The Old Rules Were Dumb Anyway : Planet Money When the pandemic hit, the old rules went out the window. What rules will stay broken when things go back to normal?Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: This is PLANET MONEY from NPR.

SARAH GONZALEZ, HOST:

OK. So this is, like, our go-to spot for hangovers.

AIDA GONZALEZ: I was just going to say New Year's Day every year. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

S GONZALEZ: That's my mom, Aida Gonzalez. We're at our favorite seafood spot, mariscos spot in San Diego.

MONICA JAZO: TJ Oyster Bar is our restaurant name, and it's really - just because we're from TJ.

YVAN JAZO: TJ is basically short for Tijuana.

S GONZALEZ: And it's like street food kind of style.

Y JAZO: Basically, it's street food. Yes.

S GONZALEZ: And you guys are brother and sister.

M JAZO: Yeah, we're brother and sister. Yeah.

Y JAZO: My name is Yvan, Yvan Jazo. I am owner and cook, a dishwasher, server, bartender, busser, everything.

M JAZO: My name is Monica Jazo, and I'm owner of the same. I do everything.

S GONZALEZ: Your mom's in the back.

M JAZO: She's the boss. Yeah - my mom.

Y JAZO: Alicia (ph), the boss (laughter).

S GONZALEZ: This family makes the best drinks for a hangover.

M JAZO: Micheladas, clamatos.

A GONZALEZ: Tamarindo margaritas, my favorite.

M JAZO: OK. The tamarindo margarita comes from the tamarind seeds. And we make it into a paste. We put sugar on it, rim it with - it's not spicy, but it's, like, sweet.

Y JAZO: Chili powder.

M JAZO: Chili powder and lime.

S GONZALEZ: So good. But their michelada is the real cure for me.

Y JAZO: A salted rim, lime, ice, kind of like a Mexican soy sauce, we like to call it, and a beer.

S GONZALEZ: OK. Do you know what you're going to get, Mom?

A GONZALEZ: OK. I'm going to have the two ceviche tostadas - shrimp ceviche.

M JAZO: Shrimp ceviche. OK. Would you like a tamarindo michelada to drink?

S GONZALEZ: But we're doing this to go.

M JAZO: OK. Yes, of course. Yeah. We can now do that. You can take your drinks to go, your micheladas, your wine to go.

S GONZALEZ: With a few exceptions - New Orleans or Vegas - this is kind of a new thing for the United States.

M JAZO: We put it in a plastic cup, and we seal it so you can take it. We recommend that you don't open it until you get home.

S GONZALEZ: California and a lot of other states have recently told restaurants, to help you out during the pandemic, we're suspending the rules about taking cocktails off the premises. We want you to make some money, and this will help.

M JAZO: I remember that I was, like, afraid at first because it's been, like, such a - like, you can't do that. You can't sell alcohol to go. People can't be outside of, like, the door drinking a beer because we can get in trouble. But then, like, all of these restrictions that we had start, like, loosening.

S GONZALEZ: Drinks to go are a thing right now, just for the pandemic. And at first, Monica was like, this is great - until she had to start handing off cocktails to food delivery drivers in little plastic cups.

M JAZO: What made me nervous was that they looked very, very young, and we were giving them, like, micheladas, clamatos, wine to go. And we started carding them.

S GONZALEZ: You were asking the DoorDash drivers for their ID.

M JAZO: Yes (laughter).

S GONZALEZ: But now getting a tamarindo margarita delivered to your door by a suspiciously young-looking driver just seems totally normal. Another change - drinking outdoors. In normal times, there was this rule that if a restaurant wanted to serve a beer on the sidewalk, they had to build some kind of barrier.

Y JAZO: It's just, like, another special permit, and it's hard on businesses, too, 'cause you have to spend more money to do that stuff.

S GONZALEZ: Now everyone is outside, though. You don't need a special permit. You don't need to build a special fake fence out of flowerpots or something like that. People are drinking margaritas everywhere. Rules have been broken.

