying or losing loved ones, many or most have already lost people and overall with the unpredictability of what could happen next on the news as the world learned more and more about this new virus it could very easily become overwhelming to deal with if not managed properly. As the article points out, “Self-care was no longer seen as an indulgence but a necessity to keep going.”

Part of this was also showing us more starkly what was most important in our lives and what we could live without, not just what was traditionally seen as most urgent, in having to stretch ourselves and adapt beyond what we thought we could just to survive physically and mentally.

Many people, myself included, found that their existing jobs were far too stressful on top of the existing stress they were dealing with and that this was the perfect time to pivot in careers, as social distancing gave them insight into these priorities while spending more time with family, alone, or simply being outside of the regular constraints and routine and seeing the difference.

Even in terms of “free” time, people required more self-awareness and coping mechanisms (although arguably the lines of “free time” blurred from work and family time during lockdowns) - mindfulness, meditative practices and ways to self-soothe anxiety and stress became essential.
This was obviously given the inescapability of the situation, with many of our usual recreational distractions not being available either.

From my own experiences of lockdowns and perceiving any form of socialising as having a high cost, any healthy way I could keep happy and mentally well enough to be able to firstly cope, secondly be healthy and thirdly ideally also to work and support other loved ones whether emotionally or financially was paramount.

This also became a clear highlighter to me of where the real stress factors in my life lay, and just how many "essential" things in life I could do without, or found it EASIER to do without, in achieving what was most important to me. With that naturally came a better understanding of what was important and what I appreciated in my life, and just how much of it could be dismissed as non-essential, or even clutter.

Personally, this prioritisation was where I found myself more enabled to quit a lot of social media. I would be very curious to discover whether other people have struggled more with addiction or actually found greater strength through their self reflection and massive adjustments to their normal routine to be able to quit a lot of those things that had previously been a struggle to them, whether due to the help of friends and family or their newly developed self-awareness, prioritisation, and understanding of what they could get through when they had to.

As an extension of all of this focus on wellbeing and accommodating individual needs (hopefully through more remote work), one of the biggest things I'm really hoping for is an increase in accessible systems for people whose needs were not previously considered to be accommodatable, whether disability, neuroatypicality, cultural, religious or work-from-home caretakers etc.
De-coupling people meeting up in massive public spaces from meeting everday needs also as I mentioned lends itself to many safer practices for society, from crime prevention to accident prevention and enabling further decentralisation of essential processes like banking and shopping through online and delivery services.

For many people, accommodating those physical and logistical needs IS accommodating mental health. In my case, I require a quiet place to prevent sensory overload, focus better through my ADHD and be less triggering to my PTSD. For many people, travelling to work is majorly disruptive, requiring making plans for a babysitter or day care, and expensive even in terms of travel and time spent, which further disrupts their wellbeing. Even driving in some cities can be a terrifying ordeal! Things which had seemed “normal” stress and “normal” risk are being realised as things we can prevent, such as it previously being seen as unavoidable that car accidents would continue to be a leading cause of death because people had to go in to work and travel in order to get things done.

As a result of the pandemic, not only people’s changed perspectives and expectations from the experience of working remotely but also the improvements in tech and online and delivery services to facilitate social distancing could actually better establish a society where individuals can manage their work environment accessibility needs and prioritize their self-care even when the pandemic is over, rather than relying on companies to accommodate this.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw3 years ago
I agree. We should learn, adapt and move forward. Areas that are prone to natural disasters such as flooding or earthquakes have safety protocols in place and adapt their architecture to be more suited to their situations. Why would we not treat this the same?
Working from home when possible, restricting public transport systems and even venues to only a certain percentage of their maximum capacity, mandatory health checks before being allowed to attend gatherings and just a general awareness of hygiene are all things that could only be beneficial to be kept in place. There might be some economic disadvantages of restricting attendance and emptying out office buildings, but nothing that would compare with the blow dealt to the economy by a pandemic.

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salemandreus3 years ago
Suchinder Paul Singh Dhillon I agree with you, there are many ways in which we have learned from the pandemic and I really hope that we will not go back to the same normal. There are the other big realisations the world has had during this time besides how better to prepare for a pandemic, such as:

- How pollution can be massively reduced and animal habitats restored in a short time when humans have less presence to disrupt them - we now have hard data and a lot of video evidence which make humanity's impact on the environment very difficult to deny.

- How many jobs allow people to work from home and that they could even be more productive that way and also save companies and individuals money through not having to commute to an office space.

- Also through the need to optimise for remote working - how the world can become far more accessible for disabled people, those without transport, working parents and others with similar constraints and accessibility needs not catered for in society. Many adaptions people were told were impossible suddenly became top priority and instantly achievable when more people were affected.

- How massively the world's resources not only for medical science but also for technology and remote events could be collaborated, particularly through remote resources. Telecommunications have advanced and been prioritised through our full reliance on it in solving this problem and can hopefully help solve further problems of access to shared knowledge and resources even in remote areas.

