‘Normal’ Will Look Completely Different When This Is All Over

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We are all stuck in the midst of this thing — whether on the front lines of fighting it or just in our houses waiting for it to pass. More and more people are getting sick, and that means more and more people are being directly touched by the devastation of this disease.

It’s going to get worse still, but it’s not too soon to think about how we will start to come out of this. Here’s one economic expert’s view on how we climb out of the brewing coronavirus recession. Below, CNN’s medical team weighs in about how the immediate health crisis, unprecedented though it is, will ultimately end and how humans will defeat Covid-19.

Will it be a vaccine?

Will it be the rising number of people with antibodies and “herd immunity”?

Will we just have to deal with this again in the fall?

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent:

Answer: We don’t know.

A vaccine would be great, but it will take at least a year to a year and a half.

Hopefully we’ll find something sooner than that to prevent Covid-19, or to treat it. Those trials are underway.

At some point, herd immunity will come into play, but that will also take a while, since still the vast majority of Americans don’t have antibodies and therefore are vulnerable to Covid-19.

One of the smartest things I ever heard anyone say about Covid-19 is that we don’t know what we don’t know.

Viruses surprise us.

Who knew that Zika could be transmitted sexually? Who knew that Ebola can linger in people’s eyes? We don’t know if Covid-19 is seasonal, like the flu. (And remember — the flu doesn’t disappear in warmer weather; the numbers just drop dramatically.)

We don’t know if Covid-19 will return in the fall. This is a new virus and it is teaching us what it is and what it will do.

Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent:

We don’t know when this will end. But here’s what I hope: We are a better, kinder and stronger group of people.

Hopefully there will be a vaccine and new treatments in several months — this will help both treat people who are sick and prevent people from getting sick.

There’s still a lot that we need to learn about this virus — why does it strike some people so severely and not others?

What interplay do our genes have on this virus? Why is it some conditions seem to make this disease so much worse? But I do know that in order to get through this we need to work together and hopefully that effort will be the lasting legacy.

Transition strategies and what comes next

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization health emergencies program, spoke Friday about getting from the crisis to the post-crisis.

Ryan talked about “transition strategies” and said each country needs a strong public health architecture, a massive investment in our capacity to do surveillance, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and a robust information system so that people know what to do and where to go if they are sick.

“And if we do that, we have a chance of transitioning back into a life, and economic and social life, that may, in some senses, not be the same again, maybe a more caring, engaged society with a better health care system, with better universal access to health care, with more social justice, and more care for each other, and that won’t be a bad society to go back to.”

“We don’t want to end up in a cycle of lockdown, followed by release, followed by another lockdown, followed by release. That’s not the way forward. And the way to avoid that is we need a transition strategy that gets us back into more control of the virus. We need to get ahead of the virus.”

Get ready for some creative solutions

Proof of immunity — There are other ideas gaining traction. In the UK, they are considering the possibility of “immunity passports” — people who have recovered from the disease would essentially get papers to return to work.

One major issue here: It’s unknown how long immunity will last after a person recovers from Covid-19.

And testing, as we know, is imperfect. It might not be possible to guarantee immunity.

But certainly there will soon be an army of people who have recovered from Covid-19 and want to return to a functioning society.

The thinking will change — It’s never been more clear that health experts and the government are guessing about things too.

While they have long said that only people with symptoms should be tested, it’s the countries that engaged in large amounts of testing that have fared best.

First, they said not to cover your face. Now that may change to completely the opposite.

The CDC used to say there was no evidence that school closures would slow the spread. But nearly every American school kid is home now.

More permanent lockdown — In China, there are color-coded phones for the government to monitor where people go and, also, to enforce quarantine on certain areas.

Related: Read this essay by an American woman who has emerged from quarantine in China, but says “normal” isn’t normal there anymore.

What about China — On the one hand, they appear to have turned the corner on the coronavirus.

Strict restrictions there are starting to be relaxed. But the data coming out of China maybe cannot be trusted.

A key portion of the massive government aid package is $350 billion in “forgivable” small business loans, but they’re not yet going out. Neither the government nor the banking industry is currently equipped to get that kind of cash out the door.

There’s an international war for personal protective gear and masks going on. It’s not good. China, France and the US (at least) are involved.

Trump is frustrated by 3M, but the company says it must still export PPE.


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