Post-COVID: A new normal

It’s been four years since the world stopped and mass isolations began to take place in many nations and communities. Indeed, my own COVID isolation was a long and lonely one – but quite active, given the extra time I seemed to have as the world shut down around me.

Four years seems like such a long time, but it also feels like only yesterday that the world stopped and society ground to a halt. Time is weird like that. And as we move further into this post-COVID world, the time feels more and more warped – maybe that’s because we’re always talking about post-COVID* and active-COVID at the same time.

But this is our normal now. COVID is our normal. Only it feels like normal is just pre-COVID, re-packaged for show.

Yes, I had hoped that we were moving towards a new normal. A better normal. A kinder normal. A healthier normal. Instead, we’re back to 2019: The Before Times.

I remember having conversations at the start of the pandemic that theorised we would move forward with new approaches to germ control during cold and flu season. There was a great hope that, once COVID was gone, people would carry on with similar protections for spreading germs: Stay home when sick, cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and maybe wear masks in crowded public spaces – especially during cold and flu season, and even more so if they were sick.

Some conversations suggested people would better understand medically vulnerable people moving forward. And that, with that understanding, people would do more to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in our society to stay healthy.

And masks would be normal. Normal and accepted, even if not universally used. And handwashing would be deemed important, or at least more people would take it more seriously.

My COVID19 plague mask

Well, none of that seems to be the case now. Or at least it isn’t at the level I expected or hoped for. I worry we are fast returning to the old normal, and I don’t like it.

Yes, some people seem a little more aware, but few people appear to be taking precautions – at least from my vantage point. People are coughing and sneezing on the bus, without a mask and in some cases, without even attempting to cover their mouths. People show up to work sick, explaining that they feel well enough to be there. People are just going about their lives happily spreading germs.

Don’t get me wrong: I know that some level of germ-spreading is normal and is to be expected. But I had hoped we would work to minimise that in the post-COVID world.

However, there are some new normal things that I can see. It is now normal to have hybrid or online-only meetings, which allow people to work from home more regularly (regardless of their reasons for doing so). It is now normal to see people wearing masks in public (even though only a few people do so). It is now normal to cancel or change plans when you are unwell. It is also now normal for people to go outside into natural beauty spots for family outings. (Unfortunately, that means it is now more normal to see litter in the countryside, more than before.)

I suppose if I were to look around, I could recount so many “new normals” that are taken for granted, too. But I am too jaded by the return to our old normal to recognise the many good things that have become normal parts of our post-COVID lives.

What do you think? Can you see “new normals” that have been adopted since COVID began?

* We say “post-COVID”, but it’s important to remember that COVID is still here and might be here for years, decades, or centuries to come. Thankfully, it is less deadly now. But it is still here and is very much a threat to some of the most vulnerable in our society.

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