People and the news are extremely focused on getting people vaccinated right now and I agree that would be helpful. But I don’t think that is the most important thing because I don’t think it will actually end the Pandemic… even if we got to 90% vaccinated. The virus is mutating and we are far from stopping that. We would need to vaccinate the whole world and that won’t happen this year or probably even next year and by that time we will need a new vaccine. I really think we should instead be turning our attention to how to better live with the virus because it’s here to stay for quite some time. And there will be future pandemics after this one.
Here is what I think we need to start working on to live with the virus, emphasis on the live part:
- Safer schools, businesses, and transportation: this basically means improving air circulation and filtration– how much would it cost to put high quality filters everywhere? How can we make more things outside? How can we make more things spacious?– spread out instead of clumping in cities.
- Better personal risk predictions to empower people to know nuances about risks for various things at various times. This is also a public health intervention.
- We need to address inequities— women are back to 1980s levels of job parity. The pandemic has disproportionately affected the poor, BIPOC, and essential workers- we need to stop treating this as a temporary problem and take it as a call for permanent solutions.
- We need a better social safety net– universal healthcare, childcare, protections. People need to be able to protect themselves.
- We need to stop having a one size fits all solution— not everyone is at the same risk in this Pandemic– only having blanket policies prevents higher risk people from seeking protections (such as from job loss) when cases are the highest and most dangerous.
- We need to protect businesses, especially small businesses. I learned recently that 20% of restaurants in MA went under during the pandemic. And many of those were the ones that I liked the best. The non-chains, the mom and pops, the quirky local favorites. This is tragic and we need to have empathy for it. Treating the pandemic as temporary also lets us not acknowledge that we need long term solutions for this.
It’s time to stop finger pointing and passing the straw man and take a hard look at reality. The new normal is not new anymore and it’s here to stay. Let’s get down to actually creating viable solutions that help everyone survive and thrive in it.