COVID-19: This is when life will return to normal, according to the experts

After second-guessing everything from hugging our loved ones to delaying travel, there is one big question that everyone is likely thinking about: will we ever get back to the status quo? The answer may not be very clear-cut.

Today’s graphic uses data from New York Times’ interviews of 511 epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists from the U.S. and Canada, and visualizes their opinions on when they might expect to resume a range of typical activities.

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When will life return to normal?Image: Visual Capitalist

Life in the near future, according to experts

Specifically, this group of epidemiologists were asked when they might personally begin engaging in 20 common daily activities again.

The responses, based on the latest publicly available and scientifically-backed data, varied based on assumptions around local pandemic response plans. The experts also noted that their answers would change depending on potential treatments and testing rates in their local areas.

Here are the activities that a majority of professionals see starting up as soon as this summer, or within a year’s time:

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The activities that the majority of professionals see starting up as soon as this summer, or within a year’s time.Image: Visual Capitalist

The urge to be outdoors is pretty clear, with 56% of those surveyed hoping to take a road trip before the summer is over. Meanwhile, 31% felt that they would be able to go hiking or have a picnic with friends this summer, citing the need for “fresh air, sun, socialization and a healthy activity” to help keep on top of their physical and mental health during this time.

Public transport and travel of any form is one aspect that has been put on hold, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile. Many of the surveyed epidemiologists also lamented the strain the pandemic has had on relationships, as evidenced by the social situations they hope to restart sooner rather than later.

The worst casualty of the epidemic is the loss of human contact.——Eduardo Franco, McGill University

On the other hand, there are certain activities that they considered too risky to engage in for the time-being. A large share are putting off attending celebrations such as weddings or concerts for at least a year or more, out of perceived social responsibility.

life as normal open up change Coronavirus china virus health healthcare who world health organization disease deaths pandemic epidemic worries concerns Health virus contagious contagion viruses diseases disease lab laboratory doctor health dr nurse medical medicine drugs vaccines vaccinations inoculations technology testing test medicinal biotechnology biotech biology chemistry physics microscope research influenza flu cold common cold bug risk symptomes respiratory china iran italy europe asia america south america north washing hands wash hands coughs sneezes spread spreading precaution precautions health warning covid 19 cov SARS 2019ncov wuhan sarscow wuhanpneumonia  pneumonia outbreak patients unhealthy fatality mortality elderly old elder age serious death deathly deadly
Fewer people are attending celebrations such as weddings, for at least a year or more, out of perceived social responsibility.Image: Visual Capitalist

Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 6% of epidemiologists do not expect to ever hug or shake hands as a post-pandemic greeting. On top of this, over half consider masks necessary for at least the next year.

The virus sets the timeline

Of course, these estimates are not meant to represent every situation. The experts also practically considered whether certain activities were avoidable or not—such as one’s occupation—which affects individual risk levels.

The answers [about resuming these activities] have nothing to do with calendar time.——Kristi McClamroch, University at Albany

While many places are trickling out of lockdown and re-opening to support the economy, some officials are still warning against prematurely lifting restrictions before we fully have a handle on the virus and its spread.