You probably remember getting that life-changing email last March: school was going to get shut down due to an uprising virus called COVID-19. You may have been confused, panicked, or maybe even thrilled about an extra-long spring break. Even in this new environment, being stuck at home got boring quickly, and the idea of a new virtual-learning routine seemed overwhelming to many students. The quarantine was extended a few weeks at a time, and we soon realized that we wouldn’t get back to school before summer.
Over the summer, the virus got worse instead of better; despite these conditions, we were informed that we were going back to school anyway. If a few thousand total COVID cases prompted a total shutdown in March, why were we going back to school with tens of thousands of new cases per day in the US?
Once we realized the virus wasn’t going to be a short term problem, we realized we had to learn to live with it. We had to figure out how to do everyday things while keeping ourselves and others as safe as possible. We got used to wearing masks, staying outdoors if we were going to see people other than our families, and keeping 6 feet apart.
But following those rules got harder over time; “quarantine fatigue” is a real thing! People want to socialize and celebrate special occasions with their friends or extended families. Masks easily get hot, uncomfortable, and annoying. Because we manage to do many of our activities despite the pandemic (such as school or work), we start to think that maybe going to a party or taking our masks off isn’t so bad. Certain people may feel like they put in the effort before summer, so they don’t have to worry about it now. Others might think they’ll never get it because they’re lucky. Some do not know much about the virus at all, so they assume that it isn’t a big deal.
It’s also really difficult and frustrating to follow the safety rules while we see others not following them. Additionally, seeing “influencers” on social media (especially TikTok) not following the safety guidelines may convince younger audiences to disobey them as well. Even though it should be a decision guided by science, wearing a mask — or not — has also become a political statement. Powerful events like political rallies or gatherings for social justice were important enough to make people risk getting together in large groups. Some of these have been considered super-spreader events, only making the problem worse.
Unfortunately, the virus is a bigger deal now than ever before. The virus won the battle last year; are we going to let it win this year? Thankfully, the vaccine is approved, and the goal is to have 100 million people vaccinated in the first 100 days after Biden’s inauguration. If we can just persevere a little longer until enough people are vaccinated, everything can be normal by next fall.
Graphic: Sunny Rhew