I Don’t Want a New Normal and Neither Should You

By May 16, 2020 Commentary

There is a lot of talk about the pandemic resulting in a “new normal” in terms of how we live.  I hope not.  We had one of the best economic periods we have ever had.  One that was producing more jobs for minorities and low-income persons and creating significant real-income growth for those groups.  But we also had growing concerns about income inequality, loneliness, drug and alcohol abuse and excess screen time.  The extreme reactions to the epidemic have exacerbated all those trends.  Study after study shows that low-income and minority people are disproportionately losing jobs and suffering financial harm.  Rates of mental illness and stress are leading to more drug and alcohol abuse.  Isolating people at home and away from other family and friends, and from co-workers, is not helping their mental health.  Asking people to spend more time at home, especially children, is only increasing screen time.  We needed to encourage more real-life interaction, particularly among adolescents, as it was.  We need now to return people to normal social life as quickly as possible, to avoid even greater rates of loneliness and stress induced mental illness, which often results in substance abuse.

And while we obviously have to protect our infirm elderly, this group too was already very isolated and suffered from significant rates of depression and loneliness.  Further isolating them isn’t necessarily good for their mental health or quality of life.  We should think about whether there is a way to protect them, while also giving them some freedom to make choices about their quality of life.

And as a society, do we really want everybody walking around indefinitely in masks and fearful of hugging and touching each other or enjoying the pleasure of a crowd of people?  I don’t.  What kind of life is that?  If this were the bubonic plague, then we might consider that approach.  For the vast majority of the population, this epidemic is no riskier than a ton of other activities or events, so why would we turn our social life upside down for that?  One facet of this epidemic that has surprised me is what a fearful group a sizable segment of the population is.  While we can blame irresponsible media sources and politicians, people should be more capable of thinking for themselves, gathering facts and making a rational assessment of risk, for themselves and for society as a whole.  And if they do that, and more people obviously are, they will likely conclude that we can in fact return to normal without significant risk.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • DuluthGuy says:

    Georgia and Texas have now been open for two weeks or longer. Both have fewer deaths each day than they did when they were in lockdown. Now Wisconsin has been open for a few days outside of a few municipalities. Florida as well. One has to think that the shutdown charade is coming to an end. I’d love to see things like Major League Baseball and Soccer start up soon, as that would get a lot of people that are acting irrationally to realize things are normal.

    Those of us in Minnesota that live on the Wisconsin border and just do our business over there until our Gov Goofy opens things up again.

  • Bob Easton says:

    Mr. Roche,
    It is difficult to keep up with all that you have reviewed. Yet, I very much appreciate the information you uncover, specifically the serious research studies and sound evidence that ~should~ be informing our politicians. Thanks for all the research!

    I want to “Just Say No” to any sort of new normal and return to the normal normal where people are smart enough to weigh their own risks.

    Should you want, I believe it would be very helpful to read your distillation about several topics, especially the two that every petty tyrant imposes on their citizens. Perhaps you can answer these questions:

    1. What does the formal clinical research or clinical trials based on sound statistical principles, and reviewed by authoritative peers, say about the efficacy of using masks to protect from a virus?

    2. What does the formal clinical research or clinical trials based on sound statistical principles, and reviewed by authoritative peers, say about the efficacy of “social distancing?”

    We have all heard these “mediation” methods touted constantly, but there is almost never serious statistical data offered that justifies the impositions. At the same time, we’ve heard many opinions about each of the measures, and to the casual listener, they seem just that; opinions. What does real science say? To what specific degree are these measures helpful?

    And if you care to summarize a third topic, perhaps it could be about what we’ve learned about transmissibility, especially indoors versus outdoors. Maybe there’s a valid reason why outdoor tennis courts in New York can now be open for singles play, but not for doubles? 🙂

    BTW, THANKS also for following up on a suggestion I made a few weeks ago. Your material is much easier to read now with the larger and more contrastful fonts.

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