As a daily news reporter for one of those many sites that mostly regurgitates news that has already been reported, I get a daily dose of information that those with other professions aren't paid to subject themselves to. As such, I have an impression as to how the coronavirus crisis will play out, but don't think of me as an expert and take what I have to say with a grain of salt.
That being said, it seems that the initial crisis is beginning to peak. Looking at the lastest graphs, you can see that a curve is finally starting to appear in the U.S. coronavirus cases rather than it just being a straight line shooting up into the stratosphere. This is something to be relieved about, but there's still a long road ahead of us.
My morbid fascination with viruses is also coming into play here but again, I'm no viral biologist. But I my understanding is that a virus like the novel coronavirus currently causing our pandemic is a lot like the flu virus. It will keep coming in waves, usually peaking during the winter season. What I have read is that the coronavirus is mutating, as viruses do, but slowly.
The flu virus mutates rapidly into various different strains which continue mutating over time. This is why you can get the flu again and again -- the mutations are significant enough that your immune system doesn't immediately recognize it. That's why you have to get a flu shot every year. Other viruses mutate slowly, or possibly not at all (I'm not personally sure here). That's why you can get immunized to the measles as a child and it lasts at least for a few decades.
In conclusion, this means that once we develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, we'll all probably only have to get it once, maybe twice in our lifetimes. That makes things simpler.
So when is a vaccine coming? My most recent reading on the subject says that if everything goes right, we're at least 18 months out. That's a while, obviously. I'm not sure what this means for the near future. If we do things right, the number of new cases should level off and then begin to fall, as it has in countries like China, South Korea, and Italy. It seems likely that if/when that happens, the U.S. will want to open up again and go on like normal. That's not going to be good, because as long as there are any coronavirus cases and any amount of travel is allowed, there will be new outbreaks and we could find ourselves right back where we started.
I think our best bet would be to stay closed down and distancing and put our energy toward adapting until we can deploy an effective vaccine. That is what we would do if we prioritized lives over "the economy." But it will mean many more months of eviction moratoriums and basic income, to start.
I'm not confident that's the way it will go.
This post is supposed to be about after all that. Oops.
The point is that best case scenario, things are locked down for long enough that our entire economic system will have to change or we will be in big trouble. This post was supposed to consider whether post-coronavirus America/planet Earth would be able to go back to pre-coronavirus "normal," but I think writing it out has brought me to a personal conclusion. I don't think things can go back to normal no matter which route is chosen for us.
The government can try to open back up again pre-vaccine but more outbreaks will happen if they do that. It's basically inevitable. It's as close to inevitable as I can accept, being an "anything can happen" kind of person. Hospitals will be overwhelmed again, people will die, businesses will get scared again, and any governor and mayor who isn't just an absolute puddle of garbage juice will shut shit down when it comes to their city/state. The economy will not be able to go back to what it was.
This might sound scary and well, let's be real, it is. But if you thought the old economic system is/was terrible, then there is a lot of cause for hope. It absolutely sucks butt that it took a deadly disease that is causing so much pain and death to make things change, but if we put in the effort, we can make it all worth something.
I think that yes, things will have to be different post-coronavirus. And I believe in our collective ability to make that change be good.