Rebecca Caraway is a journalism junior and Mustang News opinion columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Just two months ago, we were all worried about the Omicron variant. Everyone was waiting in line for tests and ordering KN95 masks.
Apparently, that’s all over now.
On Feb. 24, President Jeffrey Armstrong announced that in the spring quarter, the university will be lifting the indoor mask mandate in classrooms for everyone regardless of their vaccination status. On March 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that unvaccinated individuals no longer have to wear masks in public settings.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t officially declared the end of the pandemic, it feels like it is ending.
For many, the pandemic will never truly end. We’ve all lost something— a loved one, a graduation, a first and second year of college, jobs and peace of mind. There is no going back to normal because those things are gone, and we will never get them back.
In the United States, 954,000 people have died from COVID-19. If you didn’t lose someone, you probably know someone who has. I’ve been to too many funerals throughout the pandemic. The end of mask mandates doesn’t bring those people back.
This ending isn’t what we wanted; we hoped for some scientific miracle, some great cure that would eradicate COVID-19 forever. The truth is COVID-19 will most likely stay around forever in one way or another.
So what was the point of the past two years? What was it all for? All 954,000 deaths just feel pointless. What did they die for? When people die in a pandemic from a disease that just becomes part of the yearly cold and flu season, we can’t help but want to find a reason for our losses.
As frustrating as it is, the truth is that people died for no good reason. Their deaths were senseless. This whole pandemic has been senseless; it never should have happened. People didn’t die for a cause, they died because the pandemic was mishandled by officials. People died because they were old or immunocompromised, as well as the poor and socially marginalized.
If you lost your graduation, prom or any other significant life moment for the sake of saving lives, that act can feel pointless when so many Americans died anyways. We all went into lockdown, we stayed out of the classroom, we skipped big gatherings and people still died.
We wanted it all to last two weeks, a few months at most, and instead it lasted two years.
Except it’s not even really over.
We will probably see a spike in cases every holiday season or so, but most of us will have the antibodies to fight it. It will become so a part of life that we won’t pay it any more attention than we do the common cold.
Still, the side effects of the past two years will linger. There will be empty seats at dinner tables, disposable masks on the floor of our cars and memories of countless hours on Zoom.
We won’t know the full scale of how this pandemic will affect our generation for many years, but it will affect us. Time will help, as it does with all things, but this pandemic will live on as a defining moment in our lives, and a defining moment of our youth.
Give yourself grace if you are having trouble embracing the new normal, if you aren’t quite ready to take off your mask. It will take us time to heal from the past two years, to grieve for the people, experiences and time we lost.