Today is the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a pandemic. And from here, our lives changed.
The day that happened, I sat at home during my Spring Break for the meaning of this proclamation to develop. It developed quickly, starting with shelter in place notices, businesses shutting down, and toilet paper shortages at the store. The leadership at my university deliberated on whether they would open back up for the students coming back for Spring Break or move all classes online. When they declared that everything would go online, I was already in the middle of making that adjustment.
Masks became a normal part of our lives, along with avoiding public places and standing six feet away from each other. Group meetings were strongly discouraged, even with masks. All our precautions, however, seemed to be not enough as we watched the cases with COVID, and the deaths, tick upward in reports from the County Department of Health. Too many people got sick; too many people died, particularly (but not always) the elderly. Because of my husband’s preexisting condition, I worried quite a bit. However, I should have worried about myself, as a little-known study found that people with severe mental illness (such as my bipolar) have increased chances of both contracting and dying of COVID.
Now, a year later, businesses have been open for a while with precautions, but many are still (as in the case of restaurants) not necessarily safe. The first tier of vaccination (over 65, those with severe obesity or diabetes, some other disorders, medical personnel) is close to done, with teachers and essential workers next. Even so, vaccinated persons are being instructed to continue to wear their masks in indoor spaces. So COVID is not gone from our lives yet.
I still look forward to getting vaccinated so I can go to restaurants without (much) fear and have a vacation like I haven’t had for a whole year. I dream of a writing retreat somewhere, my favorite place being The Elms. Most of all, I dream of life as normal, which it will be, but not normal as it was last year. It will be a new normal.