Coronavirus: One Year

I’ve reflected on the ongoing pandemic a couple times, and now that we’ve passed the one-year mark, it seems an update is due. Cautiously optimistic is about how things feel.

We made it through the second wave and the rising death toll in the fall and winter. Now the vaccines are rolling out—truly a miracle how quickly that happened—but it’s a race between vaccine rollout and deadlier, more contagious variants. We’re seeing surges in places, lock downs in Europe again, and worrisome numbers that creep upward.

So there’s real reason for hope, but there’s also that continued anxiety that hasn’t left us for the past year.

Many people are clamoring to return to normal and several states have thrown caution to the wind and rescinded all mask and shutdown orders. A lot of schools are going back to full in-person teaching as well. So of course we’re seeing more cases and things closing again.

It’s like we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We’re too impatient to wait for a few more months for those vaccines to reach a broader swath of the country.

On the personal front, we’re doing pretty well all things considered. Abby got her vaccine a month or so ago. Minnesota just announced that anyone over 16 can get it starting this week, so now I’m legitimately checking for appointments (previously it seemed like June at the earliest before I could get one). Of course the vaccine isn’t approved for anyone under 16, so the kids will have to wait.

We’ve continued to keep our kids home for distance learning. At this point it just seems safer to make the whole year a wash and be done with it.

The cabin fever feeling has been getting pretty rough, but spring weather helps with that. We still go places and where masks and it feels relatively safe. You can eat in restaurants, though we’re mostly avoiding it (with the exception of Mall of America where we go Pokemon—I’ve done that a few times and a few times with Milo, and it feels OK; not great, especially on the weekends, but we’re doing the best we can).

Thankfully our jobs have been stable, so we don’t have worries there.

I do worry about the long-term impacts of all this staying home. I know it’s necessary and needs to be done, but it’s going to have long-term ramifications. I know their are short-term impacts and people suffering from depression. I wish we were doing better at checking in on people. But long-term we’ve spent a year cutoff from in-person socializing and just worrying—and that’s for “normal” folks who haven’t been sick or lost loved ones or jobs. There’s an unease and even dread that’s settled on all of us for the past year. I wonder about the kids too. Spending a year of your life living through something this enormous and traumatic has to leave scars.

We’re nearing 550,000 deaths here in the U.S. and almost 2.8 million worldwide. It’s staggering to think about.

And what continues to plague me is how many people never took it seriously, how many people questioned the science, how many people valued the economy over lives.

As a child of the 1980s, I was raised on American exceptionalism. We can do anything we put our minds to. My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They are the “Greatest Generation” because they faced hardships and came together to overcome them.

Now that we’ve been through a hardship of our own, I can’t help but wonder how we measure up. It doesn’t seem like Americans have been able to come together through this challenge and endure it together. It seems like we’ve bickered and argued and a sizable minority has ignored all the rules and embraced a gross freedom that values individual liberty over human life. That somehow being forced to wear a cloth mask is the greatest crime against freedom.

I’ll be honest, part of me wonders if some of that ‘American exceptionalism’ isn’t just hype—we’re all broken people. The “Greatest Generation” certainly had their own failures, whether it was the internment of Japanese Americans or the continuation of Jim Crow racism. Maybe it’s all been glossed over since then and we’re getting a nice, clean story, but when you live through things it’s never that clean.

I don’t know. What I do know is that this pandemic and the response of some has seriously shaken my faith in humanity and especially the church. Far too many of the anti-maskers claim to be Christians. For a faith that teaches humility and valuing others before yourself, I can’t understand why so many shrug off masks and value this gross personal freedom over protecting others.

They’d rather see people die than wear a mask.

When we talk about long-term consequences, I think that’s going to have a deep one on the American psyche.

I don’t know why that is, if it’s the ongoing erosion of trust in the news media, if it’s a lack of trust in science, if it’s selfishness wrapped up in the worship of personal freedom… I don’t get it. It’s certainly linked to Donald Trump—he tapped into it and fueled it, but I think it’s much bigger than him.

So that’s where we’re at. The vaccines are getting out there, things are starting to open (even if that’s not very wise yet), and I imagine this summer will be closer to normal. But we don’t have a vaccine for kids yet, there are dangerous variants out there, and it’s not over yet. I suspect we’ll be wearing masks for a while (and they’ll be common in the future as a way to reduce sickness).

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