Opinion | Stop Expecting Life to Go Back to Normal Next Year

Because of this, we can no longer rely on just symptomatic testing and contact tracing. We need much more than a million tests a week. The only way to get there is through ubiquitous, cheap, fast tests that can be distributed widely to identify those at risk who don’t even know it.

Identifying cases is only the first step. Those who are infected need to isolate, and their close contacts need to quarantine. Too many Americans cannot do so adequately because they need to work, or their housing is inadequate, or they need food and supplies delivered to them. We have failed to address these gaps. Those who need the most assistance are often those at highest risk for getting and spreading the coronavirus and for having the worst outcomes, and our government has not provided for them.

We need to normalize mask-wearing. It’s a tragedy that this has become politicized and that this simple, safe and effective measure is in dispute. It’s about protecting others even more than ourselves. That such an action is now viewed as weakness is horrific.

Finally, we need a functioning scientific infrastructure to provide detailed and specific plans on how schools, businesses and institutions can open and operate safely. We also need a functioning Congress to fund whatever it takes to put those plans into practice. That may cost a lot of money; it’s likely to be still less than what continuing to flail about will cost.

None of these ideas is a complete solution, but just because they’re individually insufficient alone doesn’t mean they aren’t necessary.

Colder weather will force us indoors, closer together, removing the benefits of being outside. Influenza is coming. Those drawing comfort from the fact that many countries in the Southern Hemisphere had mild flu seasons need to recognize that those countries were also engaging in the behaviors that controlled the spread of the coronavirus. It’s a mistake to assume that we will reap the same rewards without committing to the same sacrifices.

Too many are relaxing because they think that salvation is just around the corner. That’s possible, but certainly not probable. It would be better to prepare for a difficult 2021 and be surprised by its being easier than to assume things will be easier and find life is still hard.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. Both, though, require running.

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