The pandemic upended all of our lives in ways we never expected

So here we are in 2022, feeling like the COVID edition of Groundhog Day: adjusting for work, school, child care and relationships. Anxiety is up. Workers are fed up. Even when we’re fine, we need the caveat of “COVID-fine.”

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A woman walks across the usually busy Columbus Drive in Grant Park, days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order because of the pandemic in March 2020. We had no idea how our lives would be upended, Natalie Moore writes.

A woman walks across the usually busy Columbus Drive in Grant Park, days after Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order because of the pandemic in March 2020. We had no idea how our lives would be upended, Natalie Moore writes.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photos

As we head into year three of the pandemic, the world continues to spiral.

Two years ago, we had no idea our lives would be upended by a massive health care crisis that is still killing people while exacerbating racial and social inequalities. Hardly anybody clicked onto Zoom or owned an N95 mask then. Now, standing 6 feet apart or elbow-bumping are as normal as TV binge-watching.

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Then, a year ago, we anticipated the vaccine like an overdue vacation. By springtime, we imagined rising out of a virtual fog to gather safely, putting the pandemic behind us like the plague. But alas, the coronavirus is as stubborn as a toddler. Our brief summer respite of freedom came crashing down by fall and devastated us with the Omicron variant by December.

So here we are in 2022, feeling like the COVID edition of Groundhog Day: adjusting for work, school, child care and relationships. Trying to make responsible decisions while yet maintaining human connections. One person’s caution is another’s recklessness. Anxiety is up. Workers are fed up. Flight attendants endure disrespect at 30,000 feet.

We are not okay. Even when we’re fine, we need the caveat of “COVID-fine.”

Meanwhile, an “us-versus-them” mentality is brewing. The vaccinated are tired of people who can get vaccinated but choose not to. Their choice is a public health threat as they “choose” not to consider community. It’s infuriating to see social media musings from the unvaccinated waxing about science when this isn’t their field. Or expressing a fundamental misunderstanding of the Tuskegee Experiment, which withheld syphilis treatment from African Americans and did not inject them with poison. But the conspiracy theorists conflate the issue. They argue COVID is injecting toxins from a 5G cell tower — not denying medication.

Luckily, everyone in my immediate family or in Chicago is vaccinated. But the unvaccinated issue hit home for us recently. Last month, a couple of 20-something cousins who live in California announced they wanted to spend Christmas in Chicago. We asked their status and they said they weren’t vaccinated.

Nope, you can’t come to my house or my parents’ house.

I am not in the mood to be a one-woman public health campaign and I knew better than to try to convince them to get the shot. If someone isn’t vaccinated by now, the chances feel slim that their mind will be changed, especially not from an older cousin. What upset me most about the conversation was their justification for not getting vaccinated. One of them argued they never got COVID, so they didn’t need the vaccine. Are you shaking your head reading this line the way I did writing it? My 5-year-old has better sense around COVID.

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For the cousins, I didn’t hear a political ideology behind the decision. I was told to respect their choices. I said I don’t have to when it affects society and my family. If their lives are uninterrupted without getting vaccinated, they will carry on in their selfish, foolhardy ways.

Deliberate misinformation swirls in corners all over the United States. Democracy is on fire. Journalist Evan Osnos’ new book “Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury” attempts to explain the political and pandemic turmoil and the years in the making it took: “I spent a decade in parts of the world where people tend to be skeptical about American promises and values, and I often found myself making a case for the United States, urging citizens of Egypt, Iraq, or China to believe that, for all of America’s failings, it aspires to some basic moral commitments, including the rule of law, the force of truth, and the right to pursue a better life. When I returned to the United States, I began to wonder if I had been lying all those years to people around the world – and to myself.”

The failure of mythology shone brightly.

As we close out the first month of the new year, I’m not sure what to expect. I’m hunkered down at home with my family. Hoping another variant isn’t on the horizon yet standing 6 feet apart. Heartened that maybe Omicron has peaked. All the while knowing that we are not okay.

Natalie Moore is a reporter for WBEZ

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