Life after Coronavirus was never the same. In the beginning, everyone was extraordinarily careful. Everyone followed the government’s initial recommendations. We stayed inside and avoided all human contact with the outside world. For months, the only interactions we had were with our own families. We were all good citizens.
This lasted for about three months.
Why did things end so badly? In summary, the chief cause was two-fold: First, humans are simply not built to process long-moving, slow-term danger. It’s like facing climate change or the proverbial frog example: We’re much better as frogs put into a sudden boiling pot; we’ll feel the sudden heat and immediately leap to safety. But as a society of hundreds of millions of people, it’s infinitely more challenging (read: impossible) for us to sense and react to the pot that’s slowly brought to a boil. It’s simply difficult for humans to sit still for long periods of time without being shown the immediate consequences of what happens when we do not. Thus, predictably, in March, college kids sauntered off to beaches for spring break; students attended keggers; and entire more libertarian-leaning families went on road trips, totally disbelieving the dangers of Coronavirus.
Second, we didn’t immediately understand the full severity of Coronavirus. Sure, plenty of people got sick. But most of them recovered after several weeks. It was like a bad case of the flu and so after the initial panic wore off, folks largely resumed their lives as normal believing that the warnings had all been overblown and it really wasn’t a big deal.
Or at least that’s what we had thought.
As a civilization, we’d weathered the initial outbreak admirably; folks banded together and shared in the sacrifice of cancelling vacations, camps, and sporting events. But after a few months, after all of that shared community spirit and comradery began to dissipate, that autumn, when the Coronavirus returned in people we thought had made full recoveries– well, that’s when things really hit the fan.
Basically, the timeline that first year: Coronavirus arrived in early spring. We were all good citizens throughout the summer and bunkered down in our homes. And then people started to get tired. By mid-summer, we saw that the fatality rate wasn’t as high as initially feared. And the people who were dying were largely older, senior citizens– the above-60 crowd. To be clear, hundreds of thousands were still dying in America. And millions around the world. But there are ~330 million people in America. And we have a global population of over seven billion. So mathematically, you’re still “only” looking at 0.7% of the American population dying. And people were, it turns out, fine with that– especially if they were older folk already in retirement homes and nursing facilities. Our politicians whispered darkly to each other while sitting on back porches, sipping tumblers of whiskey and scotch: “Out of sight, out of mind.”
So the economy kept roaring and people kept spending. The government sent out free money to everyone. The stock market, after initially cratering in March, neared all-time highs again by that October. We thought we’d turned the corner.
And then November happened.