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A man donning a mask walks down the street in New York, one of several states beginning the process of reopening after months of pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

Opinion

This week, Kansas is set to start opening back up from its pandemic lockdown, easing up stay at home orders and reopening businesses that have had either limited operations or remained closed completely. Some states, like Georgia, have already opened back up, and a large portion of states are opening up this week.

For a lot of people, this is a relief. Being locked in your house because of a global pandemic is by no means a vacation, and people who were unable to work from home have had to deal with financial stress on top of everything else. Getting back to business as normal is a relief for the majority of people and businesses, and is something people are eager and, in some cases, actively protesting for.

Unfortunately, some experts are concerned about additional waves of the virus, which is a real risk if people stop quarantining before cases have fallen to a manageable level. The problem is that if everyone goes back to business as usual while some people are asymptomatic carriers, then a whole new wave of infections can quickly rise before our medical systems and workers have had time to recover from the previous wave.

Luckily, no states have completely opened up without restrictions. Every state is requiring some form of precautions, whether it be only opening up a few select businesses, screening employees for symptoms, masks, mandated social distancing, or any combination of the above. States are being cautious with how they proceed.

The biggest question for right now is immunity. The results are still inconclusive on whether getting COVID-19 once is enough to develop an immunity for it. If people who recover do have immunity, then there’s a lot of hope for this to just be a paragraph in future history books, a two-month period where the world ground to a halt before people were able to go back to their daily lives.

If people don’t develop immunity, however, the problem becomes much bigger. It would mean everyone isolating until every existing active case is tracked down and allowed to run its course, avoiding all further infections until the virus burns itself out. Something that could take a whole other year to accomplish according to some estimates.

Until we fully understand how this virus operates, we have to take things slow and always be wary of the potential for further outbreaks.

What this means for the short term is that even if Kansas opens back up completely, it’s extremely unlikely that things will go back to normal, and there’s no way of knowing if things truly ever will. Some experts are discussing moving to an elbow touch instead of a handshake and mandating masks in public as measures that might stretch into the foreseeable future.

Movie theaters might require a couple of empty seats between moviegoers, and restaurants might spread out tables or stick to take out. Bars, clubs, and churches are all looking like the last things the various governments want to open, despite some people clamoring for them. Anything that has more than twenty people gathering together is going to be treated as too high a risk.

The bottom line is that as much as everyone wants everything to go back to the way things were at the beginning of the year, people need to confront the possibility that that is not going to happen, or at least it will be a while before we’re there. Jumping the gun on this has the potential to kill hundreds, maybe even thousands of people by just one person not taking this seriously and having a little patience. 

Everyone wants to be safe and live the life that was put on pause a couple of months ago, but the only way we’re going to get there is through patience.

Jeffrey Birch is a senior from Wichita studying accounting.