Opinion | The Joys of Post-Pandemic Life Await. But We’re Not There Yet.
March 8, 2021
Video by Tala Schlossberg
The Joys of Post-Pandemic Life Await. But We’re Not There Yet.
You’ll be back on the dance floor soon enough, just hold on a little longer.
It’s Thursday, 7:00 PM. You have just wrapped up a stressful workday. And naturally, you want to take a bath. You begin preparations. Scented steam fills the room. You’re ready to indulge in some well-earned midweek bliss. But then as you step in, the tub is full of boiling water. You can’t get in without getting second-degree burns in some unmentionable places. Now, I know this is a relatable plight because we’re all in this predicament right now on a national scale. I’m talking about the pandemic. Now that vaccines are rolling out, it’s tempting to resume travel, hang out at a bar, or have friends over to play the Catan expansion pack that you never got to use. But every time we prioritize the tiny pleasures of prepandemic life— “OK, you can just come in.” “Come on, Martha. We could use a ski trip.” —we make transmission more likely, spreading infection, making the job harder for the vaccines, and prolonging the end of this pandemic. By relaxing back into the comfort of normal life, we’re burning ourselves and also our friends and family. Because we’re not just one dry shivering body on the edge of the tub. We’re 330 million. Put another way, 27 million Americans have gotten Covid. That’s about 8.5% of all people in this country. Projected onto our collective body given that the palmar surface area of the hand is equal to 1% of the human figure, we’ve already burned both feet, our palms and genitalia in our scalding bath water, precious extremities scathed by our inability to cooperate. And here’s the frustrating thing. Unlike normal bathwater, this pandemic isn’t cooling down on its own. The vaccine is not a bucket of cold water that will instantly make our old lives full of museums and hugs and casual workplace encounters re-enterable. I suggest you think of the vaccine as more like a cream, a limited edition, selectively prescribed, hydrophobic cream. And it requires a critical amount of coverage over our collective nude body in order to enjoy our tub. We can’t just dab a little lotion on our stomach and expect it to protect our back. It’s going to take months of rollouts before enough people are vaccinated to start returning to normal. And some of our elected leaders aren’t helping the situation, ending restrictions while ignoring the advice of our top scientists. “All businesses of any type are allowed to open 100 percent.” “I am replacing our current orders with recommendations.” Leaders are once again putting the responsibility of the pandemic on us and our already strained personal willpower. But we know exactly how to respond. Because most of our neighbors have been bathing successfully for months by just social distancing and wearing their damn masks sort of sponge bath mandated by their tub overlords that doesn’t fit within this metaphor because we are not living in a bathtub. We are living in real life. And the only way to actually understand our situation is to look at the facts we’ve known all along. We have every reason to believe that by year’s end, we’ll be celebrating the holidays with our families. But getting back to normal isn’t just up to our policymakers, scientists, and doctors. It’s also up to us. We need to put the long-term promise of safety before our immediate desire to make an elaborate space helmet out of bubbles. So let’s be patient. Let’s keep staying safe. When we do get back in the tub, let’s aim for a full body re-entry. We’ve burned ourselves badly enough already.
It’s going to feel incredible resuming a Covid-free life again. We’re getting there. But don’t let impatient politicians, vaccine selfies, or overeager friends tempt you. As the video above explains, returning to pre-pandemic life is like taking a hot bath — jumping in too quickly will only get us burned.
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Tala Schlossberg (@TalaSchlossberg) is a producer and animator with Opinion Video.