Even the least socially aware of us must surely have realized by now that what we’re being forced to go through at the moment is historic. The shock of the coronavirus pandemic will be felt for years, in many ways. The lives claimed and bodies left scarred will be an epitaph of this time, as will the economic effects. But there may be a brighter legacy as well.
The reality is, not all of us will survive this pandemic. Whether by contracting COVID-19 itself or other happenstance, some in this region will not see the end of this crisis. For the rest of us, however, the adage “what does not kill me makes me stronger” may, in some ways, apply. In business, education, health and more, the emergency is forcing us all to view things through a new lens.
For many, it’s a telephoto lens, the result of bridging a distance that may have, until a few months ago, seemed still far in the future. Instead, through necessity, it arrived with a bang.
Remote learning has seen both successes and failures. At first, it was deemed a rousing success. Then, its flaws emerged, and it became clear many students really need in-person instruction and structured time to best learn. But the forced experiment also made apparent the strengths of distance learning beyond the cost savings previously touted in higher education settings.
Cutting out the need for transportation, beyond the financial savings, means some students can lose a two-way ride of more than an hour that eats into their homework and study time. And it could keep some students in school who would, for lack of a reliable ride, be absent more often. And those needing extra help can more easily reach their teacher or tutor.
There are technological advantages in teaching styles as well, offering educators the chance to do more to retain their students’ attention. As with most things, the trick moving forward will be to implement the benefits while weeding out distractions and other technical issues. It may well emerge that remote learning is best-suited to older students. In any case, some new methods will undoubtedly be learned.
Health care is another area ripe for technological advancement. Monday, Cheshire Medical Center in Keene announced that even as it renews in-person doctor’s visits, “virtual visits are here to stay.” That is, for those who don’t feel comfortable or can’t otherwise show up at the hospital, telemedicine will remain a much larger part of the hospital’s repertoire.
This has been seen as a future staple of medicine for a while now. It’s much cheaper to talk to a medical professional via the phone or a video app than to come in person. Health insurers have been pushing in this direction for that reason. Obviously, there are some health issues that can’t be determined or addressed remotely, but it’s surprising how painless and effective telemedicine can be.
And while it was thought by many that the Monadnock Region and other rural areas of the state would be among the last to make the transition, the virus made it a necessity. There are still advances to be made in broadband access, but it seems we’re capable of more than we’d expected.
Businesses, too, have found benefits in having employees work remotely. They’ve also been pushed to adopt new strategies that may prove to be winners well after the pandemic subsides.
To name just one sector, local farming and food distribution has — despite our decidedly non-citrus-friendly climate — made lemonade out of lemons. As food-supply chains have been disrupted, area growers have found, perhaps through some great serendipity, an increased demand for locally produced foods, which some consumers may feel are safer to obtain and eat during the crisis.
Thus, new alliances have presented themselves, and more interest in community-supported agriculture groups has emerged. As noted over the weekend by reporter Meghan Foley, area farms and other food-service businesses have found a surprising demand for locavore offerings.
Finally, there’s this: While the use of masks and social distancing has been, regrettably, turned into a political and ideological issue, we have seen, among those who’ve taken the approach that we all should do what we can to help keep others safe, a solidarity of spirit.
Walkers, runners and cyclists have generally given others a wide berth in the streets and sidewalks. Many people have met neighbors they’ve lived near for years, simply by getting out for exercise or to dispel the boredom of forced sanctuary. And at least here, in this corner of the Granite State, we’ve seen more genuine goodwill expressed toward strangers in passing.
If that survives this pandemic, we’ll all be better off for it.