The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we interact with the world and our surrounding community. The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html) has recorded the numbers since the beginning of the pandemic in November 2019. By May 2020, over 5.5 million individuals were diagnosed, and nearly 400 thousand have died due to derived complications. Social distancing has been established worldwide as the best strategy to fight COVID contagion. Countries such as France, Italy, United Kingdom, Colombia, and the United States have taken lockdown measures to flatten the curve. Nonetheless, some experts think that COVID is going to become a recurrent issue similar to the flu, besides, a second wave of contagion is expected by the end of 2020.
More importantly, social distancing has changed our human interaction. Among many industries, education institutions have been forced to move their instruction online, restaurants have moved to take out, and grocery stores have limited their access and moved to delivery. Face masks are obligatory in some scenarios, and very often, when people interact with others, they avoid physical contact. It may be arguable that we are losing human interaction, hence affecting our humanity.
This project aims at raising the question: How can we keep social distance without losing our humanity? With the intention of reframing this question, we must think: How can we be protected but able to feel “close” to our peers? What will happen with social interaction once the restrictive lockdowns are removed? How will every day activities change with an ongoing threat such as the COVID contagion? In this project, we are asking you to select one of the below scenarios to propose a solution that can keep individuals protected but enhance human interaction between them.
- Paola Antonelli, curator of the Museum of Modern Art..
According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association AHLA, the leisure and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest with the current COVID situation. By May 20th, 2020, an estimate of 7 from 10 hotel rooms was vacant due to the pandemic. Similarly, the restaurant industry has decreased its incomes and occupancy. The reservation app “OpenTable”, displays that reservations in Seattle were down 31% compared to the previous year. San Francisco saw over a 24% decline. Seattle and the Bay Area city saw declines close to 50%. The question of how hospitality will adapt to tackle this situation remains in the air. Some predict that spaces such as hotels and restaurants must increase their safety and sanitation procedures, nonetheless, this will not necessarily impact on the individuals’ trust. Besides, in some type of environment (hotel rooms) individuals will want to be by themselves while in others (restaurants or bars) they will want to engage with others.
How can you provide a solution to a restaurant industry business that controls the interaction between individuals but complies with restrictions of physical contact?
Travel has been deeply affected by the current COVID situation. According to www.ustravel.org, Since the beginning of March, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over $176 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. travel economy with declines in travel exceeding 90%. Congruently, Latin America’s largest airline, Latam Airlines Group has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States. People are choosing private transportation such as cars and bicycles over public transportation. Nonetheless, air transportation must prevail for long distances.
How can you provide a solution for air transportation that is feasible for the industry in terms of airplane occupancy but assures the safety requirements to avoid contagion without being psychologically isolated from other travelers?
With the onset of the COVID pandemic, school districts, institutions of higher education, and educators are finding themselves in uncharted territory. As schools across the globe are forced to shut their doors, finding ways to best serve all students equitably has never been more urgent. Even though education has struggled to move into online teaching by the use of remote teaching tools such as Zoom and other technological gimmicks, the truth is that not all education can be conducted online. Besides, teaching institutions are promoting to diminish the number of individuals in classrooms by at least one-third of the normal occupancy. This type of solution is restrictive not only to the institution’s capacity but to the students as well.
How can you provide an economically feasible solution to enhance the interaction between individuals in a face-to-face learning environment that complies with physical isolation standards?
One of the most challenging aspects of social isolation and the urban lockdown has been working from home. This experience has been challenging not only to those individuals who live by themselves and are impacted by extended solitude but also to those who must share the living space with others. Even though studies showed that at the beginning of the pandemic, there were productivity boosts due to better working time usage, a study conducted by Eagle Hill Consulting showed that by April about 45% of workers said they were burned out. Almost half attributed the mental toll to an increased workload, the challenge of juggling personal and professional life, and a lack of communication and support from their employer. These situations affect morale and increase depression and anxiety in individuals.
Another aspect of working from home implies how the house can adapt and change to become an effective office. We are currently seeing dining tables transforming into office desks with computers and communication devices. These transformations have indeed affected the way the house is seen and how it must work as a space for living. What can be done for the house to become a working space without affecting those who live in that space and use it as their living quarters?
How can you provide a solution for a safe environment that helps individuals tackle the COVID situation boosting morale when working from home? How can you optimize the use of space at home for multiple individuals or help those who live by themselves to not feel alone?
All efforts from the healthcare industry have focused on tackling the COVID pandemic since its declaration by the CDC and the World Health Organization. This situation has left the remainder of the population who is not infected in a sort of gray area. Those who do not feel well, don’t want to attend a hospital due to the risk of being infected. This has increased online doctor appointments that sometimes lack the important physical interaction between doctor and patient.
Many are the situations in which individuals require early medical service. The need to be assessed by a doctor is an ongoing situation in multiple contexts beside the ER or a clinic Also, medical emergencies, scheduled surgeries and casual accidents are constant and required to be resolved. The question arises of how do we face this situation? How do caregivers blend into their daily chores when they finish with their medical labors?
How can you provide a solution that enhances the confidence of patients and motivates them to attend healthcare services without worrying of being in contact with people who can be infected?
The COVID pandemic has taken a toll on Recreation. In multiple states within the United States as well as in other countries such as Colombia, parks and public plazas have closed during the pandemic. Social gatherings have been limited to a number of 10 attendees besides, gyms and sporting grounds have closed. Nonetheless, the need for recreation is innate in the human condition and such closures and limitations affect general wellbeing. Some ideas have emerged, such as personal shields in gyms to limit the space between individuals, or head bubbles to walk within public spaces, nonetheless, these solutions isolate even more. Besides, social behaviors have changed in recreational environments in which individuals encounter others and move aside aiming to maintain social distancing.
How can you provide a solution that can be used in recreational environments keeping the user safe from others, but inviting social interaction?
Due to the COVID pandemic, shopping malls have been obligated to close its doors to visitors. Those who have re-opened, have new restrictions in occupancy in order to assure social distancing norms. In addition, halls, racks, baskets, etc. are sanitized frequently and workers are exposed to continuous interaction with buyers. Similarly, retail stores that were not required to close but had to move online face new challenges. Grocery ordering apps show increases by over 100%, which means people aim to avoid physical contact but force retail stores to reinvent their use of physical space.
How can you provide a solution to retail stores and shopping malls to better use their physical space to cater to the needs of the few visitors? How can you provide a solution to improve the client-customer interaction for in-store individuals that assures the social distancing norms?