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Choices for the “New Normal”

JAMA.Published online May 4, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6949

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has only 15 genes, compared with 30 000 in the human genome. But it is a stern teacher, indeed. Answers to the questions it has raised may reshape both health care and society as a whole.

No one can say with certainty what the consequences of this pandemic will be in 6 months, let alone 6 years or 60. Some “new normal” may emerge, in which novel systems and assumptions will replace many others long taken for granted. But at this early stage, it is more honest to frame the new, post–COVID-19 normal not as predictions, but as a series of choices. Specifically, the pandemic nominates at least 6 properties of care for durable change: tempo, standards, working conditions, proximity, preparedness, and equity.

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