It feels like we’re living in a fantasy world. Over 800,000 people have died from COVID-19 since March 2020, and the US is now reporting approximately 1500 deaths per day from COVID-19. The appearance of the Omicron variant around the Thanksgiving holiday has created a new sense of dread with reports of more breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated and boosted individuals.

Despite these grim statistics, much of the country act as though all is well. It’s easy to understand where this comes from. We are all worn out from dealing with the virus — you can see it everywhere. After reporting a low in violent crime in 2014, the US has seen a steady increase in crime since the start of the epidemic. On the ground, people are angrily acting out about masks, vaccines, school curriculum, etc. The stressors related to COVID-19 and related efforts to remediate its effects color almost every realm of life. It’s hard to go anywhere or do anything without being impacted by the virus and its past impacts as well as fear of its future threat.

When at home we hunker down, sanitizing our bodies, cutlery, and just about anything else that can be cleaned. We run our air purifiers if we are lucky enough to have one, hoping that they will “eat COVID-19” as promised by their advertising. We tread gently when leaving our homes, if we even have one, avoiding space violations and drivers who are even angrier and less mannered than usual.

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For those of us working in clinical settings, we carry extra burdens. Some of us were working at home for extended periods, often feeling trapped in our own homes, and bearing the guilt of abandoning our colleagues who continued to work on-site at our clinical settings. Our patients move through our clinics with poorly fitting and old masks; many are resentful and tired of the things we ask them to do and tired of walking a gauntlet of medical staff repeatedly echoing “pull your mask over your nose.”

When venturing into restaurants, we’re saddened for the overworked and undertrained staff, trying desperately to get our food to us before we get up and leave, angry and insensitive to the pressures they face.   

Others deal with the worry, the stress, and the pressures of living and working as COVID-19 rages by pretending it’s not real. We attend professional sporting events without masks, sharing cramped arenas and stadiums with thousands of other people, sitting less than a foot away from masses of strangers. We go to move theaters and concerts, smiling and happy and pretending that we’re not at risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 to and from others.

Some of us adopt ridiculous, illogical, and completely unscientific stances and beliefs about how COVID-19 is a hoax, refuse to get vaccinated because “the vaccine was created too quickly to trust it,” and claim that we won’t take the vaccine because we don’t really know what’s in it while continuing to drink, eat, and ingest thousands of foods, drinks, drugs, and other substances with even less knowledge about what is in those things.

It feels like a mass suicide ritual in a way, where many well-educated PAs, nurse practitioners, physicians, and other scientifically trained professionals are somehow driven to embrace bizarre and ill-founded beliefs that may result in the death of the believers and those around them. I wonder how it will all look to our ancestors, 300 years down the road, as they read and ponder what we did in 2020 to 2021, the period of COVID-19.