Losing our fear

Riddle me this: Three months ago, when COVID-19 cases started to spike in the United States, we basically shut down everything. Now, even as cases continue to rise and the death toll here has exceeded 115,000, we’re opening everything up. We are nowhere near any form of treatment or a safe and effective vaccine. We just decided we need haircuts. (In fact, I’m getting my pandemic hair pruned down today.)

What happened? We lost our fear.

It’s the same feeling as when we drive a car. Every time I pull my 3,375-pound (1,531-kilogram) silent-but-potentially-deadly machine out of the garage, I run the risk of getting into a serious accident. In fact, my car was hit by an SUV that went through a red light in 2019. (Fortunately, no one was hurt, and my car was able to be repaired.) We acknowledge that we run risks, and we find ways to mitigate those risks. I wear my seat belts, use my mirrors, stay alert, and pay attention to the multitude of collision detection features I spent extra money on.

We’ve also come to acknowledge that living in a pandemic involves risks, but we now know ways to limit them. We have masks, social distancing, and hygiene practices. We’ve figured out how to navigate through grocery stories, order takeout, and work from home. We’re aren’t where we were before the pandemic, but we’re able to function.

We learned how to deal with the coronavirus and adapted our behaviors to work around it. Knowledge and adaptability has enabled us to lose our fear.

But losing our fear doesn’t mean losing our responsibility. It doesn’t mean we can throw away our masks and pack into arenas, any more than knowing how to drive means you can down three shots of tequila and speed down the boulevard. We still have to exercise caution, know our limitations, and follow the rules. We are able to navigate through this pandemic because we recognize it’s still there.

Losing our fear comes from gaining awareness and responsibility. These are good habits for us to continue, even when this pandemic is over.