These 25 things could become obsolete after the Covid-19 pandemic
- The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people and organisations to rethink practices that could spread disease.
- In April, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious-disease expert, suggested that Americans should never shake hands again.
- Regulations now prohibit buffet-style restaurant service, and it remains unclear whether it will return.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.
The coronavirus has affected nearly every aspect of American life, and many changes are likely to continue far into the future.
Shaking hands, once a way to greet new friends or colleagues, may no longer be viewed as safe, as it has the potential to spread bacteria or viral particles from one person to another.
Similarly, buffets, where lots of hands touch the same utensils over open food containers, now seem more like petri dishes than a nice place to have dinner.
Here are the things that might be obsolete after the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US's top infectious-disease expert, said in April that shaking hands should be a thing of the past, as it helps "transmit a respiratory-borne illness."
"As a society, just forget about shaking hands," he said. "We don't need to shake hands. We've got to break that custom."
The Food and Drug Administration recommended that buffets and salad bars be discontinued while the coronavirus remains a threat, and it's unclear when they might return.
Many restaurants with buffets and salad bars have closed in the wake of the pandemic. A salad-bar chain called Sweet Tomatoes, for example, recently closed all 97 of its US locations because of the pandemic.
Free samples at stores like Costco have been banned. It's unclear whether they will come back.
USA Today reported on March 6 that "Costco stores in California, Washington state and Florida said they did not know when Costco would begin offering free food samples again."
Public touchscreens can become hotbeds for pathogens when hundreds or thousands of hands use them each day.
Touchscreens like those found in fast-food restaurants do have bacteria on their surfaces - though much of that bacteria is not harmful to people.
Some states have banned reusable grocery bags at grocery stores in an effort to keep essential workers safe.
In a statement on March 21, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said that "with identified community transmission, it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home given the potential risk to baggers, grocers and customers." Experts have said that while there is no evidence that the bags can help transmit the virus, it's a good idea to be more cautious.
Though the coronavirus isn't believed to spread through food, experts recommend exercising caution when sharing food and drinks.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch from the University of Toronto told Canada's Global News: "If people are sharing food, the virus may contaminate the food that they're eating or on the fork or knife that they're sharing. And that's a perfect way to transmit this to other people."
Like handshakes, high-fives can also help spread bacteria and viruses.
Dr. Neel Gandhi, a professor of infectious diseases, epidemiology, and global health at Emory University, told ESPN that "when we talk about maximum transmission" of the coronavirus, "the hands are the place where I focus on the most."
"When we talk about the high-five and also the handshake, this is almost the perfect pathogen to spread it," Gandhi said.
Long lines where people crowd together aren't likely to come back anytime soon.
Many places across the country have 6-foot markers to keep people spaced out while they wait in line. Lines for grocery stores in cities have snaked around blocks as shoppers try to safely distance while they wait to enter.
When people are allowed to get together for drinks again, tapping your glasses to say cheers might be a thing of the past.
People around the world have found clever ways to say cheers without getting close to one another. The Sun reported on April 14 that quarantined neighbours in Italy used poles to clink their glasses from their balconies.
Tollbooths have banned cash and opted for touch-free electronic payments.
In the first weeks of the pandemic, tollbooths in New Jersey banned cash. Drivers with E-ZPass, a system of collecting payments electronically, would face no changes, while drivers without it would be billed by mail.
Crowded concerts and mosh pits won't be allowed at any venues while the coronavirus remains a risk to public health.
On May 19, Rolling Stone reported on "America's first pandemic concert" by the blues-rock band Bishop Gunn in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The 1,100-seat venue welcomed about 200 fans, who were required to wear masks and sit in assigned seats set up for social distancing. Attendees also had their temperature checked before they were allowed in, and restrooms were limited to 10 people at a time.
Open-floor offices where workers sit close to one another may not return even after restrictions end.
Albert De Plazaola, the global strategy director at the design firm Unispace, told the BBC in May: "We may have lived with the flu for many years, but this is the first time our generation has experienced a pandemic. We're now hyperaware of health risks, whether real or imagined. And employers are hypersensitive about the potential for liability if people get sick at work."
Small plastic items such as store-club keychain tags that store employees scan might be another way to spread disease.
Research has found that the coronavirus can live on plastic surfaces for up to three days.
