Hello? Is anybody out there?

Pfft! Ptoo! Yuck! Darn dust bunnies.

I’ve been under the bed for the most part since the late winter of 2020, hiding out from the scourge of COVID-19, not to mention the deep, stark political divide that has its icy grip around the throat of our beloved country just now.

But now I have decided to emerge, to crawl out from my den of no dignity, to face the post-pandemic world.

But really, are we there yet?

Many people seem to think so. Life is allegedly getting back to something approaching normal. More and more people are being vaccinated against the disease. Sporting venues are filling with fans. Concerts are happening again. People are once again eating in restaurants and worshipping in person at their favorite churches, mosques or synagogues.

In the past couple of weeks I have both eaten in a restaurant and attended a church service — and lived to tell about it. Of course, I have been fully vaccinated since February, so my bride and I didn’t exactly rush into anything.

I have shaken hands with another human being and, gasp, actually exchanged hugs with other members of my species. Hey, it’s not exactly skydiving or base jumping, but for an old guy like me that is pretty risky behavior, in this post-pandemic world.

But really, are we there yet?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has become a barrage balloon of sorts for those who think the country’s reaction to COVID-19 was overblown, knee-jerk even.

According to one Pew Research Center poll, about a quarter of Americans surveyed, and some 34% of Republicans, said powerful people are directly and intentionally responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. To what end I’m not quite sure, but there you have it.

Even the vaccines that were developed in a miraculously short time became controversial. Some people theorized that Bill Gates was pushing the vaccine because he and his powerful friends were inserting some sort of tracking microchip into the shots going into Americans’ arms. In order to be rid of this virus I will personally call Bill Gates every day and let him know where I am and where I’m going to be. Who cares? Certainly he doesn’t. He and Melinda, his soon to be ex-wife, have enough on their plate these days.

Lately there has been a backlash against the public health community in our country, with several state legislatures passing bills to limit the scope of a state pandemic response, such as imposing statewide mask mandates or ordering a general lockdown. After all, politicians know much better than seasoned medical professionals how to deal with a public health crisis. Don’t they?

But really, are we there yet?

Just about half of Americans have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 40% are fully vaccinated. In our state, 33.8% of people are fully vaccinated.

And this is with vaccines available to virtually anybody who cares to roll up their sleeve. Nurses are practically chasing people down the street in order to give them a shot. And there are a variety of incentives being offered, from the chance at millions in lottery winnings, to sports tickets, to free doughnuts, to free beer. And still people are resistant to get the shots. What’s that, Bill Gates on line two? Tell him to leave a message.

And what about masks? Do I have to wear a mask? I mean for my health, not to cover up my five o’clock shadow. The CDC says if you are fully vaccinated you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic, without wearing a mask or physical distancing. Cool. I am tired of being under the bed.

But how do you know if someone is fully vaccinated? They are on the honor system, I suppose. The director of the CDC says unvaccinated people are still at risk for contracting and spreading the virus.

So really, are we there yet?

Some people talk about the pandemic as if it were a thing of the past. Hardly anybody wants to talk about COVID-19 statistics anymore, but as of a couple of days ago, Oklahoma recorded 42 more cases and 25 more deaths. Nationwide there were 17,247 new cases recorded on that day and 598 new deaths, bringing the U.S. death toll to some 595,000.

But really, are we there yet?

Move over, dust bunnies.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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