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Welcome to Our New Timeline

From Juliette Kayyem at The Atlantic: After Social Distancing, a Strange Purgatory Awaits. I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot over the past few weeks and nodded vigorously along to this whole piece.

Over the past week, I’ve been informally contacting friends and colleagues in a variety of fields โ€” sports, travel, architecture, entertainment, arts, the clergy, and more โ€” to ask them how their world might look after social distancing. The answer: It looks weird.

We will get used to seeing temperature-screening stations at public venues. If America’s testing capacity improves and results come back quickly, don’t be surprised to see nose swabs at airports. Airlines may contemplate whether flights can be reserved for different groups of passengers โ€” either high- or low-risk. Mass-transit systems will set new rules; don’t be surprised if they mandate masks too.

It’s like our timeline has split and an alternate reality awaits us on the other side of the quarantine. All sorts of activities that were considered normal and we did without thinking will now require deliberation.

On dating apps, people will specify (with varying degrees of accuracy) whether they’ve had COVID-19. Casual making out will come to seem reckless. A handshake? Have those test results ready. A friendly hug? I don’t even know your last name.

Our attitudes and outlooks may change in disappointing ways. We will be home a lot more. We’ll also use shaming, against friends and others whom we judge to be taking needless risks, to cultivate better voluntary behavior.

The simplistic idea of “opening up” fails to acknowledge that individual Americans’ risk-and-reward calculus may have shifted dramatically in the past few weeks. Yes, I’d like to go meet some girlfriends for drinks. But I am also a mother with responsibilities to three kids, so is a Moscow mule worth it? The answer will depend on so many factors between my home and sitting at the bar, and none of them will be weighed casually.

I’m wondering โ€” how many people are aware that this is going to be our reality for the next few years? There is no “normal” we’re going back to, only weird uncharted waters.