Coronavirus will fade; the life-changes will not – “The Sunday Political Brunch” April 19, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I hate political clichés. Having covered politics for 40-plus years, I get tired of politicians who spit out trite, tired phrases such as, “At the end of the day,” and “Kicking the can down the road!” But, these days one of those clichés may ring true. And that’s, “Is this the new normal?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Tech Triumph” – If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that high-tech is a real blessing. The tech phenomenon was in its infancy in our last national crisis on 9-11 in 2001. Now its possibilities have exploded into full bloom. Cancel school nationwide? That’s okay, we’ll just host lessons online! Can’t go to the doctor’s office in person? That’s okay, we’ll just Facetime and diagnose my health problems online. Yes, in-person classes and doctor visits will return, but this new platform of other options is here to stay.

“Online Education on My Mind!” – The fact that U.S. colleges and universities have been able to transition to online classrooms this semester should not be a surprise. The same is true for K-12 education. Look, hundreds of American universities have been offering online degrees for several years now – from Associates to Doctorates. And no, these aren’t diploma mills. Among the leaders are such august institutions as the University of Florida (one of my alma maters), and Arizona State University. Religious-based institutions, such as Liberty University, are way ahead of the curve, too.

“Who’s Learning Online?” – Everyone. It’s multi-generational. In 2016, I earned my fourth college degree, an Associate in Science degree in Computer Studies from the Community College of Rhode Island. While I started the program in Rhode Island, I suddenly had to move for a new job and finished 90 percent of the degree taking courses online from West Virginia. To young people, this learning curve is their oxygen. For me, age 56 at the time, it was like climbing Mt. Everest, but in hindsight very well worth it. Online education – whether from colleges or webinars – is here to stay

“Tele-Health TV” – No, I am not talking about going to see Dr. Marcus Welby in his office on the popular 1970’s TV show. I’m talking about doing Skype and Facetime with your doctor, right here and right now in 2020. They can even hook up diagnostic apps to your phone to read your temperature, blood pressure, and A1C if you’re diabetic. This week I interviewed Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, who said of the technology, "And really think about this as the health care equivalent of shifting from Blockbuster to Netflix. You don't have to go to a brick and mortar facility anymore. You can get this care delivered right to you on your phone." Amazing!!!

“Can You Hear Me Now?” – Of course, technology is a two-way street. Just because one person can do it, doesn’t mean you can, too! West Virginia, with its mountainous, rural landscape, has among the worst broadband and cell service in the nation. Technology is great, unless you can’t connect. U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia told me, "It's not without challenges. Speaking with a doctor in Mason County, his issue is, he may have the technology himself, but do his patients have it at their home?"
“The Paradigm Shift” – It’s kind of an academic, egghead-term which we talked about a lot in 2008 and 2009 with the election of President Obama. Sometimes, there is cultural, technological or educational sea-change that remaps the whole landscape. 2008 marked the paradigm shift from the importance of old media (radio, TV and newspapers), to the burgeoning, dominant forces of new media (websites, social media and blogs). It was a media earthquake! Well, it’s happening again. The paradigm shift of today is from “in-person” interactions to “online” interactions. It’s huge! Look, for example, at what online shopping has done to America’s shopping malls.
“Let the Music Play!” – As many of my readers know, I was in the music business in the 1970s and 80s. While I left the biz for other career pursuits, some of my musical contemporaries are still in the business and they are doing online concerts from home which have been spectacular! Go on Facebook and search for Pat McCurdy, Dave Ciccantelli and Mark Cutler, to name a few. GREAT musical talent for tough times!

“No More Hugs and Handshakes?” – One of the saddest questions I’ve had to face over the past few weeks, asked by way too many people to count was, “Do you think this will mark the end of hugs and handshakes for good?” It honesty breaks my hearts to even consider. My answer, with a high degree of confidence, is no! Folks, I believe personal contact and interaction is simply human nature. Hugging is the emotional oxygen of love and affection. Handshakes are a sign of physical and emotional welcoming, of support and bridging differences. They will be back, and last to eternity and beyond.

“Zooming to My Next Zoom Conference” – As with any crisis there will be winners and losers. One of the biggest winners is the Zoom conference technology, as well as Skype and Facetime video conferencing. This is going to be a staple for business, government and media from here on out, pandemic or not. We do our daily media briefing with Governor Jim Justice and staff here in West Virginia. Usually it’s about 20 reporters in their individual newsrooms, the Governor, and various staff members, all from their own offices. Safe, health wise? Yes. But practical in terms of news gathering and dissemination of public information? Pretty efficient. It’s here to stay!

How is your use of technology helping you through the Covid-19 crisis? Just let us know by clicking the comment button on this page!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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