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Getting back to normal should not be this hard

A year later, every statistical indicator shows we have — as ordered — flattened the COVID curve. And armed with effective vaccines increasing the numbers of those protected by millions every week, hospitalization and death numbers will continue to plummet.

This was supposed to be the hard part.

It turns out the hard part is accepting — and projecting — normalcy again.

A coalition of health and government bureaucrats and elected leaders with a legislative agenda have taken over our hearts and minds. They aren’t about to return them to us easily.

The glory of the vaccines and their impact has been downplayed, probably because of who coordinated this heroic feat of health scientists. We are told there was no plan until Jan. 21, when the vaccination volume, distribution and results would not be possible without one. One moment we are urged to get shots by elected leaders who questioned the vaccine credibility for months. In the next, President Biden lectures that we may be able to have a cookout with family and friends July 4 — but only if we are good.

Meanwhile, we celebrate masks, which the sainted Dr. Fauci told us were not necessary a year ago.

Wearing a mask out of an abundance of caution is a decision vaccinated adults can make with full knowledge of their circumstances (and my support). But we ought to be past public shaming of healthy, vaccinated people walking into a store maskless.

If the mandate obsession of public officials continues, it is going to cut into the percentage of people getting vaccines as they become universally available. Why get it if there is no payoff? That’s how people not cloistered in think tanks think.

The state this week announced we vaccinated people can get together maskless but we still have to wear masks in public places.

Consider, for a moment, events with thousands of people in the past year where mask mandates were clearly not in play — Trump presidential rallies, social justice protests and riots, a storming of the Capital Jan. 6, crowds surrounding the Super Bowl. These were designated superspreaders and nothing of the sort happened, in my opinion.

We’ve had a year of zoom meetings and work from home, public school instruction replaced by a remote version that is not a long-term answer, the dining experience replaced by the takeout order, the communal majesty of a sporting or entertainment event crowd replaced by empty bleachers and online performances, the buzz of a gym workout reduced to an expressionless, mask-filled murmur.

Was all this necessary? Is it still?

The numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID don’t vary much between California, on lockdown for a year, and Florida, which stayed open with precautions. California’s misery numbers are worse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in-person learning has not been associated with substantial community transmission. Studies have found it is possible for communities to reduce COVID cases while keeping schools open. Evidence suggests staff-to-staff transmission is more common than transmission from students to staff, staff to student, or student to student.

A study of 11 school districts in North Carolina following health protocols with in-person learning for at least nine weeks during the fall revealed minimal school-related transmission even while community transmission was high.

Private and parochial schools, open since August, have effectively handled COVID. A study of the 94 pre-K through grade 12 schools in Chicago Archdiocese, the largest private school system in the nation, showed the infection rate for students and staff in in-person learning was lower than the community rate.

It also turns out the CDC did not mean the 6 feet apart instruction, the mandate that triggered mass closings of public schools and severely limited restaurant business. The standard is 3 feet, we were informed a week ago.

And still, the return to in-person schooling is resisted by teacher unions in some places, disadvantaging lower-income and special needs students who may not have computer access or adequate supervision for remote learning.

So when do we remove the training wheels? When does a “public” meeting become a public meeting again? When does “public” school become more than a day-to-day e-mail check? When do we separate work from home again, eat out without hesitancy, go to a concert or sporting event?

When do we get to hug each other? When do we get to smile at each other and see it rather than envision what it must look like?

Given the amount of documented depression and suicide associated with isolation, particularly among school children and the elderly, triggered by COVID social engineering from the health/government coalition, back to normal better be coming soon.

Curling up in a fetal position and waiting for the pandemic misery numbers to reach zero is asking for a far worse outcome than learning to function normally while the virus executes its long good-bye.

David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of the Sun-Gazette.

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