Physicians and politicians tell us that COVID-19 will be part of our lives until an effective vaccine is developed.
Creating a vaccine is hard work. It can take years, and success is not guaranteed. Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, the public health officer in Douglas County, notes that there still are no vaccines against HIV, herpes or strep throat despite decades of research.
And so the doctors and public officials are right. We must adjust. We must learn to live alongside the threat of COVID-19. There will be no specific date, at least not in the foreseeable future, when social interactions, schooling and commerce can return to what we used to consider “normal.”
Instead, we must accept that there will be tradeoffs, as there almost always are between absolute freedom and absolute safety. Dr. Renee Edwards, the chief medical officer at Oregon Health & Science University, puts it this way: A balance must be struck in “reopening” Oregon. The more that Oregon eases its current restrictions, the more people who will get sick, and some will die. The more that Oregon keeps restrictions in place, the fewer who will become infected, the fewer who will be hospitalized and the fewer who will die.
Cases are plateauing in parts of Oregon, including Lane County. That will allow hospitals, outpatient facilities and medical and dental offices to resume non-urgent procedures on Friday if guidelines are followed. State officials also are working on guidelines for veterinary offices.
But we won’t be going to a ballpark or a music festival soon. We won’t be hanging out in malls. And it remains unclear when we may dine out together or gather at the bar.
The current social distancing and business restrictions do more than chafe. They erase income, hammer our social ties and rob athletes and others of their dreams.
But Oregonians are resilient, thoughtful and creative. We have learned to take no person and no job for granted. We value beyond words the hospital, ambulance and other front-line health care workers, from housekeepers to nurses and doctors. We appreciate the take-out restaurant staffs, retail clerks and delivery personnel who enable us to transact business, even on a limited basis, as safely as possible. We are adjusting to physical and mental health appointments conducted via teleconference.
We are cooking more, finding time to write letters by hand and discovering the joy of playing long-distance games with family.
Fear, anxiety and uncertainty remain palpable. The most powerful antidote to those feelings is reaching out to help others. For a community of kindness, our daily question can become, “What can we do today to help each other?”
“Shop locally” matters. Businesses need our support, and they and we must learn to function amid some form of social distancing in the months ahead. Parents and teachers need our encouragement as they navigate the ups and downs of not-in-the-classroom schooling. Clergy need our faithfulness as they conduct services online and through other means. We need each other.
We are adapting. Many of those adaptations are amazing, and many of the lessons are profound.