When Will Life Return to Normal?
From battles on the front lines to social distancing from friends and family, COVID-19 has caused a massive shake-up of our daily lives.
After second-guessing everything from hugging our loved ones to delaying travel, there is one big question that everyone is likely thinking about: will we ever get back to the status quo? The answer may not be very clear-cut.
Today’s graphic uses data from New York Times’ interviews of 511 epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists from the U.S. and Canada, and visualizes their opinions on when they might expect to resume a range of typical activities.
Life in the Near Future, According to Experts
Specifically, this group of epidemiologists were asked when they might personally begin engaging in 20 common daily activities again.
The responses, based on the latest publicly available and scientifically-backed data, varied based on assumptions around local pandemic response plans. The experts also noted that their answers would change depending on potential treatments and testing rates in their local areas.
Here are the activities that a majority of professionals see starting up as soon as this summer, or within a year’s time:
|This summer||3-12 months||+1 year||Never again|
|📬 Bring in mail without precautions||64%||16%||17%||3%|
|👩⚕️ See a doctor for a non-urgent appointment||60%||29%||11%||<1%|
|🚗 Vacation overnight within driving distance||56%||26%||18%||<1%|
|💇♂️ Get a haircut at a salon or barber shop||41%||39%||19%||1%|
|🥳 Attend a small dinner party||32%||46%||21%||<1%|
|🥾 Hike or picnic outdoors with friends||31%||41%||27%||<1%|
|🎒 Send kids to school, camp, or day care||30%||55%||15%||<1%|
|🏢 Work in a shared office||27%||54%||18%||1%|
|👶 Send children on play dates||23%||47%||29%||1%|
|🚌 Ride a subway or a bus||20%||40%||39%||1%|
|👴 Visit elderly relative or friend in their home||20%||41%||39%||<1%|
|✈️ Travel by airplane||20%||44%||37%||<1%|
|🍽️ Eat at a dine-in restaurant||16%||56%||28%||<1%|
|🏋️ Exercise at a gym or fitness studio||14%||42%||40%||4%|
The urge to be outdoors is pretty clear, with 56% of those surveyed hoping to take a road trip before the summer is over. Meanwhile, 31% felt that they would be able to go hiking or have a picnic with friends this summer, citing the need for “fresh air, sun, socialization and a healthy activity” to help keep on top of their physical and mental health during this time.
Public transport and travel of any form is one aspect that has been put on hold, whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile. Many of the surveyed epidemiologists also lamented the strain the pandemic has had on relationships, as evidenced by the social situations they hope to restart sooner rather than later.
The worst casualty of the epidemic is the loss of human contact.
—Eduardo Franco, McGill University
On the other hand, there are certain activities that they considered too risky to engage in for the time-being. A large share are putting off attending celebrations such as weddings or concerts for at least a year or more, out of perceived social responsibility.
|This summer||3-12 months||+1 year||Never again|
|👰⚰️ Attend a wedding or a funeral||17%||41%||42%||<1%|
|🤗🤝 Hug or shake hands when greeting a friend||14%||39%||42%||6%|
|💞 Go out with someone you don't know well||14%||42%||42%||2%|
|🛐 Attend a church or other religious service||13%||43%||43%||2%|
|😷 Stop routinely wearing a face covering||7%||40%||52%||1%|
|🎫 Attend a sporting event, concert, or play||3%||32%||64%||1%|
Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 6% of epidemiologists do not expect to ever hug or shake hands as a post-pandemic greeting. On top of this, over half consider masks necessary for at least the next year.
The Virus Sets the Timeline
Of course, these estimates are not meant to represent every situation. The experts also practically considered whether certain activities were avoidable or not—such as one’s occupation—which affects individual risk levels.
The answers [about resuming these activities] have nothing to do with calendar time.
—Kristi McClamroch, University at Albany
While many places are trickling out of lockdown and re-opening to support the economy, some officials are still warning against prematurely lifting restrictions before we fully have a handle on the virus and its spread.
Mapped: Each Region’s Median Age Since 1950
The world’s population is aging, but not at the same rate. This animated map visualizes the changes in median age in every region since 1950.
Mapped: Each Region’s Median Age Since 1950
Over the last 70 years, the global population has gotten older. Since 1950, the worldwide median age has gone from 25 years to 33 years.
Yet, despite an overall increase globally, not all regions have aged at the same rate. For instance, Europe’s median age has grown by 14 years, while Africa’s has only increased by 1 year.
Today’s animated map uses data from the UN Population Index to highlight the changes in median age over the last 70 years, and to visualize the differences between each region. We also explain why some regions skew older than others.
Factors that Affect a Region’s Median Age
Before diving into the numbers, it’s important to understand the key factors that influence a region’s median age:
- Fertility Rate
The average number of children that women give birth to in their reproductive years. The higher the fertility rate, the younger a population skews. Since 1950, the global fertility rate has dropped by 50%.
- Mortality Rate
The number of deaths in a particular region, usually associated with a certain demographic or period in time. For example, global child mortality (children who have died under five years of age) has been on the decline, which has contributed to an increase in the average life expectancy across the globe.
International migration may lower a region’s population since migrants are usually younger or working age. In 2019, there were 272 million migrants globally.
The Change in Median Age
As mentioned, not all regions are created equal. Here’s how much the median age has changed in each region since 1950:
Regions that have seen the most growth and generally skew older are Latin America, followed by Europe and Asia.
