Welcome to the third year of the pandemic.
On this date in 2020, the World Health Organization declared a fast-spreading virus called COVID-19 to be a world-wide pandemic, and everything officially fell apart. Although some of us who had been watching world news understood something very bad was happening long before the official notice.
And I’m still angry that too many of our leaders, around the world, were either not paying attention, or chose to ignore the available information for far too long.
However, here we are two years later and it appears that the whole thing is over. Open up everything and just go back to normal. As if more than five million people (almost one million of them in the US) didn’t die from the virus.
It’s not over, of course. Pandemics don’t just go away suddenly and on a schedule. Listen to this brief podcast episode from Scientific American for some historical and sociological context on how how they do end.
Anyway, we’ve reached a point where enough people1 are fed up with even the basic (and relatively easy) restrictions and have decided the pandemic is done. Cases are falling quickly from their peak (for the third? fourth? fifth? time) and the war in Ukraine has pushed COVID stories off the news. So, we can move on to worrying about things we can actually see, right?
But what does “getting back to normal” look like?
Although I’m eating in restaurants, going to stores, and socializing with friends again,2 I still keep my distance from strangers, avoid crowds, and wear my mask in indoor spaces. Still frequently washing hands and, if my doctor tells me to, I’ll get regular booster shots.
I don’t expect to give up that behavior for a long time. Not only have I not contracted COVID, an added bonus is that I’ve also managed to avoid colds and other respiratory diseases over the past two years.
On this unwanted anniversary, I doubt anyone who understands the science believes that the pandemic is done. COVID certainly isn’t likely to just disappear. We will probably have more spikes in cases and people will continue to die.
A “normal” future for the world as a whole must include learning some lessons from the past two years in order to live with the continuing pandemic and planning to better cope with the next one.
The photo is a bust of Thomas Jefferson in the main hall of the Library of Congress. Just a representative pandemic image.
1. I’m talking about the sane part of the population. Not the 30% or so who embrace a conspiracy-driven mindset and who still refuse to accept the reality of the pandemic despite watching their friends and relatives die around them.
2. We also have a relatively short international trip planned for later in the spring. More about that later.