• Olivia Wong

Learning to Live with COVID

As the Omicron variant shakes up the world for the third time in this soon-to-be three-year-long pandemic, many are wondering when COVID-19 will end. With Jefferson University going online for the beginning of the spring semester, students felt the familiar sinking feeling of despair, frustration, and uncertainty. College students faced the reality of a mid-year school shutdown almost as a normal occurrence. However, the frequency of announcements like the one Jefferson students received on January 5, 2022, just four days before move-in, makes the possibility of delayed openings anticipated and unsurprising.

The presence of Omicron has definitely sparked controversy around masks and boosters because of confusing and vague CDC guidelines. Many have speculated that there are ulterior political motives for shortening quarantines to five days and sending people back to work while they are still exhibiting symptoms. With this in mind, America’s unceasing work culture can be viewed as toxic and demoralizing for people struggling to keep a job while simultaneously keeping themselves and their families safe. Healthcare workers must also be considered as the system is crippling under the weight of ever-increasing hospitalizations, and the light at the end of the tunnel seems farther and farther away as statistics exceed those during the worst weeks of the pandemic so far. In terms of numbers, the highest seven-day average throughout January 2021 in the United States was about 300,000; currently, it has climbed to more than 800,000 in January 2022.

The new variant has changed the reality of the pandemic because milder symptoms have made it easier for people to recover faster. However, the more common Omicron forced cases to spike no matter the severity of symptoms, and medical personnel still experience hospitals filled to the brim. These changes have made people’s mindsets shift from if they will get COVID-19 to when they get COVID-19. This perspective, combined with déjà vu every time a school closes or another vaccine is mandated, has become too much for many Americans to handle. It is difficult for the world to remain optimistic and adhere to rules that one: people may disagree on, and two: restrict normal lifestyles for so long.

Although it is true that the latest variant will not render the majority of the population helpless with severe symptoms, the future of the virus is still widely unknown, and a peak does not mean the end is near. The situation at hand is tiring, relentless, and inexplicably difficult. However, it does require the public to take responsibility for their actions, from wearing N95s to getting the booster, to obtaining self-testing kits. As technology struggles to keep up with the ever-changing virus, people must also adapt to the new realities and accept that the pandemic is not over yet. Along with notable frustration, there must also be understanding as Jefferson and schools around Philadelphia continue to make decisions for the health of students and faculty.

All this in mind, this does not mean that the world is in the same place as it was in March 2020, and mindsets are allowed to change and meld to the situation at hand. It is almost impossible to stay completely positive during a time when normal comes and goes out of our grasp at the snap of a finger, but the hope is that the pandemic will turn into an endemic soon enough. For now, living with COVID-19 for a little longer is something unchangeable but definitely manageable.

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