Editorial: COVID-19 is here to stay. It’s time we acted accordingly.

In March 2020, the U.S. shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, the nation came to a halt, and no one knew what to expect.

Twenty months later, as some continue to wear masks and practice social distancing while others have resumed their pre-pandemic lives, the question lingers: When will the COVID-19 pandemic really be over?

The Shorthorn Editorial Board believes as most Americans assume the pandemic is almost over, they have relied on that false sense of comfort to loosen precautions against COVID-19. But feelings are not enough for anyone to let their guards down when the pandemic is far from over.

The thought of COVID-19 staying within our normal lives forever may be terrifying. After all, many people are tired of hearing about the pandemic and its worldwide impact. People want to go out and have fun, which may explain why concert tickets are selling out faster than ever.

Americans have also been losing patience with the mask and vaccine mandates, as government entities and citizens continue to fight back and forth on who reserves the rights to mandate vaccines or masks. Eighty-eight percent of Americans said the country is more divided than before the pandemic, higher than any other nation polled by Pew Research Center in June.

If people keep pretending the pandemic is over, they are allowing it to potentially remain deadly.

But an announcement ending the pandemic may never come. At this point, it’s not about how to end the pandemic; it’s more about how to live with it as safely as possible.

A total of 1,479 people died from COVID-19 on Nov. 16, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The nation had 2,396 casualties Sept. 24, its highest number of daily deaths from COVID-19 since Feb. 25.

The nation also had over 150,000 positive cases Nov. 15, the highest since Sept. 17.

It’s not just about the casualties and positive cases. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still apparent in everyone’s daily lives: nurses are quitting because they feel stressed out, global supply chain issues are affecting the world’s economy, and millions of people are leaving the workforce to look for better job opportunities.

During President Joe Biden’s Fourth of July speech, he said the U.S. should celebrate independence from COVID-19, signaling an uptick in the number of vaccinated people.

The celebration did not last long. Within weeks of those remarks, many hospitals across the U.S. saw a spike in the number of cases. Some hospitals had to put critically-ill COVID-19 patients on planes, helicopters and ambulances and send them hundreds of miles away.

Between August and September, 9,000 Texans died from COVID-19, nearly 40% of them under 60 years old, according to The Texas Tribune.

Eventually, the coronavirus will enter its endemic phase: COVID-19 will not be deadly as it is, but it will linger around like the flu has for over a century.

But before seeing endemicity, experts at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predict there will be another surge of COVID-19 cases this winter as the weather may make people spend more time indoors for travel, parties and family gatherings without masks.

As of Nov. 18, only 54% of Texans are fully vaccinated. Everyone age five or older in Texas, regardless of occupation or health status, can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine. In an October press release, Pfizer said the booster, combined with the other two doses, provided a relative vaccine efficacy of 95.6%.

Analyzing data from Sept. 4 to Oct. 1, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a press release that Texans not vaccinated against COVID-19 are 20 times more likely to die and 13 times more likely to test positive than those who were fully vaccinated.

“The risk of COVID-19 death was 23 times higher in unvaccinated people in their 30s and 55 times higher for people in their 40s, compared with their vaccinated peers,” the press release stated. “There were fewer than 10 COVID-19 deaths among fully vaccinated people ages 18 to 29 compared with 84 deaths among unvaccinated people in the same age group.”

In October, Dr. Anthony Fauci gave a press briefing with the White House COVID-19 Response Team. Fauci said there are still some phases of the pandemic apparent in the U.S.

“It is going to be very difficult — at least in the foreseeable future and maybe ever — to truly eliminate this highly transmissible virus. And again, as I mentioned, we’ve only eradicated one,” he said.

So people should accept the new normal of embracing protective measures instead of continuing the political war over masks and vaccine mandates.

They may consider meeting up with people again and taking precautions seriously. They should think about booking that trip to see their family they have been planning since March 2020. Or they may start inviting their friends who are vaccinated, of course, to go out to dinner again.

Because if people don’t do it now, they will probably not be able to do it in a few months, years or forever. The pandemic is here to stay.

They should just get vaccinated or wear a mask, that’s all.

The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Dang Le; Editor-in-Chief Angelica Perez; associate news editor Cole Kembel; Katecey Harrell, life and entertainment editor; design editor Vivian Santillan; news reporter Taylor Coit; and copy editor Jill Bold. Harrell and Bold were not present for this editorial decision, and news reporter Mandy Huynh and copy desk chief Kylie Burnham filled in.

opinion-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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