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Many Twitter “blue checks” are panicked over a “return to normal.” While the coronavirus pandemic was barely a month old, the Delaware County (PA) Council posted a Facebook video conference with repeated references to the well-meaning but nauseating platitudes of the day, including our “new normal” and “we’re all in this together.”
My eyes rolled so far back that I could almost see my sinuses. This was not my idea of “normal.” And if “we’re all in this together,” why were we more divided than ever?
After all, we were ordered by Governors, exercising if not abusing new-found emergency powers (some of which remain in place) to practically shutter in place; restaurants, churches, schools, many work places, sporting events, practically everything except grocery stores, medical facilities, and Amazon deliveries. “Panic porn” spewed from corporate news outlets and on social media. Fourteen days to slow the spread has turned into a year to forget. And don’t get me started on masks, the debate over which migrated from “There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask” to their becoming fashion items and the ultimate virtue signal.
Meanwhile, over 500,000 have died in the US alone. In addition, there have been serious health consequences, including an increase in suicides, from pandemic lockdowns. Some 30,000 have died from unemployment-related suicides. Nearly a quarter of Americans reported experiencing symptoms of depression. School closures have had an enormous and negative impact on children – especially minority children from lower income families. I could go on but it would be … depressing.
But now with nearly a quarter of Americans having been jabbed at least once with three vaccines developed in record time under Operation Warp Speed, coupled with a massive drop in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You would think every American is cheering at the prospect of a return to some normalcy. Several states, led by both Republican and Democratic governors, are ditching mandates, travel restrictions, and capacity limits at restaurants – even mask mandates.
You would be wrong. Look at the number of “likes” on this Twitter post.
Yes, there have been some largely permanent, even positive consequences of pandemic-related shutdowns (certainly not for those losing jobs or businesses, or with kids who couldn’t go to school). Those lucky enough to have white-collar jobs at larger companies could work from home, and some employers discovered that many people were more productive. Traffic congestion around the world dropped. Housing purchasing and relocation patterns changed, as home sales jumped in suburbs and even small towns, even for larger homes. People began leaving crowded urban areas, reversing past trends. Low mortgage interest rates have obviously helped.
But for all those gains, millions have suffered from the inability to socialize with friends and family, especially those in nursing homes. Isolation kills. Zoom sessions have replaced conferences, meetings, and even family get-togethers. That’s helpful, but no substitute for the hugs and face-to-face interactions we took for granted before the pandemic. No wonder millions of Americans reported feelings of depression.
So no, I will not “like” Emily Renshaw’s tweet. I still do not celebrate or accept this “new normal.” Further, I reject these calls to keep us shuttered – reverse panic porn in fear of returning to normal.
On a recent drive from Pennsylvania to northern Virginia, I encountered something I had not seen in awhile – traffic. At rush hour. And it wasn’t construction or an accident. And my first thoughts and feelings? Optimism and hope. I celebrated. I celebrate schools reopening. I celebrate the ability to attend church services in person again. I celebrate capacity restrictions being lifted on restaurants and other retailers. I celebrate people returning to work, without fear. I celebrate crowds returning to NHL games. I will eventually celebrate ditching my masks so I see people’s faces and smiles again, without having to strain to decipher words spoken through two or more cloth layers. I will even celebrate putting on a suit and tie (if it still fits).
I will even celebrate being able to attend funerals again. My father, who died as the pandemic began to rage, never had one (he did not die from COVID).
I will celebrate the ability to shake hands (sorry, Dr. Fauci), and hug friends and family. No more elbows and fist bumps. I will even look forward to being stuck in traffic and hunting for parking on my way to make a presentation at a conference. I will not miss Zoom, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams, Citrix, or all those other virtual online tools, although they will still have a place in our “new normal.”
Oh, sure the coronavirus and its variants and successors will be with us forever. We have pandemics of one kind or another about every 10 years, it seems. Our last one was in 2009. This one was worse, obviously, but still pales in comparison to the 1918 Spanish Flu. I do hope our public officials spend some time investigating what we did right, and wrong, and whether we overreacted. In some cases, the prescription may have been worse than the cure. Time will tell.
But for now, Emily Ramshaw and her followers can enjoy their permanent, fearful, shuttered lifestyles. I for one celebrate our rapidly approaching return to normal. We all should.Published in