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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

will we ever go back to pre-COVID normal?

I just did my first PCR test since COVID became a thing last March (remember all of this being over by Easter anyone?) for my flight to Portugal on Thursday, which reminded me of a question that I think is now asleep for most people - are we ever going to be "back to normal?"

Human beings are adaptive creatures - it's one of our strongest traits as a species. Outside of COVID, just thinking about the massive changes this world has gone through within my lifetime alone, it's incredible the pace at which we move and are quick to adapt to whatever is thrown at us. I do think there's some bias here in that I'm still of the "young" generation, I've always lived in urban areas where the early adapters live in and I enjoy being ahead of the game in any adaptation of human life. Of course there's nothing that I'm eager about adapting the new normal - I despise mask wearing (I have a bad nose to begin with and a big head, which in turn makes the mask very uncomfortable but of course we're saving lives so you gotta do what you gotta do!) and it upsets me that my brother wasn't able to start high school normally and most likely won't finish with the standards that my high school experience lived up to. It's also hard to measure what kind of psychological effect all this had on someone who was 14 at the time, a part of life where social interactions should be booming, not standing six feet apart and covering 60% of your face. As much as I want to turn this article political, I want to set aside the baggage that is my views on COVID and just take this time to ponder - will we ever go back to normal and what does that mean?

When I say normal, I'm not talking about the expedited aspects of humanity that was merely a consequence of a global pandemic - I don't envision the transition into hybrid or remote work to ever go away or slow down, the massive implementation of QR codes to disappear nor the gender, political, racial and religious polarization to solve itself like magic any time soon. I see most of these things as "agendas" that have been boiling up for quite some time now and anyone who is interested in analyzing global trends should've seen all of this coming, just not at this enhanced and expedited rate that COVID enabled them to be. My perception of "normal" or at least the "normal" I wish to go back to is seeing everyone's face on the streets, not having to wear a mask in an airplane or classroom, and not being looked down upon as an unethical person by not doing so even when permitted. Again, I'm trying my hardest to not sit on either side of the aisle - I just want to simply think through whether or not what I'm proposing will ever be possible in my lifetime and what must occur for that to happen.

I actually don't recall the last time I checked COVID numbers on that Google chart everyone used to check 20 times a day, and I don't remember the last time I read a news article that talked about the delta variant, or some celebrity getting COVID, or what Joe's up to in terms of combatting the pandemic. I do see revolts against vaccine mandates (which I'm sure will continue), but it seems like no one really has a solution for whether or not we'll be able to walk into a restaurant without having to wear a mask to the table and then take it off and put it back on as we're ordering. All my snarky comments aside, here are things in my perspective that must occur for what I envision "normal" to come true (whether I agree or disagree with these propositions has nothing to do with this exercise):

  • Everyone alive right now that went through COVID as an adult dies and the remainder forgets - people get over things with time. This is a standardized rule for all things pertaining to humanity, and especially in this day and age of information overload and something new in our face every day, as long as this trend of COVID not being at the forefront of media continues, people will naturally get over what's happening. We're already seeing it in some places, but unsure if this will fix everything (especially in progressive places like New York and San Francisco). This one is probably inevitable but the result is also the least likely because we now record everything and anything and as a species we're not very good at moving on from past sins.

  • Everyone being gets vaccinated (including the booster shot), case rates hit basically 0, death rates hit 0, there's no hospital capacity issues - I'm not really sure what happened to all the headlines talking about all the Los Angeles hospitals being over capacity and COVID being the main cause of this - regardless, it seems like there's still people in fear of COVID (which I respect and we should cater to those that care if it means the little sacrifice of wearing a mask - right?). To combat that properly, we probably need to get to a point where there's zero risk associated with COVID. Ironically I think this seems the most achievable on a practicality standpoint and given current trends, as well as its measurability.

  • People that care live together and people that don't live together and they don't allow crossover between these isolated regions. - At this point in the COVID journey, it seems like a lot of the issues derive from within as opposed to the actual disease itself and much of it is for the peace of mind. I've heard (of course anecdotally) a wide array of my friends who were scared to go outside for most of 2020 and looked down on me for traveling now attend every single music festival in existence because they are vaccinated and have gained a super power known as immunity. If you feel safe no matter what you do, whether that's a result of being vaccinated or it being November 2021 now doesn't matter, perhaps living amongst people that also feel invincible will be the best solution. If you are still in fear of COVID and can't stand people with their nose over the mask, maybe you can live with others like that and congregate together. Of course I'm being overly sarcastic here, but it actually might be a viable solution and will probably lead to a decrease in polarization.

In conclusion, I don't think we'll ever be back to normal (at least within my lifetime) and it rather frustrates me that this is something "we're just going to have to live with and there's bigger problems." Much of this is definitely coming from a point of complaining with no solution and probably a "problem" that's only a problem for a very small fraction of my lifetime. In the wise words of my friend Justin, I do think it's unwise to not discuss an issue just because there's no solution. I hope I get to see my brother graduate high school without wearing a mask.

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