A few days ago I was sitting in my chair and sipping on a cup of coffee when I decided to re-embark on an old journey I had taken many times last year: checking the Coronavirus case counts. It had been about four months since I had last done it, and I was checking mostly for old time’s sake. For whatever reason, the pandemic feels like it is in its waning moments, slowly starting to fade. I’ve stopped caring about updates on the status, and have become resigned to my quaint little life of isolation until someone in charge says things are over. I had heard chatter that things were really bad, and I believed it, but I expected “really bad” to mean something akin to how high case counts were in the summer. When I pulled up the graphs, I was shocked. The numbers were even higher! The peak of the case count was so frighteningly high it seemed to have dwarfed the summer peak. How had I gone so blind to the state of things?
In talking with friends and browsing social media, it is clear that a lot of people have more-or-less given up on caring about the pandemic. It is sort of hard to blame them. The government more-or-less gave up on everyone struggling through it as well, so why should the average person care? For many, the existential threat of the virus has dissipated, and it feels like since they have not gotten it so far, they won’t get it in the future. Therefore, why increase caution? Why try to be more safe all of the sudden, when being occasionally sloppy hadn’t yet had any consequences? It’s toxic reasoning, but also incredibly natural. After a while, it is hard to not feel invincible when you’ve avoided harm for so long.
One of the inevitable effects of feeling invincible is a disregard for the precautions responsible for the invincibility in the first place. With just a moderate level of observation, anyone can see people dropping their guard, getting sloppy. Shut-ins in April are suddenly okay with dining in restaurants, or going to parties. The people in line with you for take-out are no longer standing on the little bubbles marking six feet in distance. Suddenly, the vaccine we all clamored for is something many of us don’t even want or see as necessary. Yet, in the midst of all of this, things are WORSE than they were before. People’s behaviors are entirely topsy-turvy from how they should be, and it is hard to not correlate the increasing complacency with the increase in cases.
People feeling invincible is inevitable in a time like this, and it is completely understandable given the circumstances. It is hard to endure such a prolonged battle without getting relaxed and starting to slip. What matters is recognizing that, even though we all really want to, now is not the time to get complacent. The pandemic is not over. You are not suddenly immune. Remembering that you are vulnerable – not invincible – might seem somber and bleak, but it might also make a difference in keeping you safe.
Vincent Rendon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.