An Awfully Germaphobic Future

As a society, as a race, even, we are obsessed with the idea of post-apocalypse. From Mad Max, to The Hunger Games, to the slew of zombie movies and literature, it is clear that humanity does not have a positive perception of what the future would look like in the aftermath of some climatic event. Well, in the face of what many have taken to, somewhat hyperbolically, call the apocalypse, it seems that we are soon transitioning into that dreaded aftermath. As more nations are beginning to open up their economies in stages, with some states prepared to follow suit in the coming weeks, what will our post-apocalypse look like? Well, it will not be (hopefully) the dystopia which is rife in stories. When the anxieties of COVID-19 came to America in full force, when washing hands became the central part of people’s lives and events were starting to close down, one of my first thoughts was “the next generation will be the most hygenic to have ever lived.” While starting as a bit of a sarcastic statement I would say in hopes of lightening the mood, I don’t think it’s too far from the truth. South Korea is one of the first nations to stabilize after being hit with the virus. Now they are in the process of opening things up after weeks of social distancing and quarantine. While their country did benefit from early action, which helped to mitigate the full force of the outbreak, it still is following a strict health code. In Seoul, South Korea’s capital, Catholic churches are stopping worshippers from singing hymns in order to prevent spreading the virus. Holy water has also been removed, and priests are reportedly sanitizing their hands during communion. This is just one example of how things could change world wide, even after the amount of cases drop and the spread slows significantly. That’s not to suggest that until the end of time we will be under constant fear of the disease coming back in full force, or that social distance policies, the like that we are seeing now, will be around forever. Rather, it is to the point out the fact that “germaphobia” will most likely be a common sensation, both in terms of individual feelings, along with national and local policies. Even as states like Florida, Idaho, and Maine begin to open, it will obviously not be as if nothing happened. The same applies for when Rhode Island, and any other state for that matter, opens. Public buildings will be opened up, but the capacity will be much lower than what it was. The process of cleaning will be much more rigorous. Whereas at the beginning of the crisis people might have spotted someone wearing a mask and thought “well, that seems like a bit of an overreaction.” Now, and possibly forever after, that sort of negative reaction will be directed towards people who chose to not wear masks in public. After meeting with friends, it might become normal practice to come home and clean oneself head to toe. And so, the nature of our post-apocalypse will not be a tyrannical dystopia or roaming tribes fighting for resources; it will be an intense, nearly universal feeling of germaphobia. While that might not make for the most compelling action movie, it’s certainly better than worrying about zombies.