And it's not just drinking. A bunch of things we thought we had to do - we don't have to do them anymore, like paying our student loan payments on time. All of a sudden, we don't have to pay them for the rest of the year. There's no interest, no consequences. That job your boss said you had to go to the office to do - you don't have to go to the office to do it. Every day, rules are going out the window. And maybe some of the pre-COVID rules should stay broken.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

S GONZALEZ: Hello and welcome to PLANET MONEY. I'm Sarah Gonzalez.

JACOB GOLDSTEIN, HOST:

And I'm Jacob Goldstein. Today on the show, after the pandemic, when things go back to normal in, let's say, January of 2022.

S GONZALEZ: Oh.

GOLDSTEIN: Too much?

S GONZALEZ: It seems so far away.

GOLDSTEIN: That's not even wildly optimistic.

S GONZALEZ: I know.

GOLDSTEIN: What is life going to look like? What rules are going to stay broken? Are we going to be just walking down the streets with our cocktails in our hands forever?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

S GONZALEZ: Oh, my gosh. That is such a good michelada.

A GONZALEZ: It's a great margarita. That is good.

S GONZALEZ: Linda Aiken is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Nursing and the director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research.

And you're, like, pro-rule-breaking. You're a rule-breaker.

LINDA AIKEN: Well, the rules that I think deserve to be broken (laughter) - not all of them.

S GONZALEZ: Would you be, like, a nursing expert?

AIKEN: Yes. Yeah. Yeah (laughter).

GOLDSTEIN: And in health care, Linda says, there were lots of rules that were out there just begging to be broken.

AIKEN: First of all, we have way too many rules in health care, and they're not really in the consumers' interests.

S GONZALEZ: And it's not just Linda who thinks this. In March, the federal government, the U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services sent a letter to governors basically saying, please, states, break some of these health care rules. Like, there's this one that says nurses can't go work in another state super easily. If you are a nurse in New Jersey and you want to go be a nurse in New York just across the river, you have to apply for a new license. You have to pay a fee, wait the processing time. It could take months.

GOLDSTEIN: Linda says this makes no sense because it's not like nurses have to take a new test or study some New York-specific medical information. Every nurse, no matter what state they're in - they all take the same test.

AIKEN: All nurses take a national test.

S GONZALEZ: So it's not like the California nurse exam. It is the...

AIKEN: No.

S GONZALEZ: ...Regular national exam.

AIKEN: Yes, because health care - you know, we have the same technology in every state. Patients are the same. They have the same problems. Everybody has babies everywhere.

S GONZALEZ: Linda says this is such a silly rule that 34 states don't even follow it anymore. But big states like New York, California - they do have this rule. So when COVID hit and states were short nurses, they had to officially waive the rule. They had to come out and say, out-of-state nurses, you can start working today. Please just come on over.

GOLDSTEIN: And Linda says when the world goes back to normal, these rules will probably stay broken - at least for the most part. It'll probably be much easier for nurses in one state to go work in another.

S GONZALEZ: OK. So nurse regulations - that's one big change. Another big one in health care - telehealth. You know, those, like, doctor visits by video chat - we've had the ability to do this for a while. The technology has been there. Telehealth just never really took off.

AIKEN: It was really thought of as something just for rural areas where they didn't have enough providers or maybe for the homebound elderly. It hasn't really been offered to you and me and the average person who didn't want to wait six months to get an appointment and who didn't want to take all day off from work to get to a specific place.

S GONZALEZ: Doctors were like, how do we even charge for a telehealth visit? It was considered too tricky to even deal with. But when the pandemic hit, everyone was like, oh, telehealth - we can do that. We love telehealth.

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. Please stay home. Do not come to our office with your deadly infectious disease. So they wanted to do it, but there was this little frankly kind of ridiculous rule from Medicare and Medicaid about billing.

S GONZALEZ: The rule was doctors and nurses - if they're going to see patients, even by telemedicine, they have to be in their office - their doctor's office.

