We could have been done with this. We could be back to almost normal.
We could have looked at the year 2020 as a one-off — a once-in-a-century anomaly that none of us would be around to see again.
Yet here we are.
Because we didn’t take it seriously, because we didn’t do everything to shut down this horrible pandemic while we had the chance, we’re heading back to last March — when the covid virus was spreading like wildfire throughout the country, making us sick and killing us and our loved ones with frightening regularity.
After just a slight reprieve, we’re now headed back to mask mandates and workplace restrictions and limits on gatherings and maybe even a return to economic shutdowns.
Last year, though, we didn’t have highly effective vaccines that could have all but wiped out the virus had we all treated this public health crisis with the seriousness it demanded at the time.
Now, even with the vaccines, we may very well see a return to mass hospitalizations and illnesses. We’re already seeing it in some parts of the country where vaccination rates are irresponsibly low.
It’s only going to get worse.
Had we all taken the vaccines when they became available, instead of listening to the politically motivated and the woefully uninformed, health officials say we could have stomped out the virus before stronger, more dangerous and more contagious variants could get a foothold.
The Delta variant, which killed thousands in India before it became the dominant variant in the U.S. and elsewhere, spreads as easily as chickenpox, officials say.
Anyone who grew up before the chickenpox vaccine was developed in the mid-1990s remembers how easily that disease spread. Many older adults still bear the physical scars.
The new variants of covid that form off the Delta variant could prove to be even more contagious and more dangerous.
Unlike before, this time around the young and healthy may not be spared the sickness and the hospital stays and the ventilators and the funerals.
In part, that’s because the newer strain is stronger. In another, it’s because older people got the vaccine, while many of those in their 20s and 30s shunned it, reasoning that even if they got the virus, it wasn’t going to be that bad.
Well, now it’s that bad.
We wanted school to resume like normal in the fall. That might not be happening.
We wanted to go back to our old workplaces (well, many of us did). But that return to normalcy very well may be stalled by the resurgence, perhaps for months.
The mandates and the precautions and the protocols were never supposed to be about power and politics.
But politicians on both sides of the aisle exploited our divisions and helped breed mistrust and misinformation, bringing us to the brink of another fall and winter of illness and restrictions.
Maybe it’s not too late to bring this under control and at least avoid a full return to lockdowns and remote learning.
To do that, we need to put our differences aside, follow the science and take all the proper precautions this time.
If you haven’t been vaccinated and your health allows, get vaccinated.
When you go indoors in public places or are around other people, get your mask out and put it on.
Find the Lysol and the disinfectant wipes and start cleaning as you go again.
Stay away from other people if you think you might be sick or have been exposed. Get tested. Get serious.
Otherwise, we risk once again overburdening our medical facilities and long-term care institutions with cases.
We risk putting these front-line heroes’ lives at risk again.
We risk not being able to visit our family members who are forced into isolation.
We risk lives and livelihoods.
What we didn’t do then, we need to do now.
Otherwise, this won’t just be a once-in-a-century event.
It will become our permanent existence.