At some point, the pandemic will end for Omaha.
But how will Omaha change from the pandemic?
That’s a big question with an unknowable answer until the world steps out of the crisis.
Whenever Omaha emerges from the pandemic, it will have issues to work through, civic leaders say.
Rachel Jacobson, president of the civic fundraising organization Heritage Services, said the pandemic has raised the issues of mental health as so many people experienced some level of trauma, disruption and isolation in their lives.
Jacobson said she could see Omaha in the future placing higher priority on public spaces where people can gather and connect again socially.
Donna Kush, president and CEO of the Omaha Community Foundation, said the pandemic has exacerbated a number of issues that already were challenges for Omaha, including affordable housing and homelessness, food and hunger, and equity for everyone in the community.
“We really do need to address them all together,” Kush said.
In the work world, one big question is how much the rise in working from home holds.
Stephen Osberg, director of transportation development at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, said he’s seen some predictions that a split work week might become more popular. One particular idea involves Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday in the office and Monday-Friday from home, giving someone four days at home around the weekend.
If office work changes, Osberg said, that would change people’s commutes, too. If commutes change, traffic changes.
But not every household is equipped for the work-from-home model.
Rebecca Stavick, CEO of Community Information Trust, which operates Omaha’s digital library Do Space, said internet access needs to be treated like a utility to ensure no one is left behind.
“COVID-19 has really laid bare the inequities in our community in regards to access to technology and access to the internet,” Stavick said.
Does Omaha step into big changes? Small ones? Or does Omaha snap back into long-familiar patterns?
For now, we just need the pandemic to end.