There’s no doubt that this pandemic has changed life as we know it, and some of those changes could endure and become the new normal. People who have been able to work from home may want to continue doing that, finding it more convenient and cheaper without the commute. I had my first remote doctor appointment recently, and I liked it for two reasons. It was definitely cheaper than driving to Altoona, AND I didn’t have to face getting on the scale! My kind of doctor visit for sure!

I’ve been wondering what it will be like when our churches reopen for worship. I’ve been watching services online, but am finding that I really miss being able to receive communion and participate fully in the Mass. Our choir loft is rather small and won’t allow for social distancing, and I don’t know how singing with a mask on would work. It’s hard to say what our new normal will look like. I know that churches, like many other organizations, are suffering from a sudden drop in contributions that makes everything more difficult.

I would think that the restaurant industry will be experiencing the biggest changes of all, with many of the smaller restaurants unable to survive at reduced capacity when they finally do reopen. Larger chains will be able to afford measures like maintaining 50 percent capacity, screening customers by taking their temperature when they enter, and employing people to perform sanitation measures throughout the day. Restaurants that have switched to take-out only may have had to change their menu and offer foods that don’t lose their appeal when reheated. I’ve found that I have more plastic and Styrofoam containers to either recycle or throw in the garbage now, knowing that they’ll be taking up space in a landfill for years to come. I think restaurants have been enjoying a booming business for quite a while, and I’d bet that some people actually spent more money weekly in restaurants that they did in grocery stores. Many restaurants were just as crowded on weeknights as they were on weekends. All that has changed in a big way, and the industry will struggle to recover.

I miss my hairdresser! A LOT! Every time I pass by a mirror, I wonder who the frowzy lady is looking back at me! I’ve done the Root Rescue a couple of times to keep the white roots at bay, but I’ve only been brave enough to trim my bangs a tiny bit when I couldn’t see out from under the fringe anymore. Instead of enjoying Amy’s expert attention every four weeks or so, I have been sorely neglected for more than 10 weeks, with no haircut in sight! She’ll be getting a bigger tip from now on!

Education has been thrown into online instruction suddenly and without any preparation, and from what I’ve heard, most students are anxious to get back to in-person instruction and interaction, in spite of their teachers’ valiant efforts. With unprecedented numbers of people being unemployed, school districts will struggle because of massive losses of tax revenues. It’s hard to think of all the far reaching effects of this pandemic, and it may well come to be regarded as the event of the century.

Major changes have come to hospitals as they tried to prepare for the possibility of huge numbers of COVID-19 patients. Thankfully that hasn’t happened in our area, but what has happened is that patient numbers have decreased drastically, resulting in the layoff of hundreds of hospital workers. People have postponed elective procedures and have even put off trips to the emergency room for fear of contracting the virus.

I recently needed to have some blood work done, but when I went to my usual facility for the test, I was told that the lab had been closed and I would have to go to the hospital lab instead. Well, I had not wanted to be anywhere near a hospital, but had to go there if I wanted to get the blood work done. As I waited with my mask on, a hospital worker was spraying disinfectant on every chair in the waiting room, and every other chair was blocked off. The strong smell of disinfectant reminded me that hospitals were possibly now safer than they’ve ever been. Even so, I was relieved to get back to my car, get my mask off and grab the hand sanitizer!

Although the pandemic might mean the end of many small businesses, many large stores are thriving. Walmart’s online grocery ordering has become hugely popular, and Amazon has had to prioritize deliveries because of increased online shopping. Big winners also include Dollar General, Costco and Home Depot. The big losers through all of this are hair salons, café’s, flower shops, gyms, hotels and theaters. There’s no doubt that our towns and cities will look very different in the post pandemic world.

I know there are different feelings about getting back into the swing of things after the restrictions are lifted. There are those who are more than ready to resume normal activities, but I’m a bit reluctant and I wonder if I’ll ever look at situations the same again. Even when I’m watching a movie on Netflix and see crowds of people together, I cringe, although I know it happened in pre pandemic times. I wonder if our longtime traditions like county fairs, Fourth of July celebrations, church festivals and homecomings will survive.

I know this won’t last forever, and that our country has been through devastating health events before, but right now it looks like hunkering down for a while longer will be the order of the day for me. Stay safe and healthy until we emerge from this, hopefully with a better appreciation of little things like hugs from a grandchild, which are actually one of the biggest and best things of all.

Marilyn Secco is a retired teacher and author of the book “Front Porch Tales.” She has 2 children and 5 grandchildren and lives in Kersey with a temperamental cat named Tidder. Contact her at mbsecco@windstream.net

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