We shouldn’t rush to go back to normal

The pandemic is still an ongoing battle

The safety and health of residents is more important than easing restrictions. PHOTO: Anshu A / Unsplash

By: Michelle Young, News Editor

COVID-19 vaccination rollout began a few months ago in Canada — 38% of our population has received one dose, and 3% of the population is fully vaccinated. In the US, those numbers soar to 47% and 37% respectively. Not even half of North America is fully vaccinated, and yet many insist on the fast return to “regular life.” In this piece, I mean a regular life as one that is mask-free and fully open — something that shouldn’t be considered just yet. 

The CDC has already rushed to state that those who are fully vaccinated can drop their masks and stop distancing. In some establishments, those who are fully vaccinated can now walk in public without a mask. Yet, with not enough data to determine whether those who are vaccinated can spread COVID-19, this change in protocols disregards those who are unvaccinated and medically vulnerable. It also does not provide any guidance on how new guidelines would be regulated, and instead calls for the honour system. This is fraught with issues as many refuse to mask, even with mandatory mandates. 

These new guidelines put many at risk for the sake of “returning to normal,” when masks should still play a large factor in protecting those who are unvaccinated or unable to be vaccinated. It also doesn’t give me much reassurance when I think about how long it took to implement masks earlier on in the pandemic — when previous pandemics, like SARS, had already proven it effective.  

VICE recently published a piece that argued people are traumatized from the pandemic, which is why we continue to wear masks. The author said because of this, some “can’t quit” pandemic behaviours. The piece framed COVID-19 as a thing from last year which completely ignores that we’re still in a pandemic that’s far from being over. Canada has reported about 5,000 cases daily, while the US has an upward of 20,000. 

I know the curve is going down in both Canada and the US and that’s promising. However, after a year of half-hearted restrictions and half-openings, I can’t help but think we should be implementing a different approach — one that doesn’t carelessly open up our society for the sake of going back to “normal.” My heart aches for countries that can’t fathom a return to normal right now due to vaccine inequality

I wish we had followed in the footsteps of places like Taiwan and New Zealand early on, who have been able to return to life safely while maintaining their economy. It’s too late for that now, but I think the way we’ve seen the pandemic take its course over the year should indicate we shouldn’t be rushing to open — especially with concerns of more transmittable variants. 

Health experts have already said we’re in a race between the vaccines and the variants. Why wouldn’t we try to slow down these variants with the layers of protection that we know work? 

I am also looking forward to seeing my loved ones and going outside without fear of contracting a virus. However, working from home and having this concern is a privilege not afforded to essential workers who continue to face this threat daily. 

There is currently not enough information about transmission and variants, but we do have the opportunity to begin to get a grasp on COVID-19. Here, it doesn’t make sense to me to sacrifice the potential health of other people for selfish purposes. While I understand that not everyone can stay home and that those with sensory and other issues might not be able to wear a mask, completely removing these restrictions is a risk I don’t want to take.