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 newsy.com, 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:
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer based in North Attleboro.