By Lois Hargrove ’21 News Reporter
As the number of COVID-19 cases fluctuates day by day and people spend more and more time confined to their homes, the question cannot help but be asked: when will the United States return to “normal”? When will we be allowed to leave our houses, open businesses, and move around freely as we used to?
This question has no certain or correct answer. As pressure for a return to normalcy builds, more states are beginning to reopen. Georgia was the first state to attempt a partial reopening, and now, many others are following suit. More than half of the country is in at least the first stage of the process. In fact, by this weekend, a total of 43 states will have partially loosened restrictions on residents’ movement.
However, an exact timeline for a complete return to life before lockdown remains up in the air. Health experts advise that it will be impossible for things to return to the way they were immediately, for there are many moving parts within the country that would prevent this. The same contact guidelines may not work for everyone, and different areas are in different phases of pandemic.
While the economic shutdown seems to have occurred overnight, experts say that it is impossible to reverse these measures just as quickly, or quickly at all. Ben Casselman, economics writer for The New York Times said, “Even under the most optimistic estimates, it will be months, and possibly years, before Americans again crowd into bars and squeeze onto subway cars the way they did before the pandemic struck.” Part of the reason for this is concern over the safety and viability of the decision to reopen. If states move too quickly, there could be a renewed outbreak of the virus, jeopardizing the lives of many and further damaging the economy. With no vaccine or legitimate treatment, the risks that come with a return remain dangerously high. If states open too soon bringing a “second wave,” the effects will be deadly. With grim predictions coming from epidemiologists and experts everywhere, the return to a complete normal seems far off.
Reopening likely means that the country will enter into a different stage of uncertainty. Will we progress toward personal and economic health, or will other shutdowns come as a result? Experts say it will depend on how states handle the process, on whether they follow guidelines or rush prematurely.
However, while there are many negative possibilities, not all is lost. If states can keep the number of new cases down, even after reopening, then further lockdowns could be avoided. If states proceed with caution and adhere to the guidelines, and if individuals heed the experts, maintaining caution and some extent of social distancing, then the outcomes could be much more positive. As of now, slow and steady does win the race. While the outside world can be despairing and downcast, this is a small glimmer of hope. It’s just a matter of time and care.