When is a Pandemic Over?

Not yet. 

Not even later this afternoon, when all the people in this household will be fully vaccinated, or two weeks from today, when our immunity should be ramped up and ready to go. 

Not even when this country reaches some magical number of vaccinations or some magic percentage of the population vaccinated, which will in theory (or reality) mean that we humans can no longer transmit the virus in this country.

Or any of the above in any other country, either. 

Not before the world has access to vaccines. 

But not even then.

Increasingly, I'm understanding that the pandemic may never be over. Not for those "long-haulers" who continue to experience the effects of the disease. 

Certainly not for those, in my extended family and not, who lost loved ones and were prevented from the social rituals of mourning that we humans have developed to accompany us through those difficult times of life. 

But--ideally--it won't be over for all of us. When do we stop grieving a parent? When do we stop feeling proud at graduating, at finishing a project, at publishing a book, at winning a race? 

Never, I hope. I don't want to "go back." And so I don't want to stop being proud of those scientists who foresaw the need for new types of vaccines and were ready to tailor one to this particular virus. 

And maybe because I'm ghoulish, or because I write fiction and personal essays and thus always poke at my inner life to see where it hurts, I don't want to forget. I don't want to "get over" the losses.

I don't want to take things for granted, to stop feeling grateful on the day when it is safe (as opposed to "I feel safe," which is irrelevant) to be with people without masks.

So, when will it be over? Your mileage may vary, but I hope we all carry the experience of this pandemic with us. 

(I know, I write about this a lot. Sorry/notsorry. It's on my mind.)