In February of this year, the Chiefs won the Super Bowl and hundreds of thousands of people converged on downtown Kansas City to celebrate the win. There was no talk of social distancing or masks: we were all innocently naïve about such things as a Coronavirus.
Later in the month, my girlfriend, Leslie, and I traveled to Louisiana to experience a Mardi Gras. Thousands of people lined the streets while wildly decorative floats filled with people tossed free things out to the crowd. Folks shared food, drinks, welcomed strangers and held and threw beads to one another with no regard for hand contamination. We were all still blissfully ignorant about COVID-19.
In March we had tickets to see Dennis DeYoung in concert. Leslie and I were actually on our way to the show when she saw a social media posting stating it had been cancelled. No reason was given and no make up date was announced. We were confused because there were no comments about him being sick or problems at the venue. The show was simply cancelled. Even then, the Coronavirus was not something we were aware or scared of.
Shortly later, the disease became all the topic of television talking heads and suddenly we were told we all needed to be worried. But I don’t think any of us realized this was a big deal until events like the St. Patrick’s Day parade were cancelled.
That’s how much life has changed in the past nine months. In the same amount of time it takes to gestate a human being, we have evolved from a seemingly rollicking free-spirited environment to a world of paranoia and fear. Here we are in the first week of December and while everyone has now heard of COVID-19 and it has made an impact on so many lives, there still seem to be far more questions than answers.
The fact that controversy swirls around the topic just reemphasizes how fragmented our society is. There are experts who say masks work, there are others who say they make no difference. There are experts who say forgoing large crowds and events will help stem the tide, there are others who say social interaction is the key to herd immunity.
Some experts point out that Sweden did not close down its economy and suffered no worse than most other European nations, while others point out that areas which observed strict social guidelines recovered far faster than those who refused to take heed. So here we are, nine months later, really knowing very little more than we did at the very beginning of the pandemic. We hear a vaccine may be available soon, but even here there is hysteria whether it is a life-saving treasure or a demonic trick.
For nine months we have awaited a return to normal. Many people lost their livelihoods and would just like to work again. Many, afflicted by the disease, simply want to return to the health they had prior to their infection. Many people just want to go to a ballgame or have a night of dinner and a movie. We just want normal.
However, much like after 9/11 we are going to have to accept a new “normal.” Until a vaccine is universally accepted and deployed and a herd immunity developed, things like ballgames and buffets are going to be socially adverse. And even if we fully eradicate COVID-19, will we ever be able to live without fear of the next pandemic?
I think of these things because I read and hear about so many debates about the world we now know. It doesn’t matter the idea, there is someone there immediately opposed. I have read that many in the science community are so locked in on the ideas of masks and social distancing, they won’t even have an open discussion with their peers who have differing views. On the other hand, I see complaints about anyone making attempts to curb the spread of the virus. There were actually people criticizing the Harrisonville mayor because she made masks mandatory in city buildings. She was certainly within her authority and in reality, it seems like a relatively benign mandate.
Each week I close my column with a request to “please wear a mask.” For the record, I have a serious problem with governors and other elected officials who mandate masks or limit social gatherings. That is usurping their authority. But I also know that such mandates are not necessary when people freely take action on their own.
Again, from experience, if anything in the local medical community is accepted, it is that masks help slow the spread. No more is really being asked of you than rules to wear seat belts, don’t smoke in non-smoking areas or for a baseball player to wear his helmet when he comes to bat.
I want back to normal. I still want to see Dennis DeYoung, and the show is rescheduled for March. I hope we can actually attend it then, but even then; I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to wear a mask.