Special Report: The New Normal – The Changes That Will Outlast COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we do things, we had to change to survive.
But when the threat is gone, what changes are here to stay?
Businesses and communities are always looking for positive changes and ways to make life easier and more enjoyable.
There’s a saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention” and when COVID-19 hit, the necessity was to survive. Whether it was your business, your city or your way of life and what it forced people to do was come up with creative ways to get by. Some of those, once the masks are gone and we are through this pandemic, are going to stick around because they showed things can be done better and more efficient.
“If we were to redesign our system now what is it that we know?” asked Dr. John VanWagoner, superintendent of Traverse City Area Public Schools.
“It became survival to figure the things out,” said Myles Anton, chef/owner of Trattorria Stella.
The food business became the survival business. Without dining rooms, restaurants and bars had to adapt and they took it outside.
“We’ve always done carryout but we never tried to bring the carryout experience home,” said Anton, “Kits that people could pick up and cook at home very easily with cooking instructions.”
The slower traffic also allowed them to build a cocktails and win to-go program.
“At this point the systems are in place,” said Anton, “But the issue is finding staff.”
“At first it was stress and fear and then kind of fun,” said Schuett, “Like having to recreate your business and think outside the box.”
Rare Bird found that COVID-19 uncovered possible growth. Relaxed laws in the city allowed for a big outdoor area and a tent during the summer.
“It was always clunky when those large groups would come because it’s such a large volume at once, it would scare away regular customers,” said Schuett, “So we will definitely be adding that back, possibly instead of a tent, adding rooftop dining.”
“I think a lot of people are saying there are a lot of different and cooler way to do things,” said Benjamin Marentette, city clerk for Traverse City.
During the pandemic, Traverse City opened things up to draw people to downtown.
“I think things like closing Front Street to automobile traffic and opening it to pedestrians is something that was easier to do last year because it was really necessary,” said Marentette.
People could walk freely from place to place, drink in hand.
“I don’t know if that will be back this year,” said Marentette, “But it certainly showed it was possible.”
“Prior to COVID’s arrival in the United States, Munson Healthcare was on a multi-year plan to boost telehealth,” said Chelsea Szafranski, system director of digital health at Munson.
Healthcare was already going digital, but in 2019, Munson did not do a single virtual visit.
In 2020? They did more than 75,000.
“I think it’s safe to say we moved a few years ahead,” said Szafranski.
Just like in healthcare, schools immediately were forced to turn to technology.
“We know there will be an element of our student population that will be interested in online learning education,” said VanWagoner.
The groundwork is laid now and teachers are adapting.
“Coming out on the other side of this, whatever this new normal is, I think it is definitely pushed forward,” said VanWagoner, “Where technology will push toward a more blended style that will become the norm now.
The new norm, for school and for life.