I get it. Everyone wishes for a return to how things were – normalcy.

We’d like to stop wearing masks indoors and taking the mask off in restaurants only to eat; stop the need for vaccinations and boosters; return to crowded theaters. We’d like to return to going to basketball games without wondering about the person in the next seat.

But, thanks to those who refuse to get vaccinated and those who somehow equate wearing masks with inhibiting freedom, COVID-19 cases are surging.

In far-flung states such as Colorado and New Hampshire, the beds in ICUs are occupied by those who believed all the misinformation on the internet. On an interview in one of the TV shows, a Denver doctor, lamenting that the ICU in his large hospital was totally occupied and sick people would be sent “elsewhere,” proclaimed that of the patients in the ICU, over 90% were unvaccinated.

The CDC has estimated that the unvaccinated are more likely to die — the high estimate is that the unvaccinated die at rates up to 40 times that of the vaccinated.

No word yet on wearing masks, except that the unmasked are much more likely to be hospitalized. By the way, those who believe that mask mandates are restricting “freedom” apparently believe that they should have the freedom to spread the virus.

While that is convincing enough for me (I have had COVID-19, been fully vaccinated and have received the Moderna booster), what it means is that more people will test positive for COVID-19. It also means that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time as the unvaccinated are a reservoir for the coronavirus.

One of the problems is that the coronavirus mutates. A year ago, the delta variant did not exist, but the original virus has mutated and now the delta virus is most problematic. The good news is that the current vaccines seem to be effective against delta. Even more alarming is that the mutations continue.

Recent news has it that South Africa has four or more variants and current vaccines are ineffective. Some European countries have already banned people from southern African countries; the U.S. also is restricting travel for some people from southern Africa.

Given the propensity of the coronavirus to mutate and that by remaining unvaccinated, people allow time for the virus to mutate, it will likely be a long time, if ever, before things return to “normal.”

In the meantime, we can expect more lockdowns, more mandates about vaccinations and mask-wearing, and a long, long time before we get back to doing things that we did before COVID-19 was among us.

In this non-return, we can hold accountable those who believe the lies told about the vaccines, and inadvertently make things worse for everyone.

Return to “normal?” As long as there are holdouts providing a reservoir for mutations, we may never be free of mandates or the coronavirus.

Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.

About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

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