Is It Time To Start Thinking About Living Again?
Have you started making plans yet?
This, I’d argue, is the fundamental question of this particular stage of the pandemic. Cases are down, dramatically, all across the country: We are seeing the lowest number of daily cases in the United States since before Halloween. Vaccine rollouts are stalled, but they’ve still improved dramatically, and there’s every reason to think the bottleneck is about to be cleared. Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Biden administration estimate “that most Americans will have access to a Covid-19 vaccine by mid- to late May or early June.” That’s a little slower than we might initially have liked, but then again, in the early days of the pandemic, most experts thought it could be two or three years before vaccines were available.
The New York Times reports that 12 percent of the country has already been vaccinated, and it provides a handy chart that shows where we’ll be if we continue vaccinating people at the current pace.
And there is every reason to think that graph is overly conservative: The Biden administration is pouring every resource into speeding up the vaccine rollout, which likely accelerates that timeline. To reach “herd immunity,” if such a thing is possible, experts claim 70–90 percent of people must have some sort of protection from the virus, either from a vaccine or antibodies from a previous infection. Considering most epidemiologists believe that as many as 20 percent of all Americans have already contracted Covid-19, and while we don’t know for sure how long you have antibodies after having the disease, it is looking increasingly likely that you should be protected for more than the initially estimated five months. You start doing a little bit of math, and all of a sudden, if the vaccine rollout fires up the way most expect it will, you’re awfully close to that 70 percent already.
This is not to say that Covid-19 is going to be eradicated forever: That’s likely going to take centuries. But I’m not sure you and I are going to make it that long. We have to live in the here and now. And even with the variants that are scaring everyone (but still appear to be stopped by the vaccines), it sure is starting to look like the here and now is getting better. A lot better.
Which begs the question, again: Have you started making plans?
There are going to be opportunities to fill out your social calendar. The Major League Baseball season starts in a little over a month— teams are at Spring Training right now — and most, if not all, stadiums are expected to allow fans. Most major tourist destinations are planning to be open, if not at full capacity. There were 30,000 people at the Daytona 500 last week. You can go to air shows, rock concerts, even Comic-Con. It’s possible that everything will go to shit in the next few months — the past year has left us all-too-prepared for such a scenario — and all those events will be canceled this year just like they were last year. But that’s certainly not the direction everything is pointing.
Now, look, I get it: We’re all shell-shocked from the last year of … everything. But it’s OK to believe a little bit. Know that most businesses, the fortunate ones that have made it this far and still survived, are optimistic about this spring and especially this summer and especially this fall and are planning accordingly. I have a book coming out on May 11, and I called a local venue about the possibility of having an (outdoor) book release party the week before. The venue booker said I probably needed to lock down my preferred date right now: The place is booked the rest of that week, and the weeks afterward. They’re following Covid protocols, and they’re limiting attendees. But only for now. “We’re hopeful we’ll be in a better place come May,” she said. “Aren’t you?”
I am. I really am. I understand being cautious. President Biden took some heat for saying at a CNN Town Hall this week that he was hopeful “we’d be in a different place by Christmas.” This is a very Biden thing, to underpromise and plan on overdelivering. But if you follow the trends, and you are not so scarred by the last year of our lives that you simply cannot believe any good news — and this is totally reasonable, I completely understand — I think it’s time to start to poking our heads out of the hole here. It’s going to be a while until everything is “normal.” But when was anything ever normal anyway? Can you plan an August vacation? Can you set up tailgate plans for next football season? Can you host everyone for Thanksgiving? Can you rent out that resort getaway next holiday season? I think you can start thinking about it. I think there’s reason to believe. Finally.
Will Leitch writes multiple pieces a week for Medium. Make sure to follow him right here. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel How Lucky, released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.