9 Things You'll Never See in Public After the Coronavirus

Once staples in the outside world, these former fixtures of public life are soon to be obsolete.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way Americans live in more ways than one. While there are the obvious changes to daily life, from wearing masks in public to getting your temperature taken before entering the workplace, we've barely scratched the surface in terms of how the virus will alter the world when stay-at-home orders are lifted. Perhaps most notably, many of the things we were accustomed to seeing and using in our everyday lives before the pandemic, will be completely gone—or at least look a whole lot different.

"Digital infrastructure is already a part of our lives [and] this digitalization will be more prominent after the pandemic," notes Defne Apul, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at The University of Toledo. If you want to know how the world will look post COVID-19, read on to discover what items experts say you'll never see in public again after the pandemic.

No more elevator buttons

woman pressing elevator button

Since they're frequently touched by innumerable hands over the course of a day, "you'll never see elevator buttons that you have to press again," says Michael Syracuse, a partner at New York-based architecture firm FXCollaborative. Instead, Syracuse says you will likely be able to select your floor "using sensors in your phone, your building pass, face recognition, or using your voice." And for more ways the world will change, discover these 5 Things You'll Never See in Your Office Again After Coronavirus.

No more doorknobs in public buildings

cropped view of male doctor holding door handle

In the not-too-distant future, you may never have to grasp a doorknob to let yourself into a room in a hospital or office building again.

So, what will replace them? In addition to the increasing adoption of motion-operated doors, Syracuse says that "Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant levers that you can open with your arm or wrist will be more prevalent." Wondering how else the medical establishment will change? Discover these 5 Things You'll Never See at Your Doctor's Office After Coronavirus.

No more cash registers

young white woman operating cash register at grocery store
Shutterstock/Shift Drive

Cash passes through countless hands before making its way to you, making it a potential disease vector. As such, "credit cards and touch-free electronic payments will be more common," says Syracuse.

Communal pens and styluses

asian woman using stylus to sign tablet
Shutterstock/koonsiri boonnak

Say so long to signing your name for almost any transaction that used to require you to do so. "You'll never have to sign your name for credit card authorization, to receive packages, sign into a building, etc.," says Syracuse, who predicts electronic authentication, including face or voice recognition software, becoming the norm. And if you want to stay safe, make sure you know The 7 Most Dangerous Spots You Can Catch Coronavirus.

No more chip credit card readers

white hand using chip credit card reader

Though credit cards may seem like a safer bet than cash in terms of spreading bacteria and viruses, self-operated chip or swipe credit card machines may not be long for this world.

"Touching a machine that countless people use every day to pay for groceries, gas, etc., will be a thing of the past," says licensed architect Colin Haentjens, a designer with The Knobs Company, who says that tap-enabled card readers are likely to universally replace them in the near future.

No more manual light switches

Light switch, cleaning mistakes

The number of hands that touch your average manual light switch make it a hotbed for bacteria and viruses. In fact, findings presented at the 2012 General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology said that a study of nine hotel rooms found light switches to be among the most bacteria-laden items documented.

To reduce the risk of viral transfer in the future, "lights will be voice or motion activated," predicts Guy Geier, managing partner at FXCollaborative.

No more push-button ATMs

young woman at the atm

While cash-free transactions will be more prevalent in the future, the means by which you do access cash when you need it will look starkly different, too.

Geier says that cash withdrawal machines with physical buttons will soon be replaced by voice-activated ATMs instead.

No more self-service gas pumps

white hand pumping gas

Already a staple in states like New Jersey, full-service gas stations are likely to make a comeback in the near future, says Geier, while self-serve stations will likely become less prevalent after the pandemic.

No more touch-activated soap dispensers

white hands pumping soap from wall-mounted soap dispenser
Shutterstock/ALPA PROD

Pumping soap in a public restroom—and touching a surface countless dirty hands have recently had contact with—probably won't be a part of your daily life for much longer.

"The public will frequently see sensor embedded hand sanitizers and liquid soap everywhere," says clinical researcher and medical advisor for eMediHealth Urvish K. Patel, MBBS, MPH. Eager to keep those pathogens from hitching a ride home with you? Make sure you know these 11 Ways You're Spreading Germs All Over Your Home Without Realizing It.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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