AIKEN: Yeah, 'cause that's what constitutes a visit. Yes. If you're going to bill for a visit, the service has to be provided from the address of record where you're located. So you can't say you provided a visit to a patient if you're at your home...

S GONZALEZ: In your PJs...

AIKEN: ...And a patient - and not even in...

S GONZALEZ: ...In your living room.

AIKEN: Yeah, in - yeah. Right. And so that thing had to be fixed.

S GONZALEZ: Fixing this little silly billing rule took an act of Congress. In March, as the pandemic was shutting down the country, Congress had to come out and say, yes, a doctor's visit is still considered a doctor's visit if the doctor is at home. This kind of visit is now billable to Medicaid and Medicare. And Linda says private insurers tend to follow whatever Medicaid and Medicare does.

GOLDSTEIN: Already, everybody is FaceTiming their doctor, and people are getting used to it.

AIKEN: Lots of us have tried it, and we like it. And we want those rules to be permanent.

GOLDSTEIN: Linda says after the pandemic, we're not going to want to take a day off of work, pay for parking, wait in the waiting room, just to spend five minutes talking to the doctor and have them tell us everything is fine.

S GONZALEZ: Next up - college sports.

GOLDSTEIN: Sports.

S GONZALEZ: (Laughter) Sports, sports, sports, sports.

GOLDSTEIN: This one comes from an economist named Damon Jones.

DAMON JONES: I'm an associate professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.

GOLDSTEIN: Also, for a long time, he was a huge college sports fan. He loves Stanford, his alma mater. He was so into the football team that even after he got a job as a professor at the University of Chicago, he kept doing whatever he could to get back to Stanford during football season.

JONES: I'm booking talks at Stanford, coincidentally on the same time when there's a home game.

GOLDSTEIN: (Laughter).

JONES: Whatever it takes to...

GOLDSTEIN: You're, like, an alum quasi super fan.

JONES: Yeah.

S GONZALEZ: But over time, Damon starts hearing people talk about how college athletes are being exploited. And Damon starts thinking more about the economics of student athletes.

JONES: We can call them student athletes. You can call them whatever you want. Let's cut to the chase. Their labor is being used to produce a product that is being sold.

GOLDSTEIN: And, he says, there is a racial dimension here, too.

JONES: At the biggest programs, the players are in football and majority-Black in the South. And their fan base is much more made up of white people. And that's when it becomes, like, particularly an easy feat to say, like, well, these payers shouldn't be played.

S GONZALEZ: For Damon, the key moment came in July of 2018.

JONES: This is the straw that broke the camel's back.

GOLDSTEIN: Here's what happened. Stanford had this star football player, and he was supposed to go to this media day in Los Angeles where lots of football players were going to talk to reporters. But Stanford's star player didn't go because he was going to summer school trying to get through his pre-med courses. Football star wanted to be a doctor. And then people complained that this student athlete didn't go talk to the reporters because he was going to class instead.

JONES: I remember reading it and tweeting about it and being like, this is just disgusting. I don't feel comfortable supporting this. I'm probably not going to watch anymore. And then, you know, it's like once you say things out loud, then you have to really, you know - you can no longer pretend. And so after that, I stopped watching.

GOLDSTEIN: For real?

JONES: Yeah, I haven't watched a Stanford game since.

GOLDSTEIN: Wow.

S GONZALEZ: Recently, California did pass a law saying that college athletes will be able to get some endorsement money, you know, for, like, shoes, video games. So there has been some movement toward kind of paying student athletes.

GOLDSTEIN: Then the pandemic hits, and things get more intense. College athletes realize they might be risking their lives by playing this fall. And here's where Damon's prediction about the future comes in about the rules. He says college players may think about the risks they're taking, and they may look at professional athletes who are represented by unions and negotiate for safety measures with their leagues. And the college athletes may say, we want that kind of bargaining power.

JONES: Basically, the way that it goes is that they say, we're not going to play. They get everyone to agree on a team or some unit to not play, and then they force the university or the NCAA to try to meet them at a table and negotiate.

