What happens when the pandemic is over?

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According to the latest COVID stats, I may have to start regularly wearing pants again. Which means either going on a diet or buying a whole new wardrobe.

As the vaccines become more accessible and the number of cases and fatalities continues to decrease after the spike in January, there’s a very real possibility that things might finally go back to “normal” again. But what does that even mean?

While some authorities are worried that the current wave of optimism is somewhat premature, the process of returning to public life has already begun. People are starting to travel more. They’re going out to bars and eating at restaurants and buying tickets for music festivals in the fall. Bands and comics are scheduling socially-distanced tours for the summer.

And yet, 685 people in the U.S. died from COVID yesterday.

The current death rate may seem like an improvement from the thousands who perished in January and February, but that’s 685 people who will never eat at a restaurant or see a concert again.

Prior to COVID, approximately 7,500 people, on average, died each day in the U.S., mostly from heart disease and cancer.

At its peak, COVID was deadlier than cancer. But it hasn’t gone away yet. People are still getting sick.

An online acquaintance who went MIA a few months ago just resurfaced and revealed that he and his wife had contracted COVID, despite remaining isolated in their Manhattan apartment for the past year, only leaving to pick up deliveries in the lobby. They even got the vaccine right before experiencing symptoms, and assumed they were side effects of the vaccine at first, until they kept getting sicker.

Despite taking every precaution, their doctor theorized that someone may have sneezed or coughed in the elevator prior to him getting on.

The most prolific super-spreader of the virus has always been arrogance. As I run errands out in the world, it’s no surprise to me why the virus has been so widespread.

I don’t know what’s worse, the people too dumb to follow the rules or those who flout them because they would rather risk death and spread disease than sacrifice even the foggiest notion of what they think freedom means.

We are born savages and only evolve into intelligent human beings through education and acquiring information. And yet, all one has to do is spend five minutes on the internet to realize how much ignorance is celebrated in our society. Or just go to Safeway and Trader Joe’s. Even though the long lines have mostly dissipated, people still behave like they’ve never pushed a shoppingc art through the aisles of a grocery store before.

The other day this guy in a liquor store laughed at the cashier for asking him to cover his mouth, and responded proudly, “I don’t let the Man tell me what to do.”

One can only hope that when you get the vaccine, it’s effective against all the strains of the virus, and you don’t get exposed before it kicks in.

Then what? Are we all supposed to just go back to our lives, as if nothing ever happened? Is that even possible?

In the meantime, I’m frantically taking care of all the mundane tasks that were impossible to accomplish while working full time. Like alphabetizing my books, CDs and records, arranging the various family pictures I’ve inherited over the years into photo albums, backing up my computer and organizing files on external drives.

At night, while my wife and daughter are sleeping, I write, sacrificing my own sleep to work on the novel that’s been hanging over my head for years. Since ocusing on a creative project while being cooped up with an irascible preschooler and her constant demands and tantrums is absurd to even consider a possibility, the pandemic has been somewhat beneficial in that regard. Despite, you know, the widespread death and sickness, as well as the financial toll on so many people around the world…

Still, I’m not ready for “normal” yet. After a year of facing an uncertain future, now that we’re closer to finding out what to expect, I kind of prefer the mystery. And of course, not wearing pants.

Kelly Dessaint is a San Francisco taxi driver, currently on hiatus due to COVID restrictions.

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