Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 27, 2020

Dr Oz Explains What the "New Normal" Will Look Like

“The New Normal” is a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot lately, but what does it mean? What will life look like as states lift stay-at-home orders and we begin to venture out into the world again? Much of our experience with the coronavirus thus far has been unpredictable to say the least, and it’s likely that what our lives will look like will change quite a bit over the coming weeks and months.  

Most of us have many questions about how best to return to public life. How “normal” will the new normal be? What precautions will we still have to take to protect ourselves from COVID-19? To get some sense of what the future will look like, we checked in with talk show host and author Dr. Mehmet Oz. Recently, he devoted an entire episode of The Dr. Oz Show to speaking with top experts to get answers to these very questions. Dr. Oz told us more about what he knows as a doctor and what he has learned from talking to other experts about the safest ways to move forward.

Continued Social Distancing

While social distancing can be incredibly difficult on us emotionally, it is the reason why we have not seen worse outbreaks and more deaths across the country, says Dr. Oz. He sees no signs that social distancing will stop in the coming months and says that we will actually need to practice it even more diligently when we are out in the world with others. Dr. Oz predicts that physical distancing will continue until treatments and vaccines are more widely available. 

One thing is for sure: we will need to continue avoiding gatherings of over 10 people, whether that is in movie theaters, restaurants, or even in a friend’s backyard. This is one reason why bars will not be part of the first phase of reopening in most places: in a crowded bar, it is simply too difficult to maintain the social distance of six or more feet required to reduce the spread of coronavirus. 

Dr. Oz also talked to us about how work will change. Many Americans will be returning to work very soon, and this will continue to slowly increase. Telework will continue to be encouraged as much as possible, but workplaces that do reopen will find new ways to ensure that social distancing is adhered to. The concept of social distancing will also continue to affect nursing homes and hospitals, where visits will continue to be prohibited to protect high-risk patients. 

More Face Masks

Something we’re a lot likely to see even more often in our daily lives according to Dr. Oz is people wearing face masks in public. New York governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed an executive order that mandates wearing face masks in New York, regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms. Other governors in Connecticut, New Jersey, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island have followed suit.

Since COVID-19 can spread without symptoms, face masks are among the most effective ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Dr. Oz emphasizes that even if you don’t live in a state where wearing a mask is mandatory, it is a good practice to take up for your own protection and to protect vulnerable populations. The CDC recommends that even people who feel like they have recovered from COVID-19 should wear a face mask when they go back outdoors as a precaution. 

Dr. Oz also says we should keep in mind that face masks are no substitute for careful social distancing, self-quarantining if you have symptoms, and washing your hands often.

Location Tracking to Prevent Virus Spread

In our interconnected world, it shouldn’t surprise us that tech giants are key players in the fight against coronavirus, says Dr. Oz. He mentions that China has already implemented mobile phone tracking apps to track peoples’ movements. In the U.S., Google and Apple are also collaborating to find new ways for U.S. health authorities to track coronavirus exposure using Bluetooth while protecting people’s privacy. 

Other technologies are also being developed that can help identify places where there are major outbreaks, locate people who are sick, get them into isolation, and ensure that others who have been in contact with them are quickly quarantined. State and local governments may also use anonymous cellular data to determine whether people are complying with stay-at-home orders and to determine whether stricter enforcement is needed.

A Different Kind of School Day

As the country begins to reopen, Dr. Oz says, one of our top priorities will be safely reopening K-12 schools. This likely will not happen until fall at the earliest, which should give schools sufficient time to create safe plans for reopening and effectively put them into action. 

Classrooms will definitely look a lot different, according to Dr. Oz. Administrators will work to find the best ways to keep students at a safe distance from each other so the risk of COVID-19 transmission remains low. One way we may see schools doing this is by creating schedules where some students attend school on certain days and others on different days to reduce the total numbers of students in classrooms together. Half-days, where half of students come in the morning and half in the afternoon is another option that could happen in some places. Smaller class sizes could also happen. These kinds of changes will of course depend on the individual school. 

