Since everyone else is doing the “it’s been a whole year since…” thing, I’ll do it too. It’s been a whole year since I last stepped foot in my office at work. My wall calendar is probably still stuck at March 2020 like the hands frozen on a pocket watch after a disaster. I have a large collection of masks. I’ve dried out my hands from overwashing and hand sanitizer. I’ve made it through toilet paper shortages, had to listen to jokes about bleach and hydroxychloroquine, shepherded our granddaughter through online school, dreaded every cough, and lived in fear that someone I love got sick.
Now, it seems like we’re getting close to the end. Some of my family members have already been fully vaccinated. We’ve moved into a tier where restaurants can open for indoor dining again. I can look forward to going to Angel games and vacations again. Although we’re not out of danger yet, and variants and public impatience can lead to another deadly surge, there is hope.
What will it be like when it’s all over?
Recovering from the pandemic is like an individual recovering from any major illness or injury. I remember when I had an appendectomy 10 years ago. When I was discharged from the hospital, my doctor told me I could gradually return to normal activity. I took an extra week of sick time, and I did a little more of my regular routine each day. I was soon back to normal.
The problem is that normal got us into trouble in the first place. I thought going to the hospital was the wake-up call I needed to get healthy. But going to back normal meant going back to all my familiar fatty foods and poor habits. It would take another eight years and a health concern until I got serious about changing to a healthier lifestyle. Most of my doctors told me how fortunate I was to make the change in my weight before the pandemic started. Had I remained obese and contracted COVID-19, I would have been less likely to survive it.
We are already forgetting the warnings of this pandemic. In states where politicians were already doubting COVID-19 was even real, mask and social distancing mandates have been dropped. An outbreak took place at Duke University. Italy is under lockdown again. Students are going on spring break with even more irresponsibility than usual.
Whenever I see this impatience, I think about my mom who went back to work too soon after she had her first stroke in May 1979. She went back against doctor’s orders for the same reason businesses want to flaunt COVID safety measures—she needed the money. In September, she had a series of major strokes that left her paralyzed for the rest of her life.
What will it be like when it’s all over? It depends on us. Try to reopen too soon, and the pandemic can continue and grow worse. Forget the lessons from this pandemic, and it will certainly happen again. But if we take our time, return to normal activities gradually, and make public health measures a permanent part of our social fabric, we will get through this and build a new and better normal.
This pandemic has cost us lives and cost us a year. We cannot let those losses be in vain.