Not Normal, Not Close

Dear Reader,

We have now entered the “new normal” era of the pandemic, but how long will it last?

Recently, I ventured out to a restaurant outside of Boston in Arlington called Menotomy (fun fact, the town of Arlington was known as “Menotomy” until 1867). To follow the pandemic health guidelines, we chose outdoor seating. While it was a warm summer’s day, there were some suspicious looking clouds in the distance that promised heavy rain. As the sky turned to a blue-gray hue, our waiter ushered us inside. Gasp! Sitting indoors during a pandemic — madness! Although my ultra-cautious mind rang the alarm bells, I was soothed by the fact that we were seated about 20 feet away from any other party indoors. While this restaurant visit was nice and otherwise uneventful, it made me seriously consider this “new normal.”

Just a few months ago, things seemed to hit rock bottom. Economic impact payments were being sent out, the number of new cases was on the rise, and businesses were shutting their doors left and right. Things are by no means “good” right now, however, it seems that with the easing of the restrictions, people (rightly or not) seem a little more complacent about the “pandemic thing.”

For many, this status quo signals that we can now just live and “relax” — no one seems to be advocating for another total lockdown. It is August, people are going on vacation rather than just focusing on “survival.” For example, more than a few of my colleagues have planned trips to Cape Cod or to see family members in other states, and my boyfriend and I are doing a few more things in our area.

While these baby steps seem like a natural and gradual progression toward “life as we knew it,” it is unclear whether we, as a society, are returning to normal or are merely pausing to experience a temporary state of normality. By this, I mean, I feel that although restrictions are a bit looser now than before, things, at least in the U.S., may still get worse before they get better. As we enter the fall, the weather will change, more schools and workplaces will open up, and the virus could spread like wildfire (on top of the normal pathological activity including the flu and colds). Will we experience another strict lockdown in September or October? Will the schools that choose to remain open be forced to send their students home once again? Additionally, the question still remains about whether we will we enter the fabled second wave, in which the virus mutates and becomes more deadly for even more of the population. What will happen — we don’t know!

As of July 5, the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. has been slowly rising. (This is not true for all states, for example, the number of deaths in places like Rhode Island and New York is declining.) States did not all take the same cautionary measures and the disparity in these policies is having tangible effects. Because we are not experiencing a promising decline in coronavirus activity everywhere, I think it would be Pollyannaish to expect that things will just start getting better. Instead, I feel that we are in a state of a “temporary” new normal.

In short, I would not be surprised if when the fall hits, so does another round of lockdowns.

…I wish you a healthy summer! Wear lots of sunscreen AND A MASK!



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