New normal?

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.

8 Replies to “New normal?”

  1. Linda Goddard says: Reply

    Thank you for your post as always Jeanette. You have brought a thoughtful perspective into our world. I too am reluctant to dive back into my previous normal way of life and an tip toeing gradually into occasions with friends which I have been doing. I will be wearing a mask for the next while until I am comfortable that things have settled down. The war with Ukraine is predominant in my mind and very upsetting for me and the rest of the world. Take care Jeanette.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Linda. Tiptoeing back into social occasions is a great way of thinking about this new era. In my mind, there is too much uncertainty about the virus to throw caution to the wind. I’m not comfortable in groups where I don’t know who is and who isn’t vaccinated. Like you, I’ll be wearing my mask when I’m interacting with others.
      My comment on the war: I can’t believe that after 5 Million people died in the pandemic, Putin would see this is a time to kill more people while he makes a land grab. It’s horrifying.
      Be well and stay safe!

  2. Although all restrictions (including the need to isolate) have now been lifted in England, home testing (which we are asked to report) remains free for another month and locally people continue to wear masks indoors, keep their distance etc.. It is not yet over, but the onus has shifted to personal responsibility. Time will tell where that might lead. A good friend avoided Covid in January when a member of her household contracted it, only to succumb a month later, despite her wariness, after a chance encounter she is unsure where. Does this signify the waning of vaccine protection so quickly? She suffered from something akin to a bad dose of flu for 10 days. Clearly we wouldn’t expect to have national restrictions for flu, but to what extent does this virus remain a game of roulette – we still seem to have an inordinate number of people in hospital and dying with it?

    1. There is variability regarding restrictions in Canada as jurisdiction over health care is up to each province. Some provinces have lifted all mandates; in Ontario where we live, the only remaining restriction is mask-wearing when in an indoor public space. Hospitalization rates in a community are the only published indicators that allow one to assess the prevalence of the virus. Fortunately, the rates are declining but many people remain in ICU care. Rapid tests are widely available with governments encouraging testing when any cold or flu symptoms arise. No reporting of test results is required although isolation when testing positive is encouraged. It feels like the wild west with everyone left to make judgements about risk when interacting in public spaces. I’m going to small social events so long as hosts ensure that those present are vaccinated. I’m not certain that the virus is over.

  3. Time will tell what the new normal looks like. Some of the lifestyle changes we made during Covid are likely permanent for us. We have greatly reduced the number of times we eat out. When we have gone out, the service has been slow, the prices higher and the portions smaller. We also started cutting our own hair during Covid, and we are continuing this. We increased the amount of online shopping that we do. This will continue as well. We don’t attend music venues where we have to buy expensive tickets and be in crowds. There are plenty of free, and often outside, concerts we can attend. We used to always kiss family members, and most of this will go by the wayside, too. Since we are fully vaccinated, we don’t wear a mask unless required – such as when visiting my mom. We comply when required. The one thing I do miss greatly are our library’s in person events. They used to have classes and music. I just can’t get into the virtual events. I hope these events come back. We are likely to avoid motels. Some of this is due to Covid and some to having a travel trailer. I cook at home more and have taken an interest in new recipes – and new appliances, such as the KitchenAide mixer and the air fryer. Finally, some things, while we know of them, we don’t really “know” it until we live it. I, along with everyone else, knows the meaning of a pandemic. The word “pandemic” will never be the same.

    1. Your approach to the new normal is almost identical to ours — infrequent restaurant meals, avoiding large indoor gatherings, and lots of cooking at home. We continue to have a mask mandate in Ontario but there are mutters about this ending sometime in March. I truly hope that we’re at the end of the pandemic but I won’t let my guard down just yet.
      Be well,

  4. The new normal may include another world war, judging from the state of hostilities between Russia and the rest of the world. So enjoy what freedom we have while we still may.

    1. The news from Europe is truly alarming. I’m aghast as I watch the senseless invasion of Ukraine. We’ve had two hard years of a pandemic. I can’t fathom a world war.
      Be well,

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