Just say no to “the new normal.”
I’m really getting frustrated with people talking about our “new normal” with the wearing of masks and social distancing. It’s only been five or six months since these health measures were put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic and people are acting like it will go on forever.
It won’t. It’s temporary.
Life will be normal again. Pandemics are not permanent. It will pass. In the history of the world, every single plague and pandemic has come and gone, and the world keeps on spinning. How many of us continue to spin with it is another question.
COVID-19 is real and for some it is deadly and for others it is debilitating. For most, from what I understand, it is little more than a cold or flu.
The worlds’ worst pandemics have lasted years, claimed millions of lives, and resulted in precautionary measures far more extreme than what we are experiencing today. The Black Death of 1347 to 1351 claimed an estimated 75 million lives when the world’s population was estimated to be 450 million. The Spanish Flu of 1918 only lasted a year but infected a third of the world’s population and claimed 50 million lives.
By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies are reporting (as of Monday) that 20 million cases have been confirmed worldwide with 732,467 deaths. There are 5 million cases in the United States with 163,156 deaths. Texas has 486,362 confirmed cases and 8,459 deaths. Here in Austin County, we have 242 confirmed cases with four fatalities.
With the exception of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, COVID-19 is the deadliest since the Hong Kong flu of 1968-70 which claimed somewhere between 1-4 million people. When you look back at pandemics, including such outbreaks as yellow fever, bubonic plague, typhoid, smallpox, cholera, measles, malaria, and various influenzas, COVID-19 seems pretty tame.
It’s running on the belief that it isn’t as harmless as it’s being made out to be that will cause it to expand and raise the death toll. The coronavirus has been around a long time, but this particular strain is new and far more potent than previous strains. As health officials race to create a vaccine, the virus continues to mutate. It affects people differently. Due to its low mortality rate, too many people blow it off or downplay it. That is a mistake.
In just these past few months, COVID-19 has claimed nearly as many U.S. lives as World War I and the Vietnam War combined. Texas alone has recorded almost three times as many COVID-19 deaths than there were people killed in the 9/11 attacks.
What makes COVID-19 unique among other pandemics isn’t so much the disease as it is our reaction to it. For most of us in America, this is the first pandemic that we’ve faced. When most of us have heard about pandemics such as swine flu, zika, or Ebola, the outbreaks were in other parts of the world, generally in developing nations. This is here and in our face.
I know people who have had it and I know of people who have died from it. All of us are tired of it and want it to go away. It will, but it’s up to us to make that happen. It means wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, wiping down surfaces, and things of that nature. The longer people refuse to do that, the longer we will have to contend with the disease.
It’s possible that we will have a vaccine soon (as in months, not years), which brings me back to the new normal. We don’t know yet if you can catch COVID-19 more than once or if it is something we will need to be vaccinated against each year like the flu. If there is anything that changes because of COVID-19 it is likely to be a vaccine. There will also be more awareness of personal hygiene and better practices in that regard.
In time we won’t need the masks and we’ll crowd together again in bars, sporting events, restaurants, and other public places. That will be the return to normal, not the new normal.
But as long as there is resistance, we will have to wait for those good times to return. If you want that to happen, participate in the temporary normal by wearing your mask and keeping your distance.