Credit: Politico

Alan Chartock: Pandemic predictions

Depending on whether this particular pandemic fully goes away, our circumstances may change a lot or a little.

We are going through a real transitional time because of the COVID-19 curse. It is assumed by some that when this thing is over, everything will be back to normal. Of course, that is not true. Depending on whether this particular pandemic fully goes away, our circumstances may change a lot or a little.

Take education, for example. We know that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is talking about cutting back state school allotments by 20 percent. If our kids are packed into rooms that may each have 40 students, one can only wonder how our kids are going to learn anything. I confess that when I was falling behind at P.S. 75 in Manhattan and my mom, an educator herself, saw the reports, she went out and got me a tutor. That tutor and the Hardy Boys incentives surely saved me. Most people reading this will say, “But what about the rest of the kids?” That’s exactly my point. Many of those kids packed into the too-small classrooms may never catch up. From a statistical point of view, they will not get the reading proficiency that will be needed in our demanding world. If you are a kid sitting in the back row of that classroom, particularly if you are as short as I was, you’re screwed.

Of course, schools are just one example of how COVID-19 will affect the next generations. What about all those people who are doing their best to flee the big cities, including my original hometown of Manhattan? We have all learned a lesson about what happens when pandemic strikes. The Hudson Valley and the Berkshires haven’t got enough houses to sell or rent. Many people have discovered the ease of working remotely and will never return to big cities, figuring that another pandemic will surely come along.

A great many people now telecommute. I run a radio network and I am on the air for hours every day. I have a tie line that allows me to work from home, saving me a daily commute of an hour each way. Many of the staff members are doing the same thing. In my opinion, there has not been a notable difference in the product, other than the fact that my microphone is way too close to the refrigerator and on a few occasions, I heard from listeners who were disgusted that I was eating on the radio. My point is that now that so many of us are used to working from home and we have the necessary equipment to do so, is unlikely that we are going to change our ways.

Then there is the matter of how we dress and cover ourselves. So many people believe that the idea of making women cover their faces in public in some societies is outrageous. Now our whole nation covers up and we lecture those who do not. My bet is that we are going to see whole generations covering up.

How about dating and sex? The New York Times has been covering huge block parties at New York University with many of the participants not wearing masks. There are some things that young people will just not give up. The traditional ways of finding temporary or long-term partners will not easily go away. Gov. Cuomo has been very angry about institutions of higher learning not controlling these gatherings. These same institutions are now regularly resorting to teaching online. Once our professors get used to this, it may well be that they can live virtually anywhere and still do their jobs. In the old days, if you were married and took a job at a college, someone would have to be the so-called “trailing spouse.” That’s over now, too. You can live anywhere.

My bet is that this pandemic leaves us open to widespread change, like it or not.

Just saying.