S GONZALEZ: And Damon says their safety concerns might lead them to negotiate to get paid.

JONES: So my prediction for Jan. 1, 2022 - I'm going to be bold and optimistic here.

GOLDSTEIN: OK.

JONES: NCAA college athletes are able to collectively bargain, have union representation like in other professional-level sports.

GOLDSTEIN: So that was Damon's prediction. And then, like, three days after we talked, hundreds of athletes in the Pac-12, the league that includes Stanford, issued this set of very unionlike demands about safety and racial justice and getting a share of the revenue that their sports generate, getting paid. So it seems like the world is already starting to move in the direction Damon predicted.

S GONZALEZ: By the way, the Pac-12 has since postponed its football season, but some other college football leagues do still plan on playing this fall.

GOLDSTEIN: After the break, something possibly good about working from home.

S GONZALEZ: Also, masks.

OK. So we are imagining it is the after times. The pandemic is gone. The world is back to...

GOLDSTEIN: Woohoo (ph).

S GONZALEZ: ...Whatever the world is back to. You're walking down a crowded street while you're having a FaceTime visit with your doctor, and you have a michelada in your hand. The question here is, is anyone wearing a mask?

GOLDSTEIN: This one we can do pretty fast.

YASHAN WANG: Hello.

GOLDSTEIN: Hi, it's Jacob Goldstein.

WANG: Oh, hi, Jacob. How are you?

GOLDSTEIN: I talked about this with Yashan Wang. He's a professor at MIT who's been thinking a lot about this. And he says when he was a teenager in Beijing in the '70s, people wore masks all the time. They did it whenever pollution got bad. In other parts of Asia, it's been common for a long time for people to wear masks when they're sick to prevent spreading disease.

WANG: 'Cause we saw that in Asia. We saw that in Asia. When you see so many people doing the same thing, you tell yourself, oh, that's a normal thing to do, right?

S GONZALEZ: Will it be normal in the U.S., too? Like, if you think you might have the flu but you have to go out, will you maybe wear a mask so you don't make other people sick?

WANG: During the flu season - right? - we get vaccination and all of that. Maybe in the future, people say, well, I have another toolkit, which is a mask.

GOLDSTEIN: So here's the testable hypothesis.

WANG: Yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: In January 2022...

WANG: Yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: ...Hopefully I'll be back taking the subway to work again.

WANG: OK.

GOLDSTEIN: If I'm taking the subway every day for a week at rush hour, I will see at least one person wearing a mask. You're on board with that.

WANG: I'm on board with that. I think normalizing mask-wearing is a huge part of this current situation. You tell yourself, oh, that's a normal thing to do, right?

GOLDSTEIN: Oh, just wear a mask. Yeah, obviously. I'll wear a mask.

WANG: Just wear a mask. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

S GONZALEZ: OK. Last one - we've heard a lot about working from home. Clearly, it has made work harder for a lot of people, but it also made it easier for some people, like some people with disabilities who have a hard time getting into an office or just working and being in an office. I talked about this with Carol Glazer. She is the president of the National Organization on Disability.

CAROL GLAZER: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Hold on. I just need to let my son know. Jacob?

S GONZALEZ: That's Carol.

C GLAZER: I'm recording something that's going to be on the radio, so you can't be talking out here, OK?

JACOB GLAZER: OK.

C GLAZER: All right. I have a young adult - a child with disabilities who's got a lot of activities going on on Zoom right now.

GOLDSTEIN: Carol says people with disabilities have historically been underemployed. Before the pandemic, only about 30% had a job. And then when layoffs and furloughs started this spring, she says, people with disabilities were among the first to get let go. More than a million lost their jobs.

C GLAZER: So yes, people with disabilities are losing their jobs at way disproportionate rates in comparison to the rest of the population.

S GONZALEZ: But Carol says, there may be one good thing to come out of all of this. Before the pandemic, Carol says employers would say all kinds of things about what a job entailed that kind of left people with disabilities out of the running.

