The COVID-19 pandemic has seen its fair share of changes as research continues, scientific discovery advances, and the number of cases rises and falls in areas across the globe. Recent rumblings speak of fewer restrictions and new less government oversight, but is the pandemic on its way to ending? The immediate answer is—it’s complicated.
Since the novel coronavirus made its way to the United States in 2020, changing policies on facemasks, other protective coverings, social distancing, and quarantine have continued to change. In the last few months, states have begun rolling back mandates related to COVID-19 and guidance from the highest government authorities appears to be leaning toward laxer protocols.
As rates of infection continue to decline and more people are vaccinated, keeping up with the changing guidelines for home, work, and public spaces can be confusing and exhausting. Many private locations such as restaurants, office buildings and stores, continue to maintain stricter policies, and hospitals are the last to go with a slackened approach to COVID-19 protocols.
As new variants appear, the likelihood of changing guidance remains. Political and social pressures have influenced precautions as well, and staying informed requires personal commitment to staying informed. The following tips will help you safely, smartly and strategically approach life during and post-pandemic as we adjust to this new normal of proactive precaution
Masks are a bad word for some and a hard habit to break for others. Understanding the extreme opinions and views of masks is a challenge as changing guidance allows opponents of mask wearing to speak against the practice as a whole. Keeping a mask on hand allows you to come prepared to those places where masks are still mandated and gives you the peace of mind when you’re in close quarters and social distancing just isn’t possible. Mask studies continue to support the use of face coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19, and while schools and communities drop mask mandates, staying prepared is important.
General Hygiene seems to have gotten its due thanks to COVID-19. As the world braced to re-open after its initial shutdown, everyone from schools to restaurants became hypervigilant about general hygiene. The bigger question here is why this attention to hygiene was so absent from our previous existence. Continue going above and beyond in your hygiene—form handwashing to sanitizing and disinfecting your space. Keeping our bodies and areas disinfected is about more than pandemic conditions—it supports overall health and wellness and eliminates the spread of germs and exposure to bacteria.
Shopping is an activity that has returned nearly to its old level of normal with some positive changes. Clear barriers and improved sanitation practices have made shopping less of a breeding ground for germs of all sorts, and even slackened social distancing guidelines seem to encourage shoppers to remain in their own space and give each other a wide berth. With online shopping surging, consumers are finding new ways to consume, and stores are providing them with easy access to products and services. Safe is always better than sorry, and when shopping in a public place, it’s important to maintain social distance and hygiene practices.
The Workplace is perhaps one of the greatest changes to the world today. Not only has work-from-home life become a standard for many organizations, but the workforce in general has seen an overhaul. The workforce is less compromising which has caused flux and lack of entry-level workers, specifically in service industries. For those who could work from home, the notion of returning fulltime to an office has been met with a mix of resistance and enthusiasm. Employers have identified the benefits of a work-from-home or hybrid staff setup as well. With less required space and overhead, a workforce less likely to call off due to childcare needs, and a larger candidate pool for new positions, the nature of office work has changed drastically.
Meanwhile the Center for Disease Control continues to provide new guidance on how to move forward in an improving climate. For those who have experienced the devastation of COVID-19 in their own lives, changing guidance may feel less like a ray of hope and more like an irresponsible step in the wrong direction. Their concern is not misplaced.
“The lasting effect of COVID-19 is something we must acknowledge in any conversation about improved conditions,” says André Chapman, founder of COVID19-BLACK, an initiative established to raise awareness about the devastation of COVID-19 to black communities. “As the pandemic ravaged families and left many dead and even more languishing with new physical ailments, vigilance must take precedence over leniency when it comes to safety precautions.”
The potential to leave pandemic life behind may encourage lax practices and make us lean toward embracing less strict guidelines. Staying informed and vigilant allows each of us to make decisions that maintain safety and health for our families.