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We Must Not Normalize What Life Has Become During the Pandemic

In March, our world changed forever. Everything shut down and people stayed home. The news started talking about the problems with the digital divide, the need for food access for children, the need for childcare, and the disparities that existed between those that were able to stay home and among those that got the coronavirus. I listened as politicians said we can’t go back to the way things were, that we needed to take these lessons and build a new and better society.

It is now January.

Politicians can’t agree that unemployment and stimulus checks are important. There are conspiracy theories galore about the legitimacy of everything from whether COVID-19 is real to whether elections are rigged. Far right-wing supporters stormed the Capitol at the encouragement of our “President.”

Businesses are staying open despite outbreaks among their staff, or they are closing because the federal government did not come through with funding. Meanwhile, large corporations are making money off the pandemic and benefitting from Cares Act funding.

COVID vaccines are being distributed — and we are already seeing the privileges entailed in those who receive them first. Sign-ups are difficult. They are all being done electronically in many states and depend on people being able to navigate the system.

Mental health is declining and mental health providers are overbooked. Child abuse rates are as bad as ever, if not worse due to limited reporting when students were out of school. People live in fear and anxiety every day but we are expected to buck up and be OK. I often wonder, where is the breaking point?

Doctors are overworked, traumatized and exhausted. Hospitals are filled to the brim and people are now being turned away in many areas. Imagine needing help for any medical issue and not being able to get it because the system is overburdened. Meanwhile, far too many people gather for Thanksgiving, Christmas and football games like the crisis doesn’t exist.

Teachers headed back to school in September with limited PPE, terrible contact tracing and inadequate ventilation systems in schools. States have yet to announce whether standardized testing will be canceled despite students only being in school half the time, only increasing stress on educators and students. Teachers have doubled the work they are doing as they teach in multiple formats. States change metrics in an effort to keep schools open because of the political backlash when families lose their “childcare.”

I look around and wonder what we have learned. What are we doing? We have this opportunity to create meaningful and lasting change, but as a collective society, we plow ahead pretending that this is all normal. Maybe what we all need to hear is none of this is normal. None of this is OK.

Now let’s sit down and do what is right for people, not companies and politicians.

Getty image by amoklv.