They would say like, oh, no, you can't do this job. What exactly would they say?

C GLAZER: Oh, we need you to be in the office. We need you to be interacting face-to-face with your colleagues. You know, our work depends on personal contact. So those were the excuses, you know?

S GONZALEZ: Right. Yeah. Right. I mean, I - even I've heard them. Like...

C GLAZER: Yeah.

S GONZALEZ: ...Yeah, no, you really need to be - you need to be in the office.

C GLAZER: You have to be able to look each other in the eye. You have to be able to be in each other's proximity. And so all of these things were some of the - what we now know were myths, in some cases. Nobody ever challenged them. We never thought, oh, let's try it a new way.

GOLDSTEIN: And then this year, lots and lots of companies did try it a new way - suddenly had a lot of workers working from home. And in many cases, companies realized it could work.

C GLAZER: And so in many ways, for people with disabilities, this is a welcome-to-my-world situation 'cause people with disabilities have indeed been saying for years that this job or that job could be done from home.

S GONZALEZ: Carol says now that companies have had some experience with working from home - they've seen it happen. They know it's possible. It didn't break their companies. Carol says a lot of companies are no longer going to be able to say something like, oh, you need to be in an office to do this job. And the hope is that this would mean more jobs for people with disabilities.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GOLDSTEIN: There are, of course, many, many changes in the world that we didn't talk about on today's show. You can hear a few more ways the world has changed on our sister show, The Indicator. They did an episode a few days ago talking about everything from cigarette smoking to energy use. That episode is called "5 (More) Ways Life Has Changed." It was published on Wednesday.

Also, we're almost done with PLANET MONEY Summer School. You can still catch up and test yourself with the summer school final quiz. If you pass it, you will get a real fake diploma. You can find the quiz and all the episodes at npr.org/pmsummerschool. That's npr.org/pmsummerschool.

S GONZALEZ: Today's show was produced by Autumn Barnes, with help from Liza Yeager. Alex Goldmark is our supervising producer. And Bryant Urstadt edits the show.

You want to do your book thing right here?

GOLDSTEIN: I do. Thank you for asking. I wrote a book.

S GONZALEZ: You wrote a book.

GOLDSTEIN: It's called "Money: The True Story Of A Made-Up Thing." It's like PLANET MONEY but a book - comes out on September 8. You can preorder it now.

S GONZALEZ: If you like this episode, share it with a friend.

I'm Sarah Gonzalez.

GOLDSTEIN: I'm Jacob Goldstein. This is NPR. Thanks for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GOLDSTEIN: A quick one.

S GONZALEZ: OK.

GOLDSTEIN: Handshakes - after all this...

S GONZALEZ: The future.

GOLDSTEIN: ...Will the rule be that you shake somebody's hands, that you don't shake somebody's hands?

S GONZALEZ: No, you don't shake anyone's hands ever.

GOLDSTEIN: You think that's it? For real? Do you really think...

S GONZALEZ: It's dead. It's done.

GOLDSTEIN: Forever.

S GONZALEZ: Forever.

GOLDSTEIN: I think I'm going to take the other side of this one. I think the handshake's going to come back.

S GONZALEZ: What about just, like, the - you know, like, the head nod - like, hey, what's up, man?

GOLDSTEIN: Like the State of the Union - the president walks into Congress and just does the sup (ph)...

S GONZALEZ: Yeah.

GOLDSTEIN: ...Like, chin lift to every - to all the Congress people. I'm in.

S GONZALEZ: Yeah, and, like, you know, like...

GOLDSTEIN: That's a dream. That's a dream.

S GONZALEZ: Let's normalize the head nod handshake.

GOLDSTEIN: Sup. I'm actually doing it as I say it.

S GONZALEZ: Me, too. I do it every single time.

GOLDSTEIN: I'm lifting my chin.

S GONZALEZ: Yeah (laughter).

GOLDSTEIN: I'm going to get a crick in my neck.

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