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Batavick: Daily life will be forever changed by coronavirus, extended quarantine

My astute wife has drawn a parallel between the COVID-19 pandemic and the alien monolith in the 1968 film, “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The mysterious column’s appearance changed everything for a group of hominids at the beginning of the movie, inspiring them to use a tool that, eons later, evolves into space travel. That’s a tall mission statement for our current alien invaders, but I understand what she means.

The arrival of the coronavirus and our current state of extended societal quarantine promise to radically alter many facets of daily life. Here are some of them:

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Businesses are gaining a better appreciation for teleworking, and the size of many on-site workforces will change. This will impact our use of space — from city skyscrapers to suburban business parks, thus changing what architects are asked to design, how real estate is valued, the size of new construction, and even traffic patterns with less congested highways.

It will take a long while before the cruise ship industry recovers. No one wants to be adrift on a quarantined ship.

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Many seniors will be rethinking leaving their secure houses and moving to group residences and/or nursing homes where contagion is happy to find a toehold.

Colleges, now forced to use distance learning, will make it a bigger part of their curricular offerings, thus shrinking on-site attendance and endangering some smaller institutions.

People who planned to retire in the next few years will seek to work longer to rehab their devastated 401(k)s.

Some movie theaters will never reopen. People who have become accustomed to watching films at home will think twice about sharing close spaces in the dark.

Substitute “arenas and stadiums” for “movie theaters” above and you understand the potential impact on sporting events and music concerts. For college football and basketball, decreased attendance threatens the viability of the less glitzy athletics they fund, like tennis, baseball, swimming, and golf.

Nonprofits and museums will be further challenged. While some have exploited the internet to stay in-touch with and engage members, others will need to reinvent themselves or face extinction.

More churches may resort to offering online worship services. My wife and I have been attending Mass in an upstairs room with a big-screen TV. We use monthly electronic giving as our way of contributing, but churches that depend on the collection basket are surely feeling the pinch.

Rogue nations have easily seen the impact of tiny pathogens on powerful military powers and will push investment in biological weapons. They are much cheaper than developing uranium centrifuges and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

There will be a boom in artistic creativity to more than rival all the humorous/clever pandemic jokes and videos we’ve exchanged online. Look for a future onslaught of disease-themed novels, films, TV shows, music, art, and poetry. In the past, pandemics have spurred the creation of great literature, from Boccaccio’s “Decameron” and Shakespeare’s “King Lear” (both written during outbreaks of bubonic plague) to Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” (authored during the AIDS/HIV epidemic.)

There will be continued interest in backyard gardening and home cooking. This should have a positive effect on youngsters and perhaps future generations.

Despite offering home delivery and take-away opportunities, some of our favorite restaurants and food shops may never recover.

Tight spaces and quarantine are forging stronger family relationships but may also lead to an uptick in the divorce rate.

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Look for a jump in birth rates come December and January. Not everyone is assembling jigsaw puzzles.

Because of the explosion of home baking (just try to find some flour and yeast in stores), there will be a boom in attendance at gyms and fitness centers that rivals the weeks after the Christmas holidays.

Though the sheriff’s office reports a decrease in crime, there’s most probably an increase in alcoholism, drug use, depression, and domestic abuse that we’re not hearing about yet.

Doctors, who have discovered the benefits of telemedicine, may adopt it as one of their permanent offerings when you make an appointment.

Certainly, the above musings are a mixed bag, and I hope I wasn’t being too pessimistic. However, there’s no denying the pandemic’s profound and perhaps long-term impact on our world.

Lastly, I wish to do a shout out to the original creators of the internet and those charged with keeping it working during a period of record traffic. I cannot conceive of how we would have coped in isolation without Zoom, Netflix, TikTok, FaceTime, YouTube, Google, and all the other marvelous apps at our fingertips. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

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