The weird world of endless COVID

The first world makes choices all but designed to maximize viral spread, while the second seems to consider anything short of the complete (and, probably, impossible) eradication of COVID-19 a failure and a public health emergency. Each reinforces the other in a cycle of mutual fear, peppered with charges of “death cults” and “socialism” and “detachment from reality.” We’re stuck.

The consequences for the first camp are obvious: illness, suffering, and death, with no plan in sight beyond living like nothing unusual is happening while waiting patiently for natural immunity to kick in.

For the second, more emergent camp, the consequences are a little subtler but no less real. There are those omnipresent masks at my daughter’s school and at the university where my wife teaches, and the daily case updates, and the frequent rapid tests, and the students quarantining whenever a case is identified. Everyone is living, tired and drained, under a shadow of persistent, low-grade fear. It’s emotionally exhausting, in part because it’s lasted 18 months now, but also because there’s no longer any clear conclusion in view.

That’s the psychological cost. The economic cost is no less real.