As America lifts mask mandates, what is the future of COVID-19?
As of February 10th, 2022, New York Governor, Kathy Hochul, has lifted the statewide mask mandate. Businesses will no longer be required to ask customers to always show proof of vaccination or wear masks.
Other Democratic states, such as Illinois, California, and New Jersey, have made similar announcements, ending mandates as cases and hospitalizations plummet across the country. The numbers seem promising, but the country and world have been through this before. False hope that the storm is clearing just to discover it’s another eye, and a new wave of cases is brimming. Even still, restlessness plagues humanity. Two weeks of no responsibilities became two years of destruction.
Variants, numbers, and revelations of COVID saturate the news headlines and thoughts. These precarious times are gradually becoming just times, looser restrictions and protocols a sign of acceptance. COVID-19 will not go away, but the world is learning to live with it like arthritis creeping into aging limbs and the tense polarity of politics.
I’ve noticed friends and colleagues fatigued by covid’s constant invasiveness- a friend remiss of awareness for personal space. Even I still sit here, letting the cursor chase sentences dedicated to a virus everyone is painfully aware of. Yet, I still write about it: the numbers, the policies, the changes, the stories.
As mask restrictions ease, is America finally coming to a place of cohabitation with the virus? Have people willfully accepted COVID-19 like the flu? An illness which comes and goes with the seasons, a new vaccine to get each year.
And what does this mean for travel? Will we finally start to see some normalcy in an industry detrimentally damaged? For my sanity and that of many others, I hope so. With a TikTok feed that shows video after video of different places and experiences, the travel restrictions feel evermore claustrophobic. An elephant sanctuary in Indonesia becomes a French town withered with character becomes Budapest in the summer and so on.
My feed is an accumulation of life, and I love it. But I am benched on the sidelines, waiting to feel the sun crisp my cheeks in Guam or smell the spices wafting from tightly crammed street vendors in India. I am waiting for life to be in the palm of my hand instead of trapped behind a blue haze and glass.
As many American states lift mask mandates, the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter. Normalcy is peaking over the horizon, and hopefully soon, it might flood back into the pockets of life.
There are many ways in which the pandemic indefinitely altered society. Some things will never be the same as they were, but life is not stagnant, and change is a part of evolving. With every push towards polarization, the virus also brought millions together on a global scale. It might be the only actual uniform experience everyone can share. I have faith that not the end, but a new beginning, is near.