Back to Normal? Hedge Your Expectations.

Back to Normal? Hedge Your Expectations.

By Joey Daniewicz, Staff Writer Originally published in Issue 10, Volume 33 of The University Register on March 26, 2021

In the recent months, I have allowed my body and heart to believe that we see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that sometime during summer we may all be able to be happy together once again. Surely mass vaccination will reduce spread, suffocating the virus, right?

And our society seems to be planning for that. The University of Minnesota will no longer require remote learning options and will return to in-person instruction at all five of its campuses this fall. President Joe Biden has suggested that during the early summer months we will begin to truly return to normal and scale back restrictions.

But hang on, let’s think about this for a second. Most scientists estimate that herd immunity for COVID-19 is somewhere between 70% and 80% immunity. People below the age of 18 are not eligible for the vaccine (at least for now), which excludes around a quarter of the population. That leaves us with not a ton of room for error, and with so many conservatives vaccine-skeptical, hitting herd immunity through vaccination might prove to be pretty tricky until we can vaccinate younger folks.

We’re likely assisted, of course, by people already resistant to COVID-19 by previously being infected with it (estimated to be north of 70 million people), so it feels a little unclear what our magic vaccination number is. This still could work. For many of us, the idea that it will is what keeps us going now.

But I’m a little nervous! I’m nervous of the trauma that false hope could end up inflicting, and if this pandemic isn’t tamed, I’m certainly nervous about our ability to restrain ourselves from reopening when we’ve prepared our hearts so thoroughly to do so.

Late in 2020, the tone of meetings I was in was to continue to plan for the worst. It feels like that caution is leaving us, especially as even more sensible Democratic officials buckle to reopening demands despite the warning of public health officials who say that caution during the vaccination rollout could still save so many lives.

But hopefully this abundance of caution I’m exhibiting is an overabundance. I would like very much for that to be true.

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