My prayers in the midst of a pandemic


So much has changed since I wrote my first column on the coronavirus pandemic, in mid-March. Back then, we were neophytes at this social-distancing stuff, and we were naively hopeful that this would end sooner rather than later.

Now, as I write this in mid-April, it appears that we’re in this for the long haul; we’re not destined to return to anything approaching “normal” for a very long time. One study, recently reported by, even suggested that some forms of social distancing may be needed until 2022, while others suggest there will be no large gatherings until at least 2021, and that some form of social distancing will be required until there’s a reliable vaccine, which is 12 to 18 months away.

In the face of such dire predictions – and with no clear-cut consensus on what’s ahead in this titanic struggle against COVID-19 – it’s clear that life as we once knew it may not return for months, if not years.

Nonstop social distancing will have serious consequences – and not just for the economy. Long-term social distancing will threaten our sanity, raise our anxiety levels to record highs and transform our very existence, because human beings weren’t meant to live apart. Yet the reality is that we’re living in a world where handshakes and hugs – two of our simplest and most common expressions of human emotion – may become a distant memory.

Such a dire possibility has put our most precious commodity – hope – at a premium at precisely the time when we need it the most.

With that in mind, and with people who haven’t previously defined themselves as religious taking to praying again, here are my “Prayers in the Midst of a Pandemic.”

I’m praying – and hoping – that:

  • An acceptable and effective vaccine will be found for COVID-19 within months, not years.
  • Health-care workers, first responders, delivery people, those in the service industry, supermarket and pharmacy employees, those working in doctors’ offices – and all others who are deemed essential – will be able to keep themselves safe. They’re doing vital work, whether they’re striving valiantly to save as many lives as possible or helping the rest of us cling to even a trace of our previous lives.
  • Government leaders at all levels will mirror the action of the U.S. Senate and House in passing economic-aid packages. May they resolve to work diligently to continue to find common ground so that their constituents, who have been hurt so devastatingly by the pandemic, can continue to get the help they need.
  • Those same leaders, from the highest levels of government all the way down to the local level, will vow to put the interests of Americans ahead of their personal and political ambitions.
  • Our youth, the nation’s future workforce, will eventually see a return to traditional classroom learning, and will once again enjoy the extracurricular and athletic activities that they, until recently, took for granted.
  • Community fundraisers – including road races, golf tournaments and charitable events – will be able to be held again so nonprofit agencies don’t suffer irreparable harm. (Virtual events – even when they’re possible – are a wholly inadequate replacement.)
  • Sporting events at all levels will be able to be enjoyed again, though no leagues should rush to return until it’s safe to do so – even if that means that sports don’t reappear until sometime in 2021.
  • Our social-distancing measures won’t permanently damage our psyches and level of trust in people – that we will somehow be able to get through all of this without being afraid of human contact.

This last prayer refers to something all of us should be really concerned about the longer we’re stuck in this new reality.

Until we feel safe because of a universal and effective COVID-19 vaccine, will we ever feel comfortable having lunch with friends, a family dinner at our favorite restaurant or a night out at the movies?

Until there’s a vaccine, will even the most zealous football fan want to tailgate at Gillette Stadium, or will even the most avid music fan dare to attend a concert with a couple of hundred  – or thousands – of other fans?

Until we feel safe, will even the most passionate Red Sox or Pawtucket Red Sox fan want to watch a game at Fenway Park or McCoy Stadium, or feel safe buying hot dogs, beer and pretzels at the concession stands?

And who among us will risk shopping at the mall, or even hanging out at neighborhood house parties, until there’s a vaccine against this terrible disease that has already killed so many across the nation and globe?

Those are only some of the questions that the country will have to answer before we’re able to move beyond these dark days.

Wishing you all good health as we navigate our uncertain future.

LARRY KESSLER ( is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro.

COVID-19, Kessler