Gathering is bad for public health?

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I can see the article link in the Description section, but I will just paste the text from now on.

5/18/2020

When I first heard that the novel coronavirus was coming to the United States, the only analog from my past I could refer to was hurricane prep or a massive blizzard. The distinction, as I looked forward, was that this shut-down was going to affect the whole country at once. I always believed that the condition, though widespread, would just be temporary. A matter of weeks. As cases and deaths mounted, I could see quickly how wrong I had been.

Now we suffer through constant cliches about “the new normal,” yet no one knows what that will look like or when it will get here. I worry that a long period of stability with regard to international health crises may be a thing of the past. What if the “new normal” is that we have a massive lockdown every 18 months?

In that nightmare scenario we will have learned definitively that a “crowd,” like smoking or driving without a seatbelt, is a potentially life-threatening danger that should be avoided.

This implicates regulation and infringements on liberty, but my current concern is the way in which engaging in any “crowd” behavior is going to be very hard to give up, regardless of regulation. People like to be in bars, restaurants, sports events, rock concerts and a whole bunch of other diversions. More importantly, there are major parts of human civilization that can’t exist in their current form without a crowd. I’m thinking primarily of education.

My old job as a trial lawyer really required a bunch of people to be together in a room to get into the guts of a case and share their understanding about every crumb of evidence. I don’t currently see how an effective trial prep could occur in the context of social distancing.

So, my old job is one that, at least in the short run, has to go back to “the old way” of doing business. As with education, we are talking about a process that can’t occur overnight. I can imagine some more progressive firms making a project out of finding a way to prepare for trial while everyone works from home. But it’s such a revolutionary change that undoes so many years of established practice, I could only see it working after a great deal of experimentation (trial and error?) and a great deal of time.

Movie theaters represent a crowd activity that was on the wane before COVID-19. The pandemic has likely accelerated the process whereby a long-standing industry will cease to exist. Journalism is another area where the dynamics were already changing with remote work being more and more common.

But there has not been a similar trend in sporting events or concerts or amusement parks or any number of activities that offer a unique experience. I have heard some talk that entertainment and event industries are re-thinking their presentations with a MOVING AUDIENCE as the starting point. This will bring about some radical disruptions, which is great, but the traditional experience may be lost to the ages before too long.

It is taking me a long time to understand the concept of “gathering” as a potentially toxic activity. My whole life I have thrived on connections with others, and our shared experiences reinforce those connections. Whether it is seeing Roy Haliday pitch a no-no in the playoffs or being in the third row for a Neil Young concert in 1988, I can’t imagine a world where my son doesn’t have access to such experiences. And yet, there is a very real possibility that is the upcoming “new normal.”

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About Mike Pomerantz 21 Articles
Mike Pomerantz is, in no particular order, a political news junkie, an attorney, a writer, a musician, a progressive, a parent, and a husband. He spent over twenty years practicing law in and around the City of Philadelphia as a civil litigator and trial attorney. In 2018 he began to consult on tech projects in cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence.

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