The world has been rapidly attempting to adjust to life “in the time of COVID.” These changes represent some rather large tweaks to our standard operating protocols and societal expectations. Takeout, masks becoming fashion de rigueur and yes staying sixfeetapart have all become social norms.
But the big question now is, what will the future look like as things open up and our sphere’s expand? Here are some of the changes you should expect, some of which have already become the new normal.
For the times when Zoom simply won’t cut it (and those times are becoming fewer and farther between), flying has taken on a new “air” of stress and anxiety. Let’s be honest, navigating through airports, hauling luggage and squeezing into the confines of an airline seat has never been classified as “relaxing,” but thanks to COVID-19, air travel has become even less appealing. The United States’ Transport Security Administration reported just 170,000 passengers on May 9, down 1.8 million from 2019. Those numbers have been increasing as the world continues to open up with new policies in place.
Starting in May, most airlines, including Delta, Jet Blue, Southwest, Hawaiian, Spirit, Frontier, American, Alaska, began requiring passengers and flight crew to wear masks in gate areas and on planes. Food and beverage services have been scaled back to reduce handling and costs and some have been attempting (sometimes unsuccessfully) to relax seating policies in order to maximize space in-between passengers.
Some changes the TSA has implemented to make the security screening process safer:
- Consolidated screening operations to reduce flight and passenger volumes
- Visual reminders of appropriate spacing throughout the airport
- Staggered use of lanes in security checkpoints
- Installation of plastic shielding at points of interaction between passengers and TSA ofﬁcers
- Travelers to place IDs and boarding passes on readers or hold them up for inspection instead of handing them over
- Face coverings and gloves required for TSA agents with gloves to be changed following each pat-down and upon passenger request
Enhanced cleaning procedures to disinfect high touch points throughout aircrafts have also been introduced, as has increased cleaning throughout airports. Hand sanitizer stations have been added to ticket counters, boarding gates, help centers, baggage service offices and sky clubs. Measures are also being added to screen potentially sick passengers before take-off. Without a doubt, the skies seem a little less friendly with our fellow travelers in masks, but offer peace of mind to upgrade to the experience at least a little bit.
Being A Tourist
While most major resorts remain closed, many hotels are open for business. Some had been operating with skeleton staffs and catering to first responders at the beginning of the pandemic.
Like airlines, hotels are in charge of creating their own individualized protocols and they have definitely dedicated a ton of time and money to making travelers feel safe.
MGM Resorts International got rid of their buffets back in May and have been asking guests to “self-screen” for symptoms before coming on the property. Employees have been administered temperature checks and are wearing masks.
“Our properties will not look the way they used to for a while, and that’s not only okay, it’s critically important.”Acting CEO MGM Resorts Intl., Bill Hornbuckle
The iconic lakefront, Edgewood Resort in Tahoe, CA announced its’ reopening as of May 15th. Upon check in, guests receive a welcome gift of a mask, sanitizer and wipes. Think of this as the new chocolate on the pillow or welcome drink of yesteryear. Once communal activities, such as s’mores carts, have now been replaced by individually wrapped s’more packages and restaurants and bars have imposed a minimum of, you guessed it, six feet between seated guests.
Disney resorts originally announced it would begin accepting reservations for July 1st but that was pushed to a phased reopening beginning July 11th. According to Dr. Pamela Hymel, Disney Parks chief medical officer, a phased reopening of select retail and dining locations, as well as distancing measures and increased cleanliness, will be a priority. “The Happiest Place on Earth” will now aim to be…one of the most sanitized.
Remember the Bird craze? Prior to Covid-19, Bloomberg reported the e-scooter company’s value to be whopping $1 billion. Now, it’s hygiene not helmets that are going to be users biggest concern. Will consumers be willing to return to renting shared scooters? EcoReco is betting not. The electric scooter company believes consumers will worry about sanitation and therefore revert to owning.
In addition, bike shops are packed. The National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO) reports they are seeing an “explosion in cycling.” Aside from being a sport that families can do together, biking is a safe and socially distanced alternative to public transportation. With consumers putting more money and effort into their bikes, this trend could very well take off with commuters.
Craving to get back into the gym and pump some iron? Well that probably hasn’t “worked out” so well recently. Since many gyms remain closed or semi-closed, people have built muscle memory with at home and on demand workouts.
According to Gulf News, Beachbody CEO Carl Daikeler, who founded his workout-from-home concept in 1998, says new subscriber sign-ups are up more than 200% from the same time last year, and volume is up nearly 80%. Meanwhile, CNBC reports that Peloton saw total app downloads increase five times more in March than February. That is a Tour de Force.
Those who do eventually venture back into a gym will be in for a different type of experience than pre-COVID. 24 Hour Fitness Chief Operating Officer Karl Sanft told ABC news that members can expect two out of three cardio machines to be closed in order to keep with social distancing regulations. There will also be reservations for equipment with half hour cleaning periods spaced in between. Expect to see yoga studios providing sanitized mats, lockers to be spaced out and smaller group classes. In Georgia, where gyms were one of the first to reopen, members were only allowed to use certain areas of the facility as part of phase one and the majority of group classes were placed on hold.
For the foreseeable future, wherever we venture, things are going to look and feel different. For the foreseeable future, our new existence will include masks, gloves, sanitation stations and an emphasis on physical distancing. It will be interesting to see how quickly we relax these new bastions of public health, but for now, the good news is that we are getting back out there and while we may not be high fiving yet, this is great progress from shelter in place and safer at home mandates. Eventually, this new normal will start to feel, well, normal.