When did you first realize life as we knew it was about to drastically change?
For some it was in January 2020, when news of the coronavirus first surfaced. For others, it was when they started to notice supplies of water bottles and toilet paper dwindling at their local grocery store in late February, or when counties began issuing limits on the size of gatherings in early March. And for many it was March 16, 2020, when Bay Area health leaders announced the implementation of the nation's first shelter-in-place order that at the time was tentatively set to last three weeks.
Many people have spent the past week or two reflecting on the pandemic that has changed our world as we know it and brought immense suffering to so many. And others, understandably, have shied away from thinking about the pain and loss of the last year, focusing instead on the road ahead, the continuing vaccine rollout that will hopefully bring life back to "normal" later this year.
While we are all eager to move past the pandemic, we should recognize that there are some aspects of life from the past year that are worth retaining, and that the last year has also underscored grave disparities that need to be addressed.
Our two-part series on the anniversary of the shelter-in-place order has showcased both sides of the coin. For some, the pandemic has led to newfound closeness with family members and neighbors, and brought on a slower pace of life that is now cherished. Long commutes may have disappeared — at least for now — and people have picked up new hobbies and dusted off old ones. The coronavirus restrictions have also had silver linings: The increased use of videoconferencing has made city governance, arts and culture, education and other parts of life more accessible to already homebound individuals and people with disabilities. We've seen a big movement to patronize local businesses and restaurants, more people getting outdoors and exploring their own backyards, and a renewed commitment to community and looking out for one another.
But the last year has also highlighted deep socioeconomic and racial inequities. Low-income households and people of color have had to bear the brunt of the coronavirus, disparately dealing with more cases and deaths, and often having to work front-line jobs or live in confined quarters that increase their exposure to the virus. Asian Americans have been subject to a horrific spike in hate crimes and violence, as well as racist rhetoric and remarks. And so many have suffered the loss of a friend or loved one, employment, housing, and an overall sense of security and stability.
In our rush to leave pandemic life in the dust, it's important to do so knowing that everyone will be going at different paces. Many continue to grieve or feel more hesitant or anxious to return to their previous life — or perhaps they're carving out a new way of living. People will carry trauma and pain for an indeterminate amount of time, and we need to give each other the space and patience to heal. And in looking toward a post-pandemic world we should reflect on the past year, both its silver linings and its darkest days, to consider how we want to lead our lives and how we can build a more equitable and accessible future for all.