By Petula Dvorak / The Washington Post
Lockdown 2.0 will be better, we swear.
We’ll finally tackle the garage mess. We’ll really do those after-dinner walks. We’ll treat every one of those hours that we’re not stuck in traffic, not running between appointments and not going to meetings that could’ve been emails like a rare gift to be used wisely.
It’s a second chance, something we don’t get too often. I’m already obsessing over the ways we’ll do this one better. And I’m not the only one.
Social media is full of pandemic redux resolutions:
“If we go into another lockdown, I’ll do it a bit differently this time. Instead of being drunk half the time, I’ll be drunk all the time.”
“Last lockdown it was sourdough, I think this time we should collectively make soup!”
“‘Bout to stock up on crab legs and lobster if we ‘bout to go into another lockdown. Oh, and toilet paper.”
My circle of mom friends also had some ideas.
“I would form bubbles with close friends, especially for kids’ schools,” said a mom I missed seeing during most of 2020.
“We would really make sure to keep bonds closer, to avoid the loneliness that swallowed us,” said another friend.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of things.
But the latest covid-19 numbers are horrifying. The 844 new cases reported in Washington, D.C. on Friday is the highest one-day total we’ve had in this whole pandemic. Mayor Muriel Bowser decided the reinstate the mask mandate that was recklessly suspended last month. The governor of Maryland just tested positive. On Sunday, New York City logged its all-time high for a single day: 22,500 cases. And it looks like we’re headed for even more firsts.
“Unfortunately, I think that is going to happen. We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination,” Anthony Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked whether cases, hospitalizations and deaths are going to be record-breaking again.
Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, called the omicron variant “extraordinary” in the way it’s highly transmissible, riding the air like smoke, hanging, drifting, waiting.
The vibe in our lives is very March 2020. The kids are texting each other about the latest school to go virtual, the grandparents have flip-flopped seven times about whether they’re coming this week (they are, as of 10:03 a.m. today) and we’ve declared all plans soft.
But back then, there was a lot of uncertainty and fear. We got a little too into puzzles and Zoom happy hour and yes, sourdough. It felt like we may go back to work and school anytime. Or never.
I planned to do all the things I couldn’t do at home when we were moving at breakneck speed. Organize, create, bond and thrive. But mostly, I developed a nasty “Animal Crossing” addiction, my children struggled and we felt despair as we watched friends, family and strangers get sick, lose their livelihoods or their minds, and even die.
The toll the pandemic took on our mental health — our anxiety especially — was devastating.
“Data collected during the covid-19 pandemic suggest that the pandemic is potentially driving another national crisis related to its effects on behavioral health, with people experiencing new or exacerbated behavioral health symptoms or conditions,” said a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that was issued last week. “For example, from April 2020 through September 2021, between 29 to 43 percent of U.S. adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, according to the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey; percentages considerably higher than the percentage of adults (11 percent) reporting those symptoms in a similar survey in 2019.”
In other words, anxiety is our co-pandemic.
I’ll admit a little bit of hope in making it better this time. We know there is an end in sight. We know the kids can overcome. We know that plenty of local businesses pivoted and even thrived. Last year, there were no successes to see. Today, we saw that weddings and graduations could happen again, that kids can go back to school and workers can get back on the job.
But here’s the thing.
The second chance is for those of us who stayed put when we were told to, who masked and sanitized, elbow-bumped, and vaccinated, vaccinated, then vaccinated again. Those are the people who are facing another lockdown and a chance to head into this one with a little spark of optimism.
The folks who refuse to vaccinate, who won’t mask, who held superspreader parties on the South Lawn, wine and cheese gatherings behind 10 Downing Street, who had weddings that turned fatal and flouted all the rules, there was no first lockdown.
What’s about to come their way is their chance to finally do it for real. And the rest of the nation is begging them, to simply get it right this time.
Petula is a columnist for The Post’s local team. Follow her on Twitter @petluad.