Over 500 Epidemiologists Were Asked When They’d Do Things Like Go To Weddings And Workout At Gyms Again

Doctor testing coronavirus patient for covid-19

iStockphoto / zstockphotos

The two questions that pretty much every person on the planet have asked themselves over the past three months are: when will life look normal again? And when should we return to normal life?

I struggle with the latter more than the former. I’m down in Florida and it feels a bit like we’re being fed to the wolves at times. Bars and movie theaters opened last weekend despite Florida seeing six days in a row of 1,000+ new positive cases. Restaurants have been open for weeks already but now you can head on down to the local dive bar and pound some beers as if the world outside doesn’t exist for a few blissful hours.

In most areas of life, when faced with a massive decision we are able to turn to experts for advice and/or look at data sets that can help inform and guide our decisions. Choosing a college? There are hundreds of data points on every college in America to help you make that decision by comparing your choices. Looking to buy a new car or your first house? There’s literally endless information out there to help you make an informed decision on where, when, and what to buy.

But when it comes to completely reentering society in a post-COVID world even the experts are faced with difficult personal decisions. When is it safe to go out to dinner again? To work out at a gym? When can we get our haircut safely? What about flying on a plane or taking public transit? There’s some guidance from the experts on when to take these steps but ultimately these are all very personal decisions that even the experts have to make for themselves. The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists questions about when they’ll return to normal life and everyday activities like working in an office, shaking hands, going to school. Here’s what they had to say:

NYT / Twitter @sangerkatz

NYT / Twitter @sangerkatz

It looks like most of them will pretty much be avoiding handshaking until there’s a vaccine which could potentially be years from now.

The comments from the experts were certainly interesting. They are all weighing the coronavirus risks against the damaging effects that complete avoidance could have on well-being. Many are choosing to send their kids to camp or socialize because of the benefits to mental health. Everyone is faced with the same dilemmas on minimizing risk where we can but then there’s a whole segment of society who never seemed to care in the first place and didn’t change their behavior at all.

Social distancing worked exactly as it was intended to and for that reason, people thought the initial alarms were all hype. A recent study found that lockdowns across America prevented an estimated 60 million cases in the USA alone (285 million in China).

Some of my closest friends have told me I’m insane for taking this threat so seriously but I’ll give you this example from my own life. After months of having my 14-month-old son at home instead of at daycare (which we were still forced to pay for while not sending him), we were ready to set our toddler back last Monday. The Thursday before sending him back we get an email that one of his teachers tested positive. The next day another email that his other teacher in the room my son had been in while he was still at daycare tested positive.

These teachers practically co-raised my son with us and after all the mental gymnastics it took to convince myself daycare was safe again, BAM, it hit that close to home for me. I get that this is 100% anecdotal but how does someone like me who was willing to concede on daycare as the *one risk* in life send his kid back after both of his teachers tested positive days before I was going to send him back? This all harkens back to how everything we’ve chosen to do or not do over the past 100+ days has been a deeply personal decision for everyone and what my neighbors might choose for their lives is completely different from whatever I choose to do in mine.

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