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Is the Pandemic Over?

Is the Pandemic over yet? The answer to that question probably depends on who you are and where you live instead of actual statistics or case numbers. For some, the pandemic ended in early 2021. For some, the pandemic is still going strong. And perhaps for some, it will never end. And from what I have experienced lately, when (and if) the pandemic is over depends not on positive case numbers, but rather on an individual’s personal viewpoints and their desire to accept a certain amount of risk in their lives.

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We will not have an official announcement from world leaders telling us that the Pandemic is over. We will not have a global “end of the pandemic” party like the end of World War II, where a treaty was signed and everyone laid down their guns and we had ticker tape parades. There is no finish line that everyone will agree on, and there is no firm date that someone will proclaim as the final day.

We will not have a general overall consensus as to when it is over. Instead, it will end for each of us only when each of us decides for ourselves when it is over.

In the last year I have not only seen ups and downs in case numbers, but also ups and downs in people’s opinions of how we should handle the situation. We have all seen plenty of tragedy, and some of us have experienced it first hand. But also, I have seen my own livelihood taken away, as well as the financial ruin of many others. And I have seen kids not receiving the education they deserve, adults suffering with mental health, and plenty of hate to go around on all sides.

But I know for sure that moving on from this pandemic means that each of us will have to accept and live with some level of risk.

Risk is relative. And in my opinion each one of us must make their own decision to assume a level of risk we are comfortable with. For me and my family, we have reached the point where the risk of staying home is worse than the risk of going out into the world, especially after being vaccinated, boosted, and exposed and recovered, as well as experiencing the mental challenges associated with isolation, financial challenges, and life setbacks.

Also, risk is complicated. Risk is more than one specific issue. Risk is not just COVID. Risk is also car accidents, food poisoning, gun violence, economic despair, depression and anxiety, and slipping in the shower. To prioritize the prevention of one of those risks will often lead to the massive increase in other risks. So, we should all look at the big picture when assessing risk instead of just one problem.

As I write this, I’m in a hotel in Hawaii, and it’s full. In the last year I have visited national parks across the United States as well as major cities and beaches. We’ve also taken a trip to the Netherlands. We’ve also spent plenty of time inside our home avoiding others, ordering takeout instead of eating inside restaurants, and watching movies at home instead of visiting theaters. It can be quite easy to fall into the habit of playing it safe instead of participating in activities that are perceived as risky. However, right now, airplanes are at full capacity, hotels are busy, national and state parks are experiencing high entry rates, and movie theaters are selling plenty of popcorn for in-person viewings. Booking rates for hotels, cruises, and tours are returning to “normal” levels. People are getting out into the world while case numbers continue to fall in most countries. I just don’t know if I can realistically live in a world where we all stay inside, and from what I’ve seen, I’m not alone.

Plenty of people are out in the world living their lives. But plenty of people still are not. To be honest, I feel sorry for them, because the world is out there and waiting. After taking so many precautions, I’m now willing to take the risk myself, because the alternative doesn’t look good. So, while we will continue to do things in a safe way when necessary, the key is that we will continue to do things and asses our risk as we go.

So, is the pandemic over yet? The answer is simple: you decide for yourself.

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