The new normal

by Pete Mazzaccaro
Posted 5/6/21

With Mother’s Day around the corner and spring in full, floral bloom (sorry, allergies) the feeling of promise is palpable. And this year, the sense of renewal spring typically ushers in is …

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The new normal

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With Mother’s Day around the corner and spring in full, floral bloom (sorry, allergies) the feeling of promise is palpable. And this year, the sense of renewal spring typically ushers in is even more profound as a newly vaccinated population is getting out in public with much less over which to be worried.

Fresh optimism was certainly in the air at last weekend’s Home& Garden Stroll in Chestnut Hill. In some locations on the Avenue, people were even dancing together. It was a remarkable thing to see after more than a year of careful isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, those notes of optimism were in remarks from the city’s health commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley. In Philadelphia, new weekly case counts dropped below 500 and vaccination rates held steady. Farley noted the pandemic was in decline throughout the Philadelphia region, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

“The fact that this is declining in the entire region is a hopeful sign for Philadelphia,” he said.

Along with  increased restaurant capacity, the return of catered, indoor events, and more, we can all start to imagine a return to normal this year.

And yet, as the things we enjoyed before the pandemic slowly return, there was sobering news this week that suggests we’re not soon going to truly put COVID-19 behind us.

Writing in the New York Times on Monday, medical science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli, spoke to experts who are starting to think the disease is going to become endemic, circulating for years to come and requiring constant mitigation.

Now, more than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine,” Mandavilli wrote. “But daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever. Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.”

The idea at the onset of the pandemic that what is known as herd immunity was possible with this disease seems to have been abandoned, with health experts believing the best-case scenario is likely that COVID-19 joins the common cold and seasonal flu on the list of common illnesses.

So while people begin again to dance in the streets, plan weddings and attend sporting events, it seems likely that many of the habits we’ve developed, from dropping the handshake to the indoor mask, will be with us for a lot longer. The return to normal life is exhilarating, but it seems we won’t be able to truly abandon all care and caution any time soon, if ever.

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