Our COVID-19 "Current Situation", The Bigger Picture
I'd call it our "New Normal", but that is way too cliche, and there is nothing normal about it. Our circumstances are constantly changing, so while things are routinely "new", they can't seem to normalize. "Current Situation" seems a better description of our times.
Our sense that we were in the "end game" of the COVID-19 pandemic created a false sense of New Normal-dom that was abruptly upended by the spread of the Delta variant. Delta has wreaked havoc across all demographics and in all locations. Instead of our world opening up and returning to a comfortable routine as we hoped and planned, government, business and each of us as individuals continue to struggle to define new rules and socially acceptable customs.
New York City imposed vaccination requirements at restaurants, fitness clubs and theaters, where workers and customers alike must be vaccinated.
The courts are deciding cases regarding local governments' vaccine and mask mandates.
There are businesses which are requiring vaccinations. United Airlines, for example, will mandate that all of its staff and crew to take the shot as a precondition to continued employment.
Some businesses are unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to ensure safety and compliance with the changing circumstances and regulations. As an example, The New York Auto Show was canceled this year because of the Delta variant and the challenging measures announced by the State and City to stop its spread.
Crowds began returning to the streets in Midtown Manhattan, which are now bustling with (domestic) tourists and some back-to-the-office workers. Restaurants are thriving, indoors and out. Mass transit is way more crowded than it was just a couple of months ago. Is this is The New Normal? Not really. Our Current Situation comes with asterisks: there are few international visitors, the hospitality industry continues to emerge and change, and many of the businesses that wanted workers to return to their offices in Sept pushed back that date until the end of the year. Our Current Situation is "normalizing", but is not yet "normal".
As individuals, we struggle with whether to work from home or go to the office, to mask or not, and to socialize or isolate. Do we require attendees to show proof of vaccination as required by the hosts of weddings I've attended this summer? Will our sellers permit us to show their properties to potential buyers who are unvaxxed? Should they? There are no easy answers.
The resilience of NYC and its emergence from the depths of COVID was to be celebrated during Homecoming Week and the once-in-a-generation We Love NYC Homecoming Concert in Central Park on Aug 21. All the world watched and celebrated with us. Interestingly, Hurricane Henri destroyed our plans and spoiled the party, forcing the show to stop midway through. Everyone was disappointed - no Elvis, no Paul, no Patti, no Bruce.
I've thought about the disappointment of that evening, and recognize that the concert's cancellation carried a larger message as relates to our forever evolving Current Situation. We must be attentive to our world's changing problems as we continue our fight against COVID-19, the Delta variant and whatever comes next. There will always be new issues to address and changing social norms to deal with them: the world faces devastating tragedies in Afghanistan and Haiti; the raging wildfires out west are creating chaos that affects us all; we don't yet know the full impact of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana and beyond; the dangers of politics, race and hatred are fresh and raw, and are critically important. What is next? Although entertainment has its place in our world, the concert's cancellation must be put into perspective: it reminds us to always keep our eyes on the larger picture and the urgent problems that will most certainly materialize.
As our Current Situation continues to emerge, we continue to struggle with our ever-changing circumstances. A New Normal? Not yet. But we press forward with hopes of normalcy. Onward!