Opinion: We can’t go back to normal

Lauren Kirksey, Opinions Writer

We’ve all been hearing it for weeks: “I can’t wait for things to go back to normal.” I know exactly what people mean when they say this. I, too, would love to go to the movies, get milk tea with my friends, and have my split ends trimmed by a professional. I, like many others, would also like to be certain that I will have a job in the coming months, especially as a soon-to-be college grad.

For the first time since social distancing measures to reduce the spread of  COVID-19 began, some aspects of normal life are slowly but surely making a return. Jacksonville Beach reopened on April 17 with reduced hours and strict social distancing measures still in place. States like Georgia and Tennessee have drawn widespread attention (and criticism) over their plans to reopen businesses sooner rather than later.

Everyone has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus in some shape or form, whether financially, mentally, physically or even on a personal level. Small businesses and those deemed unessential are struggling. However, we can not and should not go back to normal – at least not yet.

One of the biggest reasons why we shouldn’t be in such a rush to reopen non-essential businesses is because doing so could lead to a second coronavirus outbreak – one that experts like CDC Director Robert Redfield says could be worse than the first. According to Redfield, a second coronavirus outbreak combined with the upcoming flu season could result in more deaths and leave hospitals more overwhelmed with cases than they are now. Historical precedent could point to a second outbreak; in 1918, a second wave of the Spanish Flu in America proved to be more fatal than the first. Ending social distancing measures now could lead to an even worse situation on our hands later.

Other countries that relaxed social distancing measures ended up getting hit with a second wave of coronavirus cases. When the island of Hokkaido in Japan tentatively reopened some services in March following a three-week state of emergency, a resurgence of cases forced the governor to enforce social distancing once more. Many officials say that going back to business, as usual, may not be possible until a vaccine is developed, and reopening economies too soon will only slow efforts to contain the virus.

Those who are more impatient for a “return to normal” have tried taking matters into their own hands, with protestors gathering (less than six feet apart) to demand “liberation” on the steps of state capitols all over the country. While it’s normal to feel frustrated and even angry, these protests are dangerous and misguided. Instead of demanding our local governments to reopen the economy as soon as possible, we should be pushing our leaders to have better protections in place for small businesses, healthcare workers, and those struggling financially. 

Even after things do get back up and running for the most part, we shouldn’t mindlessly go back to the way things were. This crisis should inspire more people, especially young people, to become more civically engaged. We should be paying attention now to how our leaders are responding to the outbreak and vote those who are throwing caution to the wind out of office when the time comes.

A return to normal is probably not in the cards no matter how safe we play it. The coronavirus has already taken the lives of friends and loved ones, and many will still be feeling the economic fallout for years to come. But no matter how much we miss the way things used to be, the safety and wellbeing of the general population should be our number one priority.

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