Is It the End of the Pandemic As We Know It?

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Since 2020 when the world first became introduced to the ravaging Covid-19 virus, masks have been a constant staple in our daily attire. Shoes? Check. Coat? Check. Mask? Absolutely!

Masks became more than just a necessity but an accessory. Top fashion labels such as Louis Vuitton jumped in to take advantage of the new “must-have accessory”, selling its own protective wear, a simple black knit mask adorning the renowned two letter logo, retailing for $355 (which is currently out of stock).

Most recently in November 2021, the DMV grappled with the decision to lift mask mandates, with many cities quickly lifting and reinstating them within a week’s time. Since then, business, restaurants, schools, and offices have continued with life normally. Through vaccination mandates, booster shots, changing regulations, and yet another deadly Covid-19 variant, its nearly impossible to say that anything feels “normal” anymore, but somehow masks simply are. However, that too could be about to change.

Over the past few weeks, there have been discussions across the country about lifting all mandates. On February 14, D.C. Mayor Bowser announced beginning February 15 that D.C. government will no longer require businesses to the check the vaccination status of its patrons, a policy that has only been in place for a month. The public health emergency that has been declared over the district was lifted Tuesday.

Bowser further announced that the mask mandate will expire on February 28, making masks completely optional in restaurants, entertainment and retail venues, gyms, grocery stores, houses of worship, and D.C. government facilities with no public interaction, as reported by NBC Washington News. Businesses will still reserve the right to require masks and vaccinations from customers.

Masks will still be required in childcare, medical, nursing, and correctional facilities. As well as in schools, libraries, public transit, ride share vehicles, and D.C. government offices with direct contact between employees and the public, such as DMV service centers. Mayor Bowser is also reducing public testing, closing testing sites at all D.C. firehouses.

Mask mandates are being left in place in schools likely because our youngest learners, children under the age of 5, are still unable to receive the vaccine. School districts across the nation are starting to eliminate mask mandates in schools. Governors of New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, and Oregon have already lifted or are planning to lift mandates in the next few weeks according to The Washington Post.

It seems that we may be moving out of our “new normal” into what the next stage of life after Covid-19 will be. But with all the upcoming changes, there are more questions than ever. Is this pandemic finally over? Are these decisions being made too fast? Will another variant develop, forcing us back into quarantine? What will “normal” look like now?