As COVID Fades — in Starts — Effects and Prevention Habits May Persist
The habits and procedures developed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will likely persist in some form long after the disease is under control.
What will life after COVID look like?
As vaccinations increase and cases and deaths decrease (though spikes are starting to appear), life is starting to return to a semblance of normalcy. Many people are back at work, and soon will be at school, and they’re approaching fall football, fairs and other events with a combination of caution and optimism. But according to University of South Carolina Sport and Entertainment Professor Stephen Shapiro, some of the effects of the pandemic on public events will continue long after the virus is — not yet defeated, but perhaps reduced.
Broadway and football games will draw good crowds of people who have been cooped up and unable to attend events with reduced or no audiences, said Shapiro. “But I don’t know that it will sustain that level that we initially see. It’s similar to the novelty effect of new stadiums, where a new stadium is built and people want to go out and go to a game because it’s a new facility. But once they’ve been to the new facility it’s no longer novel, and there tends to be a spike, then a drop back down maybe to some type of average level of interest.”
Shapiro’s colleague Professor Nick Watanabe feels that COVID precautions will continue for at least a year or more, especially vaccination requirements for major sporting events such as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar or the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
Shapiro said one change in sports and entertainment events begun before the advent of COVID has been speeded up by the coronavirus. “Teams have already started, prior to COVID, of going cashless and not having physical tickets,” he said, adding that the move to online or mobile ticketing, and purchases being cashless, will create a market with no money involved at the stadium. “I really believe that COVID accelerated that,” Shapiro said. “There’s gonna be more mobile ticketing and more cashless purchases at facilities, which would keep you away from having to touch other people or exchange money in a way that might be of concern to some individuals.” This COVID-propelled change is here to stay, said the professor.
Other methods utilized to deal with COVID will continue as well, such as meetings by Zoom. According to Watanabe, “I think a lot of people want to get off of Zoom, but I also think people realize the convenience of it.” While lots of folks have missed in-person meetings and will be more than ready to dispense with long-distance meetings, a mix of both is what Watanabe sees for the future. “Sometimes it might be better to have these short meetings via Zoom where people don’t have to drive in to the office so they can do a 10 or 20-minute meeting. They can say ‘just work from home. We can Zoom in today.’”
Both professors agreed that habits developed during the pandemic will help society to be better prepared for a future virus, and Watanabe expressed confidence that such a pandemic will recur. “It’s inevitable,” he said. “I can’t say when it’s going to happen, but we definitely need to be aware and ready for it.”