Interestingly, Asia’s notable increase is largely influenced by Japan, which has the oldest population on the planet. The country has seen a significant increase in median age since 1950—it’s gone from 22 to 48 years in 2020. This can be explained by its considerably low fertility rate, which is 1.4 births per woman—that’s less than half the global average.
But why is Japan’s fertility rate so low? There are more women in the workforce than ever before, and they are too busy to take on the burden of running a household. Yet, while women are more prosperous than ever, the workforce in general has taken a hit.
Japan’s recession in the early 1990s led to an increase in temporary jobs, which has had lasting effects on the region’s workforce—in 2019, about 1 in 5 men were working contract jobs with little stability or job growth.
In contrast to Asia’s growth, Africa has seen the lowest increase in median age. The region’s population skews young, with over 60% of its population under the age of 25.
Africa’s young population can be explained by its high birth rate of 4.4 births per woman. It also has a relatively low life expectancy, at 65 years for women and 61 years for men. To put things into perspective, the average life expectancy across the globe is 75 years for women and 70 years for men.
Another trend worth noting is Oceania’s relatively small growth. It’s interesting because the region’s fertility rate is almost on par with the global average, at 2.4 births per woman, and the average life expectancy doesn’t differ much from the norm either.
The most likely reason for Oceania’s stagnant growth in median age is its high proportion of migrants. In 2019, the country had 8.9 million international migrants, which is 21% of its overall population. In contrast, migrants only make up 10% of North America’s population.
Unique Challenges for Every Region
Age composition has significant impacts on a region’s labor force, health services, and economic productivity.
Regions with a relatively high median age face several challenges such as shrinking workforce, higher taxes, and increasing healthcare costs. On the other end of the spectrum, regions with a younger population face increased demand for educational services and a lack of employment opportunities.
As our population worldwide continues to grow and age, it’s important to bring attention to issues that impact our global community. World Population Day on July 11, 2020, was established by the UN to try and solve worldwide population issues.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is the world’s blueprint for a better future for all on a healthy planet. On World Population Day, we recognize that this mission is closely interrelated with demographic trends including population growth, aging, migration, and urbanization.”
– UN Secretary-General António Guterres
The 44 Closest Stars and How They Compare to our Sun
This graphic visualizes the 44 closest stars, revealing key facts such as distance from Earth, brightness, and whether potential planets are in orbit.
44 Closest Stars and How They Compare to our Sun
Humans have been fascinated by the stars in the night sky since the dawn of time.
We’ve been decoding the mysteries of celestial bodies for many centuries, but it is only in the last 200 years or so that we’ve been able to glean more detailed information on the lights that dot the night sky. Friedrich Bessel’s method of stellar parallax was a breakthrough in accurately measuring the positions of stars, and opened new doors in the effort to map our universe. Today, high-powered telescopes offer even more granular data on our cosmic neighborhood.
The infographic above, from Alan’s Factory Outlet, categorizes the 44 closest stars to Earth, examining the size, luminosity, constellations, systems, and potential planets of each star.
Our Nearest Stellar Neighbors
Our closest neighboring stars are all part of the same solar system: Alpha Centauri. This triple star system – consisting of Proxima Centauri, Alpha Centauri A, and Alpha Centauri B – attracts a lot of interest because it hosts planets, including one that may be similar to Earth.
The planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a lot closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun. However, because Proxima Centauri is a smaller and cooler red dwarf type star, the planet’s orbit is within the habitable zone. It’s thought that Proxima Centauri b receives approximately the same amount of solar energy as Earth does from our Sun.
Here’s a full list of the 44 of the closest stars to Earth:
|Star Name||Distance (light years)||MoE|
|α Centauri A||4.37||±0.0068|
|α Centauri B||4.37||±0.0068|
|Luyten 726-8 A||8.79||±0.012|
|Luyten 726-8 B||8.79||±0.012|
|EZ Aquarii A||11.11||±0.034|
|61 Cygni A||11.40||±0.0012|
|61 Cygni B||11.40||±0.0012|
|Struve 2398 A||11.49||±0.0012|
|Struve 2398 B||11.49||±0.0012|
|Groombridge 34 A||11.62||±0.0008|
|Groombridge 34 B||11.62||±0.0008|
|Kruger 60 A||13.07||±0.0052|
|Kruger 60 B||13.07||±0.0052|
|Wolf 424 A||14.05||±0.26|
|Van Maanen's star||14.07||±0.0023|
Even though we see many of these stars in the night sky, humans aren’t likely to see them in person any time soon. To put these vast distances into perspective, if the Voyager spacecraft were to travel to Proxima Centauri, it would take over 73,000 years to finally arrive.
The Brightest Stars in the Sky
The closest stars aren’t necessarily the ones most visible to us here on Earth. Here are the top 10 stars in terms of visual brightness from Earth:
|Rank||Proper name||Constellation||Visual magnitude (mV)||Distance (light years)|
|4||Rigil Kentaurus & Toliman||Centaurus||−0.27 (0.01 + 1.33)||4.4|
Excluding our Sun, the brightest star visible from Earth is Sirius, or the Dog Star. Sirius, which is about 25 times more luminous than the sun, visually punctuates the constellation Canis Major.
Filling in the Gaps
The next step in learning more about our surroundings in the cosmos will be seeing which of the stars listed above have planets orbiting them. So far, the 44 stars in the infographic have over 40 planets scattered among them, though new discoveries are made all the time.
With each new mission and discovery, we learn a little bit more about our pocket of the universe.
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