The arrival of COVID-19 in the U.S. has affected nearly every aspect of people’s daily lives. Throughout this time, people across the world have had to alter the way they socialize, travel and conduct business. It’s an unprecedented event that has many people wondering when or if life will return to ‘normal’ … and what changes will remain engrained in society for good. 

“One of the unexpected opportunities that COVID-19 has presented us is to identify pre-COVID habits or patterns that aren’t healthy for individuals or groups and organizations, and initiate a reset,” says Becky Lewis, system director of infection prevention for INTEGRIS Health System in Oklahoma City. 

An example she gives is the commonplace – but harmful – work culture that sees a higher value placed on ‘toughing it out’ and clocking in when sick rather than taking a sick day. 

“Perhaps our new normal will include not going out when ill for work or for play, healing at home, and the ever-important process of hand hygiene and covering our coughs.”

The medical community has continually stressed the importance of washing one’s hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or more and covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing, but today, people are more attuned to its message and its impact. It’s also reminded people that whether it’s the common cold or COVID-19, it’s important to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and to clean and disinfect surfaces frequently. 

While the strict stay-at-home orders have been lifted in Oklahoma, older adults and those with underlying medical conditions still need to be selective in their out-of-the-house activities. 

“High risk individuals should continue to review recommendations and identify what they can do to remain healthy,” says Lewis. “This may mean being slow to reintroduce into more social settings or extended use of masks and may vary by individual.”

Looking ahead, there is concern about a second surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall and the chance of it running alongside the influenza season. 

“I’m not sure there’s a scenario where we can say that’s not a possibility, because so many of the variables depend on personal choice,” says Shelley Zumwalt, spokesperson for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “We are at a place where we’ve managed to flatten the curve; what happens from here on out depends on people continuing to follow CDC guidelines.”

Lewis says the better our state utilizes healthy habits and practices, the less likely we’ll have that second surge. 

“Some people look at what our state has done to improve safety and preserve health and think we overreacted,” she says. “Whereas science would say we did not overreact. It is possible that we will see resurgence of this specific coronavirus as the science community continues to push for a vaccine. But many of the healthy habits that were mandated or enforced during the early days of COVID-19 can support continued efforts for our state and our nation to remain healthy.”

As everyone navigates the new terrain created by COVID-19, it’s important to stay up-to-date. Zumwalt encourages state citizens and businesses seeking information to call 2-1-1 or visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov.