Here we are again. Another school year, another semester impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and not seeing the bottom half of people’s faces. This is obviously incredibly frustrating especially considering for a brief time this summer, it seemed as though the pandemic was finally coming to a close. Last May, when COVID-19 cases were down, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fully vaccinated could stop wearing masks and the average number of people getting vaccinated each day was well over 1 million. However, thanks, in part, to the delta variant and a large amount of false information circulating online about the COVID-19 vaccine, cases have surged. On top of that, the average number of COVID- 19 vaccinations administrated daily has dropped to less than 1 million per day, and to put the final nail in the coffin, on July 27, the CDC advised that people go back to wearing masks indoors in most places in the United States.
Clearly, this situation is extremely aggravating. It seems like every time the world turns a corner with the pandemic, something occurs that results in us being right back where we started. And honestly, we have every right to be annoyed. This pandemic feels like the worst group project I have ever been a part of, and that is saying something.
But during this time of great annoyance towards the pandemic and frustration towards those whom we might feel are not doing their part to help end this pandemic, we have to keep in mind that people’s comfort levels during the COVID-19 pandemic might differ. While some people feel perfectly fine with not wearing a mask around other people, some people might be less comfortable not wearing a mask in a large group setting regardless of their vaccination status. Whatever your own opinion is on this matter, respect other people’s decisions even if you don’t agree with them. Everyone has their reasons for the choices they make regarding protection from COVID-19. Maybe someone doesn’t feel comfortable with taking their masks off quite yet because they have an immunocompromised child at home who can’t get the vaccine due to the age limit. Maybe someone hasn’t gotten the vaccine because they have certain health conditions and have been advised by their doctor not to get the vaccine. Maybe people’s distrust in the vaccine comes from a long mistrust and suspicion towards anything that is considered government-funded, especially considering how the government has historically misled and mistreated minority groups. Maybe the reason why someone is hesitant to get the vaccine is that they have heard about the side effects that some people have experienced after getting their first or second dose and are worried that they would have to miss a day of work to deal with the side effects, which is something they can’t afford to do. Regardless of their reasons, we must realize that not all vaccine hesitancy is coming from a place of sheer ignorance and oblivion.
As annoying and frustrating as it is to have to go wear a mask again, especially when the CDC guidelines keeps changing on us, it’s essential to be flexible and consider that it’s quite literally impossible to please everyone. For every person who thinks going back to businesses requiring masks for entrance is the right choice, there is a person who strongly opposes reinstating mask mandates. It is amazing how so many people have such strong, differing opinions on issues that the average person never thought could be so divisive. If two years ago someone said that there would be a huge debate over something as harmless as putting a piece of cloth over your mouth to reduce the chance of making others sick, people would think this person had lost their marbles. On the flip side, if one year ago someone was telling people that they would still be wearing masks well past the halfway point of 2021, they would be labeled as an extreme pessimist.
But as crazy as it would have sounded a mere 24 months ago or even 12 months ago, the coronavirus variants are still here, and masks are still a part of our daily lives. It would be great if this editorial could end with a, “we’re almost at the end of the pandemic!” or “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!” but that would be misleading, as the light at the end of the tunnel seems to keep shifting out of sight.
So this is what is going to be said instead: whenever you get frustrated at this seemingly never-ending pandemic take a deep breath, count to 10, maybe get a snack or watch your favorite show, call a friend, take another deep breath and carry on. The world is still turning, and life is still happening a year and a half into this pandemic. So allow yourself to feel frustrated and even angry from time to time, but don’t let your anger and frustration get in the way of your relationships and responsibilities. The bottom line is this: we have genuinely no idea what is going to happen next regarding the pandemic, but we must carry on and respect that everyone has different levels of comfort we must be aware of. It is our responsibility to protect those around us regardless of our personal, political and professional opinions.