As the pandemic supposedly wanes, and public health restrictions gradually lift, I wonder what the new normal will entail?
Everywhere there are signs that we are returning to previous lifestyles. Governments are easing restrictions on gatherings now that rates of full vaccination in my province of Ontario are nearing 90%.
Perhaps the recent protests in Ottawa and at border crossings have precipitated this response. Perhaps, Covid 19 is under control and we are moving to a time where Covid can be classed as endemic rather than a pandemic.
Nonetheless, theatres and concert venues are opening. Indoor dining in restaurants resumed a week ago. Sports arenas are open. Gyms and churches welcome members. Vaccine passports won’t be mandatory in Ontario after March 1 unless an establishment enforces the passport. Retail shops still require masks for shoppers but stores are well stocked with temptations for spring purchases. Schools are open and children are receiving vaccines.
Will we have a new normal?
I’m not sure about the look and feel of a new normal. Most people just want to get back to previous routines and activities. They want to leave behind pandemic behaviours such as social distancing now that most danger of infection is over. Expectations include travelling, visiting family and friends, hosting indoor parties and attending public functions in theatres and sports arenas.
For some, the post-pandemic lifestyle will be similar to starting over or moving to a new house. They will reset their lives adopting new habits and trying new activities. Others will resume familiar routines
But….Is the Pandemic Over?
While contemplating the new normal of post-pandemic life, I remind myself that the pandemic is not over.
Numbers of hospitalizations and deaths no longer top newscast reports. But, nobody knows the positivity numbers since testing is now in the hands of individuals who can use rapid tests if symptoms arise. Public health officials report trends and leave the interpretation to citizens. Sewage testing is used as a primary indicator of virus levels.
“People are Tired of the Pandemic”
In recent days, I’ve heard politicians of every stripe say they understand that “people are tired of the pandemic”. What a truism! Of course, people are tired and people want to see an end to pandemic restrictions. But is it competent leadership to simply give-in to anti-vac/anti-mask protesters?
Many people feel that there has been a lack of leadership from both elected politicians and public health officials. Distrust of media is also common as few newsrooms have research capacity beyond reading media releases from various sources.
This has led to widespread cynicism and distrust of messages. Some futurists predict that we are facing the beginning of an epidemic of mistrust — but that’s another blog post.
Living with Uncertainty
As I think about the new normal, I’m convinced that the new normal means accepting and living with uncertainty. The world has changed since the pandemic began in 2020. Our personalities have changed due to disruptions and isolation. It’s time to change our expectations and reactions.
My way into the new normal involves continual risk assessment. I decide whether or not to participate in social activities based on how long I will be with others. I monitor the hospitalizations in our small city. I ignore information from social media. I won’t go to my gym due to overcrowded locker rooms and I have no interest in attending a live church service or a concert. I judge events based on how many people will attend and whether they have been vaccinated and boosted. I continue to wear a mask when shopping. I avoid crowds where I can’t keep a distance.
The pandemic brought a new dose of wisdom. I’m learning to adapt. I know that new variants can suddenly appear and that the available vaccines may or may not protect us.
I also know that strength and resilience are lessons that I’ve learned during the past two years. I’ll choose safe behaviours regardless of prevailing social norms. That’s my new normal.