- Car accidents as the leading cause of death massively reduced, particularly drunk driving accidents, when party spaces were closed.

- With the cancellations of large events like concerts there was also a decrease in crowd-based incidents such as stampedes, shootings and mob violence.

I think it's likely that with all the data and experience we've gained and progress made we will hopefully be able to be better prepared not only for another pandemic and potentially other large-scale catastrophes, but also improving many of the general failures of the system revealed under the pandemic's pressure. And hopefully, having seen what kinds of positive changes can be brought when motivated, people will push for further improvement. 👍

The need for a "new and better" normal rather than returning to the old has also been echoed prevalently by the media and seems to be on many of our minds, so it will be very interesting to see which changes people cling to and what improvements they push for.
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Is vaccination not enough?

Povilas S
Povilas S Mar 11, 2021
I don't know why, but people seem to be very pessimistic when it comes to talking about the end of the pandemic. Even when vaccinations have started on a large scale and it's only a matter of time when the required number of vaccinated people to form herd immunity will be reached, many still talk like it's going to last forever.

Sure there are still risks - there are new strains of the virus that are more resistant to current vaccines, it's not entirely clear how fast does the virus mutate and how often we might need to re-vaccinate people, but the general trend so far is promising. Israel is an example country that has already vaccinated more than half of its population and is swiftly easing the pandemic restrictions. Since so many people are already inoculated with two vaccine shots there, quite reliable data about the efficiency and safety of the vaccine is available.

Furthermore, scientists seem to be positive about the prospects of vaccination despite the emerging new strains. Already existing vaccines provide protection against new covid variants, just with a lower effectiveness rate. Furthermore, they can be updated and adapted to effectively target the new strains. Why aren't we then likewise positive?

This is not to say that after vaccination we should let loose and forget all the safety measures, no, we learned the lesson, and preventive measures should be continued where necessary. Small outbreaks are likely, the need for revaccination is likely, but to say that people won't be able to come back to normal life as it was before I think is an overstatement. Safety is above all a psychological condition, let's not think ourselves into the opposite without a substantial reason.

One thing that is truly sad is the poor countries not being able to get vaccines while rich ones are swiftly vaccinating their inhabitants. But this is a part of global inequality which is another problem. Hopefully, developed countries will provide the necessary number of vaccines to developing ones.


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Illegal to be sick in public

Dragan Otasevic
Dragan Otasevic Jan 25, 2021
Before covid, when people were sick it was normal to go to work and public places like shopping while shedding the virus. The only thing stopping them was if they were too sick to do it. Whether this will make others sick didn't cross people's minds because diseases are natural and normal. Sick individuals felt like their obligation to work is greater than their obligation to keep others from not getting sick. Staying at home because of a runny nose or mild coughing was seen as a sign of weakness.

When seeing someone who obviously shows signs of disease in public, the most people did was to try and avoid that person. Nobody felt they should step up and tell the person this is not acceptable. This is about to change. Being sick in public will become frowned upon if not even illegal.

Covid gave humanity a crash course and a new perspective on virology.
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Anja M
Anja M3 years ago
I think this is important to mention, but I want to shed another light on it.
Capitalistic structures made things worse in this domain, since people would for various reasons find it even easier not to skip a day on their job, but this is not a primary problem. At least where I live, it is frequently, like you said, a sign of weakness if you don't go to: kindergarten, school, job, if you e.g. "only" have a runny nose, slight cough, etc. It is one thing to learn to become tougher for your own sake, but completely another to have this as a lifestyle. Not that everyone behaves like this, but it is definitely something enough spread culturally that it shouldn't be ignored.
I think it is a lack of some domestic culture to attend school, work, and events if you are sick. In a healthy sense (pun not intended), corona should help us cultivate this sense of care for the others if we are sick. Another point that came to light for me a couple of years ago is that I notice this in companies much, especially during the winter. A substantial number of companies have their own central ventilation/heating system, so the air flows in circle in it. In those "closed" circles, it is very easy for a pathogen to stick in and in time affect more people. In addition to that, people sometimes forget to open the windows, as they usually use a balcony or go outside for a break, so this is quite empirically proven, to say so.

The golden middle should be masks, when e.g. you feel well enough to work. I am quite certain a spread of seasonal flu would be diminshed if people would wear masks. It is funny though how Western culture would find Chinese, Japanese, etc.wearing a mask funny for that, but now we very much understand this behaviour and comply to it. And add pollution to that, that we usually forget about, and you have additional motives to wear one.
So, all in all, I hope we develop much more sense and active thinking about disease spreading, without installing paranoia in it.
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Temperature checkpoints at public places

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Feb 23, 2021
Temperature checkpoints at entrances to airports, train and bus stations, maybe malls.
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A global app that tells you the proximity to positive individuals

Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Feb 23, 2021
The app will use your location and notify you if you are within an X-meter radius of an infected individual. To maintain authenticity, the government bodies will set the "active" status on an individual based on their test report. The app will be updated and the other nearby users will get a notification. The users can then choose to change their location. The app will not disclose the details of the active individuals; it will simply signal if they are in your proximity. Only the state or the concerned organization/ department can remove the status based on the person's test report.
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years ago
It's not a bad idea per se, but I think it's too complicated and perhaps unnecessary to implement on a practical level. First, this is easily bypassable by simply using another smartphone or changing your sim card. It's not very nice to be a dark sheep in the crowd and many people would try to avoid this. And not only because of revealing that they are infected to others, but also because of the obligatory tracking. Many people already resist quite harshly to much softer preventive means like masks, so imagine the reaction to this.

