As I’m writing this, it’s been a year to the week that America shut down from the pandemic. The combination of restricting European travel, celebrities announcing their COVID susceptibility, and the dramatic postponement of a major sports league marked the beginning of a marathon that is still playing out now. At the time, I had written some of my thoughts and predictions on what COVID-19’s impact will be after the world returns to normal; I just didn’t expect that a year later, we haven’t even begun to start to test many of those post-COVID predictions.
As podcasts and articles and news segments remember the events of this week a year ago, it’s cathartic to think back to the very early days of this pandemic, when we knew so little about its behaviors and modes of transmission and how to mitigate its disastrous effects. And though we obviously haven’t stopped this virus yet, it’s pretty awe-inspiring to account for all the scientific research accomplished in this timeframe, culminating in the overwhelmingly positive efficacy rates of the fastest-developed vaccines, ever.
I continue to be amazed at how well humanity adapts changing environments. In this past year, we have shifted our social behaviors around masking and distancing1, and have learned through this accumulation of knowledge and experience. With the current mobilization of the government, healthcare industry and military to vaccinate the population, where we fell short of controlling the spread of COVID previously, we’re making up for in vaccination speed.
That’s not to sugarcoat the reality that over 500,000 people have died to COVID-19, or the fact that everyone is pretty tired at this point. While the coronavirus has forced us into a new normal of masks and sanitation and staying at home with restaurant takeouts, it’s an adaptation made begrudgingly with an eye towards the finish line, when we can forgo all these precautions and return to how the world mostly was preceding 2020. It’s been heartwarming to see stories about nursing home residents, who make up a disproportionate amount of the 500,000 dead above, forge ahead to the new new normal of resuming pre-pandemic activities and celebrations.
And given how long we’ve been in this state of uncertainty and lockdown, I’ve been mentally preparing myself for this set of changes when the vaccines do allow us to open back up more fully. The muscle memories of taking the kids to school, commuting to the office2, or flying somewhere for vacation have atrophied, and it’s going to take some time to readapt even if everything just snaps back to pre-pandemic norms—even moreso if we somehow managed to establish new fundamentals that change how we play and work and behave.