This week marks the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown across the U.S.

Across the country, businesses, churches, government facilities and even households were closed to customers and outsiders. Strict instructions to social distance, wear masks, sanitize and wash our hands regularly became a daily mantra from the media as other local and state officials stressed the rules, as well. Soon after, while President Trump attempted to discredit the severity of the crisis, long lines began to form for Americans to get the nasal swab to test for the disease, and still, hospitalizations rose. At the same time, thousands lost their lives to the deadliest virus the world has seen in decades.

No doubt it’s been a heck of a year, and still, the pandemic continues. Hope is high that as Americans seek and receive one of the three vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — that the pandemic will subside. But variants represent a new threat among a population already resistant to practicing safety procedures to prevent furthering the spread of the disease.

It’s all wishful thinking. However, as governors of Texas and Florida, and other states, lift restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, and begin to open businesses that weren’t shuttered due to the pandemic, the risk of another spike in COVID-19 infections is predicted. Will residents follow, or will they wait for the vaccine and continue to double-mask and exercise other safety cautions?

What appears to be real is that SARS, the thousands-year-old virus that caused COVID-19, will most likely be with us forever. And that even the most effective vaccines available today will never end nor stop the spread of its most recent offspring called COVID-19. More importantly, humans must become more aware of the practices, lifestyles, and habits that prevent the spread of viruses or exacerbate them. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, MERS, Ebola, and Influenza are just a few of several viruses that persistently threaten human life. As we become more aware of these viruses, our greatest challenge is learning how to live with them, safely stay away from them, and keep from dying because of them.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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