Not disclosing the identity of the person wouldn't help much, I think, because it would be obvious in situations where there are rather few people around and a sick person is approaching someone, etc. In order for an app to work, it would have to map people in one way or another and this would reveal sick individuals when comparing that map to real life. Masks and social distancing seem to be enough in this regard, I think such precise tracking would only complicate things.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 years ago
Povilas S I agree. What if the app only covers public areas like malls, offices, parks, etc. that can get easily crowded? The app will not reveal the location of the "active" individuals in other places like their homes and on the roads where the probability of transmission is very low. The app will go silent once you leave the "red zones" and become active upon entering one.

Also, although a sick individual is easy to recognize, an asymptomatic one is not. However, they can still transmit the disease. Another way to avoid revealing the individuals is to slightly broaden the "proximity radius".
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Povilas S
Povilas S3 years ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni Good points. But if the app shows infected people in more crowded areas then there's another problem (ironically) - how will you move in the crowd to avoid people who are infected? Let's say the app shows three infected people around you in the crowd - it will become a puzzle of navigation. Will you go to the other side of the room/public square? This would be a natural tendency, even if a few meters distance is considered enough.

Imagine it's an event, a public talk, or a concert and there are few infected people in the crowd, naturally, all people who are checking those applications on their phones would gather in one corner of the room (or an outside area) which would become crammed with people, leaving infected individuals standing in another corner, center, etc. and again obviously exposed. If it's a shopping mall, then people would go running around from the infected ones in a sort of game manner. Some parts will get empty, some overcrowded, etc. Or alternatively, all people would just leave the place, a gathering would get dispersed. The entrepreneurs running shops/events would be very disappointed about such situations.

The best solution then obviously is for infected people to stay out of crowded places, including public events, concerts, shopping malls, etc. However, especially for someone who is asymptomatic, it's very tempting to attend and then we come to the various means people use to bypass such limitations.

Maybe an app could show the general risk level of certain places instead, meaning not referring to particular individuals, but assessing the status of a certain area by the number of infected individuals present there. If there's, for example, one infected individual in the concert or a supermarket, then many people would still go there, cause the risk of contracting the virus from that person is low (maybe knowing that they would then put on a mask, if it's not generally required, etc.). But if there are few of them, then the risk is substantial and many would choose to avoid it if it's not crucial for them to go. Also, the infected people themselves may choose to avoid places where some of the infected people are already present in order not to make the situation even worse.

The app may show the exact number of infected people in a certain area and then create an artificial border of the area according to how those people are dispersed there, but not show the exact whereabouts of those people. Or alternatively, it may show the level of risk of that area (e.g. green, yellow, red, etc.) according to the number of infected people present there, but not show the actual number of infected people. The standards for the risk levels could be set by the healthcare experts, depending on the size of the area, the total number of people present there, the number of infected people present there, how easy is to move in and out of the area, how easy is to move within it, etc.

This last approach seems the best for me. I think a certain level of not knowing is required for the app to be accepted and relevant for everyone. What do you think?
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Redesign public places

Darko Savic
Darko Savic Jul 24, 2021
I wonder what it would be like to redesign a shopping mall and make it so that chances of viral transmission between people are unlikely.

  • The hallways would need to be wider.
  • glass corridor dividers in the hallways so that groups that came together go in together and never come into contact with other groups.
  • If enough space is left between groups, disinfectant is sprayed from the ceiling, and a timer is displayed for the disinfectant to settle on the surfaces. Then the next group can go in.
  • UV lights turn on when there is no one in the corridors.
  • Extreme ventilation for a few seconds just before the next group of people goes in.
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Manel Lladó Santaeularia
Manel Lladó Santaeularia3 years ago
One of the problems with shopping malls would be that people tend not only to walk around, but also to touch a lot of the available products. This is especially problematic with clothes, since people try them on and basically run them over their head. This would be a very complicated method to solve, for sure.

When it come to the redesign of the spaces, I can think of several things to add to what you mentioned:
-One-way hallways (also inside the shops) to avoid crossing with other people face to face
-Negative pressure forcing air to continuously move in the direction people are moving. This would avoid microparticles of saliva staying in the air so that the next people to pass can catch them. Your microparticles would basically "fly" out in front of you until you exit the place.
-A light spraying of disinfectant over the products every 5-10 minutes to ensure they are disinfected when you touch them.

All of this combined of course with the use of gloves and/or masks when in such small spaces and touching things other people will touch, should help tremendously.
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