The pandemic has brought about drastic changes to our lifestyle. It has forced us to realize the importance of health and safety that we used to take for granted. The new normal is here, and people are already adapting.
Breathing, which was once human liberty we took for granted, has come to the forefront of importance in this new normal we are living in. Health and safety have risen to the top of our priorities. Taking a breather was meant to be a figure of speech; now it has come to be a literal need. With the pandemic, the use of public free spaces has increased dramatically. Restrictions and lockdowns have limited us to our homes and have increased our sense of longing for social interactions and the outside world.
As restrictions are slowly easing, open spaces have become our refuge in this new normal world. Parks are seeing much more use today than in our pre-pandemic world. Streets and parking spaces were repurposed to accommodate people over cars. Local governments have been opening up new open public spaces for the use of the populace.
Here’s the rub: health and wellness have become the major concerns in our new normal. You may already have come to the point where you have finished all the possible projects you could’ve done for your home. Constructing a retaining wall, building your dream home entertainment center, or collecting your garage tools are projects that you might have done away with during the past few months.
With that in mind, how do we move forward together?
Isolation as an Issue
With restrictions and lockdowns during the pandemic, isolation has become a major issue. Loneliness has been attributed to mental health deterioration. It can lead to depression and anxiety. Open spaces such as parks have helped ease our transition back to social gatherings and have become an essential part of healing during this time. Being in an open space with other people can refresh our senses that were dulled by the isolation forced upon us during the pandemic.
Friends and family are once again able to meet each other and be together with the use of the open spaces. Businesses can once again operate by transitioning indoor activities to outdoor activities with the repurposed public spaces. The easing of restrictions and the ability to breathe in these open spaces have revitalized us in facing the new normal.
Human beings are inherently social. The social experience ties deeply with our mental health. These open public spaces are one of the few options we have in engaging with this basic human behavior. It was a common occurrence that we were not very close with our neighbors. The pandemic has shed light on the importance of getting to know our local community. With the restrictions with public gatherings, options for meeting our close friends are very limited. It has opened the avenue of getting to know those already living close to us.
People who we would not have normally met with during the pre-pandemic times have become our solace in social engagement. People who would probably never met because of different schedules may have become closer. The public has started to care for their neighbors and has built a stronger sense of community. In a recent survey, many people have gotten to know more of their neighbors because of the pandemic. A new breath of life has sprung up in these local communities due to engaging in social activities in their own little spaces in the neighborhood.
Being able to breathe means safety. Even with the use of public spaces, local governments and communities still must enforce minimum safety guidelines. Social distancing will still be required in open spaces. Overcrowding would also be an issue. Monitoring and contact tracing will also be required in the new normal. Although things are easing up now, we still have a responsibility to keep our community and ourselves safe.
As the public spaces are increasing in usage compared to the status quo before, these open spaces were not meant to accommodate the current need in the new normal. Access should still be monitored for contact tracing. Aggressive contact tracing has helped keep countries safe during the pandemic. Local governments and local communities must ensure public health and safety by still monitoring these areas that are open to the public.
Local governments have begun repurposing these public areas by fencing off certain areas around these spaces. For example, New York’s parks have circles where people can practice social distancing. With the rise in the demand for open public spaces, local governments have found themselves trying to develop these areas as quickly as possible. Local communities must work together to ensure their neighborhoods have access to open public spaces where they can all breathe together.
With the new normal, it is our responsibility to ensure our health and safety. A breath of freedom in the new normal comes with its strings attached. These open public spaces cannot be taken for granted again as they will be a huge part of our new world post-pandemic.