To mask or not to mask.

To quarantine or not to quarantine.

To distance or not to distance.

To take the vaccine or not to take the vaccine.

These are the conundrums brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. These riddles have created a divide in our country. Do knowledge and hope hold the answers to the riddles?

In March of 2020, life as we knew is came to a shocking halt! The announcement of a pandemic with soaring statistics on infections and death, sent shockwaves through the country. Schools and businesses closed; we were quarantined in our homes only going out for essential needs; masks became a part of our daily wardrobe; separation from family and friends created stress and/or isolation. We were frozen in the fear of the unknown. How was this disease transmitted? Who was susceptible? How were we going to fight this unknown enemy?

An adjustment phase followed the initial shock. We were constantly surrounded by family members who were home from work and kids who couldn’t go to school. Stress, annoyance, overeating ensued! For those living alone, they were thrust into a deeper isolation because they couldn’t get out to socialize with others. Depression was a common reaction for this group.

After the initial shock and adjustments, acceptance followed. How many people had heard of Zoom prior to the pandemic? It became a major internet highway for conducting meetings, social gatherings, workshops, and lately farewell services and celebrations. We’ve had to accept the fact that (with few exceptions) we could not visit hospitalized family and friends. We couldn’t stop by a neighbor’s house for a pop-in visit. Creativity evolved as people learned that they could drive by someone’s house and give them a wave and a smile. Or put a “thinking of you” token on a porch. As people learned to work within the pandemic or new normal, the anxiety associated with it began to subside.

There can be hope after a great divide. The year 2021 brought with it hope. Medicine is anticipating successful treatment as vaccines are already being administered. Though many lives were lost to COVID-19, there were many more survivors of this unknown horror. People have created strategies for adjusting to the changes and coping with the excessive togetherness or isolation. New routines have emerged requiring mask mandates, distancing, and less restrictive quarantines. The fact that we know more about this allows us to regain our emotional composure giving us the capacity to think. 

At this time we are still in a pandemic. As health professionals reported a deeper understanding of the effects of COVID-19, some states relaxed their restrictions allowing the reopening of schools, businesses, social gatherings albeit with distancing requirements. The divide still exists as some people mask while others do not. Some remain at home only going out for essentials, whereas some have returned to their pre-March 2020 gatherings. Some continue to ignore the distancing guidelines. Everyone is not on board with receiving a vaccine, unsure of its side-effects. The following questions are still in play:

Will everyone feel comfortable returning to life as is once was?

Have many people become comfortable with the isolation?

Has the time alone with ourselves, caused self-awareness?

Time will tell how our country will heal itself from the great divide caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As we say about anything, knowledge is a key to effective outcomes. In this case, we predict that knowledge coupled with hope will help our country rebound!

Frances Goddard, LCSW, BCD
Diane Harvey, LCSW