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Challenges communites may face after the pandemic

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The COVID-19 virus has continued to affect lives in ways that might have seemed unimaginable back in March 2020 when the World Health Organization initially declared a global pandemic. Since then, individuals and families, in addition to confronting health-related concerns, have reluctantly grown accustomed to office closures, travel delays and other frustrating consequences of the pandemic. Though there’s no telling when the pandemic may end, communities may have to confront lingering consequences for years to come.

Each individual had his or her own personal and/or professional challenges to overcome during the pandemic. As communities look ahead and work to confront the collective challenges left behind by COVID-19, the good news is that residents can work together to overcome those obstacles. The following are a handful of challenges communities may face in the coming years as they adjust to life after the pandemic.

• Frayed connections: In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many businesses were forced to pivot from in-person offices to remote working arrangements. That transition went more smoothly and proved more productive than business owners may have felt prior to the pandemic, and that’s resulted in an increased openness to remote working. One study from researchers at the Harvard Business School found that at least 16 percent of workers will continue to work from home at least two days per week long after the pandemic has ended. Another study from researchers at Global Workplace Analytics found that 56 percent of employees have a job where at least some of what they do could be done remotely. That’s good news for people who don’t like to commute, but it could make it challenging for remote workers to connect with their colleagues and meet new people.

• Local economies: Local businesses who rely on office workers, such as coffee shops and cafés, could face significant challenges in the years ahead. These businesses are the lifeblood of local communities, providing a sense of uniqueness and places for residents to gather. They also generate significant tax revenue for local cities and towns. If fewer people are leaving home each day, that could mean fewer patrons for local businesses. One study conducted by the European Central Bank in August 2020 found that 30 percent of firms felt reduced demand for their products or services was one of the main long-term challenges for their businesses. If businesses are forced to scale back due to reduced demand, that could mean fewer jobs and considerably smaller tax revenue. 

• Health concerns: A January 2021 survey by Nature magazine asked more than 100 immunologists, infectious-disease researchers and virologists working on the coronavirus if it could be eradicated. Nearly 90 percent of respondents indicated they think the coronavirus will become endemic. That will pose challenges to communities as they try to re-engage residents concerned by the virus and rebuild their towns and cities.

Strong leadership and residents willing to work together can help communities confront and overcome the lasting challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Recognition of those challenges could be the first step toward overcoming them.

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