There are some changes to schools we will see across the board, however, Dr. Oz says, as they are all ways to keep kids, teachers, and staff safe. These include increased sanitation, temperature checks for all students, teachers, and staff, and possibly even in-school virus testing to keep outbreaks from spreading. Recess and classroom activities will also look quite different. Using technology to play games indoors or finding creative ways to have fun in groups outside without getting too close will also come into play.

Making Restaurants Safer

If you’ve been missing your favorite restaurant, you’re like most of us, but will it be safe to go there, or even enjoyable? Dr. Oz believes that we may have to adjust, but that restaurants are finding creative ways to create safe and friendly spaces where diners can enjoy a meal without too much worry. 

Starbucks will offer restricted seating to ensure that patrons can remain at least six feet from each other while enjoying their lattes, and many restaurants will use similar models. In most restaurants, Dr. Oz says, you will definitely see a reduced number of seats. Outdoor seating will also be relied on more heavily since the virus can spread less easily outdoors. In addition, diners may be asked to have their temperature checked upon entry, and both servers and diners could be required to wear face masks and gloves. Menus, too, will change, moving toward disposable paper menus to prevent the spread of coronavirus on surfaces. 

Several hopeful new technological innovations were also discussed on The Dr. Oz Show episode on “the new normal.” One new technology we could see is ultraviolet lighting that could potentially kill the virus. Indoors, we will also see restaurant owners installing new ventilation systems or finding other ways to increase ventilation and air flow. Finally, expect to start paying with contactless payment by using the chip on your debit card or paying with your phone using GooglePay or ApplePay. Dr. Oz says the sheer number of changes that we will see within restaurants is encouraging, as every step we can take to reduce contact will make us a little bit safer. 

What About Sports and Events?

If you’re a sports fan, you may not be thrilled about the new normal, at least in the beginning. According to Dr. Oz, it is very unlikely that we will see crowds at concerts or sporting events any time soon. He also says that live sporting events probably won’t happen until 2021 at the earliest. Oz notes that it is simply impossible for mass gatherings to safely occur, especially with crowds reaching 50,000 people, at some sporting events. 

What could potentially happen, however, is that games will be played in empty stadiums while fans watch online or on television. (In fact, this is already happening with the South Korean baseball season.) At present in the U.S., testing and sanitation would have to increase, and quarantine procedures would have to be extensively developed before athletes could safely play. Another issue in the U.S., Dr. Oz tells us, is that fans are a major source of revenue for professional sports teams, and players’ high salaries are directly related to how much ticket revenue comes in. If there are no fans in the stands, athletes’ salaries would have to decline in response. Players’ unions may or may not agree to this, Oz says. We’ll have to wait and see. 

Other places that attract big crowds, such as Disneyland and Disneyworld, are definitely planning to reopen but at much lower capacity, decreasing visitors by at least a third. In addition, Dr. Oz says, you will see increased cleaning and disinfection and staff members wearing protective gear and masks. Physical distancing will also of course be mandated at Disney’s many restaurants, shops, and resorts.

The Future of Travel

While many of us are dreaming about the day when we can hop on a plane and take off for our favorite beach, this may not happen quickly, according to Dr. Oz. The public will likely be asked to avoid nonessential travel while stay-at-home orders are in place.

In the future, however, many experts say that air travel will return, but with heavy restrictions in place. Airline passengers could be required to use a contact tracing app, agree to temperature checks before getting on planes, and confirm that they have not been in contact with positive cases of COVID-19. In terms of business trips, many conferences and meetings can happen virtually, so this should not cause undue issues. 

As cities reopen and people return to work, we will also see changes to public transportation to encourage social distancing, including limiting the numbers of passengers allowed in buses, subways, or ride-share services. 

As we all look forward to entering the world again in some capacity, Dr. Oz would like to remind everyone to stay safe and continue to follow guidelines that will protect them and others. Staying at home as much as possible, practicing physical distancing, and wearing a face mask are some of the best ways we can do this while hopefully enjoying our lives a little more.

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