Though hugging and kissing are important parts of many cultures, they are also ways to spread disease.
In early May, the Arizona Republic reported the story of a Latino man who came down with Covid-19 after hugging and kissing his mother, who had the virus, to greet her customarily. Many of his other family members also caught the virus.
"Shaken by fears over the coronavirus, close-knit Latinx families like mine have been forced to hold back one of the fundamental ways we interact with each other," Rachel Hatzipanagos wrote in a Washington Post opinion column in April. "Physical displays of affection are our love language. But what happens when you have to show your love from six feet away?"
The Transportation Security Administration has advised travellers to no longer put their phones, wallets, and keys in bins, and the change might be permanent.
Business Insider reported in mid-March that the TSA was telling passengers to "not place personal items such as wallets, keys or phone in a bin" but "secure them in carry-on property to be screened through the X-ray system."
Experts told Marketplace in May that changes designed to keep passengers and workers safer and healthier would likely be permanent.
Though pay phones were already on their way out, the rest are likely to become obsolete because of safety concerns.
Robyn Gershon, an epidemiology professor at New York University's School of Global Public Health, told The Atlantic in February that "doorknobs, coffee makers, toilets, common-use refrigerators, sinks, phones, keyboards" could all "be a source of transmission if contaminated with the agent."
Experts have said water fountains aren't safe to use, as they put many people's noses and mouths over the same surface.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University, told The New York Times in March, "We don't have any data about how long the virus remains infectious on water fountains, but, given their proximity to other people's mouths and noses, I would say you should not."
A cashless society could be more likely after the pandemic.
Though not using cash might help to stop the spread of disease, it comes with more than a few trade-offs. Older Americans who aren't tech-savvy and Americans who don't have bank accounts or cards could suffer.
Vallie Brown, a cash advocate and former Democratic member of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors, told Politico in April that "even in this pandemic crisis, we have the same vulnerable people we had before that did not have access to banks or credit cards."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that doctors switch to telemedicine for routine and elective visits to preserve personal protective equipment.
Many doctors' offices that didn't see patients virtually have started doing so during the pandemic and are likely to keep it as an option in the future.
Though in some cases telemedicine can be a more convenient and efficient option, people should reach out to their primary-care provider if they have questions.
Business travel is likely to be greatly reduced amid safety concerns and the increase in virtual meetings.
Henry Harteveldt, the founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel-analysis firm in San Francisco, told The Times in April that "business travel won't come back before we hear from public health officials that it's safe to travel."
The videoconferencing company Zoom said in late April that it had reached 300 million daily meeting participants.
Shopping malls were already in decline, but some might not make it through the coronavirus pandemic.
Some malls have already closed in the wake of the pandemic. According to AZ Central, Metrocenter Mall, in Phoenix, Arizona, announced it would close on June 30 after 46 years in business. A letter, signed by general manager Kim Ramirez, stated, "Despite our best efforts to bring value back to the mall ... the drop in our occupancy levels due to the Covid-19 pandemic can no longer sustain the operation of this large property."
The US Postal Service is facing extreme uncertainty due to the pandemic, and mail collection boxes might become a thing of the past.
According to Kiplinger, the US postal service has been reducing the number of collection boxes across the country.
Megan J. Brennan, the postmaster general, told The New York Times, "At a time when America needs the Postal Service more than ever, the reason we are so needed is having a devastating effect on our business. The sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable revenue stream, is steep and may never fully recover."
Some marathon racing events might not exist in the future.
Bart Yasso, former chief running officer for Runner's World, told CNBC, "I don't know the overall impact … but it's pretty devastating to our sport for sure. A lot of these event companies are going to really be hurt by this, and some of these smaller races just aren't going to survive."
Clothing stores face an uncertain future, according to CNBC.
According to CNBC, "The situation is dire. Clothing stores need funds - and fast - to make it through the closures. But once shops reopen, even more cash will be needed to invest back into their businesses and win sales. As each retailer works toward a solution, it is likely that not all of their plans are worth funding. Capital is flowing, but only into the businesses that banks view as worth saving."
Movie-theatre chains have been hit hard by pandemic-related closures, and some might not be able to survive.
AMC recently warned that it may not survive the pandemic. According to CBS, the chain stated that even when theaters reopen, it may still face issues as film releases are delayed by entertainment companies.
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