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Lifestyle change and Maui’s future

When the dust clears, it will be interesting to see which lifestyle changes forced upon us by COVID-19 stick around and which ones are swiftly kicked to the curb.

Will folks ever go back to shaking hands with strangers or drinking from water fountains? Will physical distancing persist or will we return to packed concerts, sporting events and graduation ceremonies?

Obviously, the answers will vary depending on how long after the pandemic it is, and how long and hard the fight to end it was. Let’s say it is two years after the last COVID-19 patient is treated on Maui and the world enjoys widespread immunity thanks to a rigorous and successful vaccine campaign. Would you risk a free sample of cheese at the discount grocery store?

We’re all hoping COVID-19 is squelched quickly and completely, but it’s hard not to hear the scientists as they temper expectations with facts. They say we may be dealing with this virus for years to come, that immunity may not last, or, this being the year 2020, that a meteor could strike.

For this exercise, let’s stick with the virus is wiped off the map scenario. What stays and what goes?

Social protections like wearing masks during air travel or keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer handy will probably stay. As will handshakes with friends, hugs for loved ones and drunks shouting over the music in bars.

Kicked to the curb? Social distancing easily tops the list. People across Maui and the world are longing to get out and mingle, to travel and to eat meals in crowded restaurants. Won’t it be nice to take in dinner and a show without the worry of breaking rules or contracting an invisible virus and dying a slow, agonizing death?

Buffets and free bar snacks may be gone forever. Also gone will be blind trust that our government and medical systems are prepared to handle everything thrown their way.

On Maui, changes will include less variety in the stores and restaurants we have to chose from. There will be new people to replace the ones that gave up and moved away. Having adapted, the hospitality and food service industries may function differently than we remember. Hand sanitizer in common areas and touchless keys will likely be the norm.

An article in The Medical Futurist predicts we all may need health clearances or “immunity passports” to travel to other countries. Who knows, Hawaii may require proof of vaccination for entry some day. The article also says health surveillance and tracking will become common, as will the role of artificial intelligence in heading off the next outbreak.

What things should change in the future? Our country’s mistake was in taking its health care workers and systems for granted, in thinking that as a powerful nation we were somehow immune. A public health crisis must never catch us so completely off guard again.

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