OPINION: Now is not the time to halt our efforts

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Hailey Stessman
OPINION EDITOR

Although the possibility of a summer with eased restrictions due to multiple vaccines has created a sense of hope, we need to ensure that we continue to take the pandemic seriously. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

Patches of grass are beginning to surface, vaccines are being distributed, and a glimmer of hope is approaching on the horizon. A newfound sense of community is arising amongst students, families, and teachers as the promise of “normalcy” could be possible sooner than expected.

In many of my virtual meetings and Facetime sessions with friends, there have been talks about what we could do after school is finished and the moments where we can finally talk face-to-face and hug one another. I must admit, the thought of being able to share lunch with my grandmother again and have picnics with my dearest friends warms my heart. The future, in all its uncertainties, still feels somewhat positive and exciting which is a stark difference from last year.

As of Feb. 26, the rate of positive COVID-19 cases based on a 14-day change is at a 29% decrease with a total of 78,262 positive cases reported. With the month of February and the circulation of vaccines, I could sense a general sigh of relief with the slowed spread of the virus.

Could this be the moment? Could we perhaps have a summer outside of the confines of our home? Will we be able to have classes in-person and forget about the dread of Zoom fatigue?

While I try to be an optimist in most cases, there is still something holding me back from saying “yes” to all those questions confidently.

As I pick up occasional cups of coffee or head to work, I’ve noticed a pattern: less and less people are wearing masks. After giving their orders at coffee shops, customers are taking off their masks at their tables, blatantly ignoring the “face masks required” signs on the walls. Groups of friends no longer feel the need to wear masks around one another with the notion that they’ve been “good” enough in the past week.

Although there are still positive cases being reported every day, people are beginning to live as though they are no longer in a pandemic.

Yet, the distribution of vaccines is still in its early stages and runs the risk of meeting various obstacles such as shortages or instances of mishandling. At what point was it conceded that the introduction of a vaccine that could take months to receive magically erases the existence of a global pandemic?

It is not the time to halt our efforts or return to normalcy no matter how deeply we yearn for it. Now nearing the one-year mark of entering lockdown, America has surpassed 500,000 deaths to COVID-19.

Take a moment to let that settle in.

There have been 500,000 lives lost to the virus. Grandparents, children, friends, strangers. This virus operates in strange ways to the point where a passerby we see on the street could unfortunately fall victim to the horrors of the virus.

We cannot let 500,000 more individuals die. It is not just a number or a statistic. It is a family torn apart by grief, a loved one taken too soon, a child’s happiness cut short.

Despite the increasing rate of vaccinations across the country, the pandemic is very much still present. So, as we push forward into the warmer months, we need to uphold the safe and healthy practices that were drilled into our minds last year. At this point, it has become a mantra to repeat amongst ourselves before falling asleep.

Wear a mask, or two. Social distance. Wash your hands.

And be thankful for the life you are living.

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