As long as people exist, there will always be pandemics and outbreaks. But has there been anything like the novel coronavirus in the last two decades? COVID-19 nearly brought the entire world to a standstill, and despite the fact that Atlanta strip clubs and hookah bars appeared to stay open, even as more of the country returns to business as usual, there’s no telling what the new normal will be.

Complex spoke with Dr. Robyn Gershon, epidemiologist and professor at NYU’s School of Global Public Health, who reminded us that we’ve already lived through several new outbreaks in the last 20 years. In 2003, SARS, an acute respiratory virus, claimed 774 lives in the US. 2009 brought the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, which resulted in 12,469 deaths. And who could forget the 2013 Ebola outbreak in West Africa? The virus had a 50 percent survival rate and killed 11,325 people—two in the States. 

If the world’s been paying attention, the COVID-19 pandemic was nothing unexpected. And yet, it felt like we were all completely caught off guard. At the time of this reporting, COVID-19 has taken 3,886,347 lives worldwide, with 597,372 US deaths reported to WHO. It’s definitely the most intense pandemic most of us have ever experienced.

Now, New York City and Los Angeles, two of the hardest-hit areas in America, are bouncing back and opening up. But if the world should have learned anything from the last year, it’s that caution is better than carelessness. While social distancing and remote learning may largely be left behind, whether vaccinated or not, here are five things that one scientist confirmed we should all keep doing, even after the pandemic is long gone.