How Omicron changed the way we look at pandemic life

In the first year, COVID had not touched a single person he knew, but Ranjan Wadhwa was still terrified. When he went to the grocery store, he wore gloves and a double-mask—and sometimes added a scarf over it.

Now, as the pandemic enters its third year and the ultra-contagious Omicron variant soars to new heights, the virus has touched almost everyone it knows. It infected friends and family and killed her father-in-law last year.

But now something is different.

“Now,” he said, searching for the right words, “everyone… has left? Yes, left,” he said, before returning to class in Fremont on Monday to his third-grade daughters Picking up two boxes of COVID tests at home in a school giveaway. “We’re all resigned to the fact that this is something we all have to live with, so why be afraid of it?”

The number of new COVID cases is now setting records every day, but it seems that our panic level of the virus has dropped.

Unhappy with the more contagious but milder version of COVID, Californians are tackling this latest wave of the pandemic in a way that shows we’ve learned to live with the virus. More and more of our friends and family and coworkers are getting sick, but as long as they are vaccinated and promoted, we believe they will feel better soon. Some of our book clubs and colleges are going virtual, but others are turning to tests and KN95 masks to meet in person. The Grammys are off, but the Super Bowl is on. It seems to be baked in obstacles, inconveniences and endless disappointments.

Like the Five Stages of Grief, is Omicron finally forcing us to accept a new way of life? The pandemic has already taken a lot of our lives.

“I don’t want to live in a bubble,” said Becca Roenhaus of San Jose, who suffers from cystic fibrosis that affects her lungs – a major target for the coronavirus – and herself much more than the 2020 lockdown set aside for the time being.

Now, she said, “I don’t want to go back to paranoia, but I do want to be safe.”

O’Micron’s rapid spread meant she canceled her trip to Disneyland the following weekend, but she accepted a date with a friend at Hapa’s Brewing Company in San Jose and a garage-style door. who let in the fresh air.

“You can’t stay at home all day. It is unhealthy. You need that sanity,” Ronhaus said. “You need that break—some kind of normalcy that you can’t get around by being locked up at home.”

It is now understood that despite astonishing rates of infection – the US eclipsed daily average new cases on December 29, then 400,000 on January 2, 500,000 two days later, and 600,000 in two days – people are no longer interested. So that COVID can stop them, let time pass by them.

“I was 27 when it started and I’m going to be 30 in March. Life has to go on,” said Taylor Davis, a law school student in Santa Clara County to deputy public defender during the pandemic. Went to. “I have to do stuff. I’m not going to be so beautiful forever.”

Humor helps.

It’s not easy to find in hospitals, however, where staff members have been donning and doffing COVID suits and shields for nearly two years, enduring nursing shortages and mandatory overtime and being kind to unvaccinated patients Trying to stay afloat, who may be “deeply adamant” until then. very end.

“There is no help and no equestrians are coming to the rescue,” said nurse Liz Thurston at Regional Medical Hospital in East San Jose. “We’ve been asked to run this marathon for two years and we’ve run it diligently. You turn that corner, you see that finish line tape, you’re like, oh my god, you barely breathe Then someone drives that finish line 10 miles down the road. It’s going to beat. It’s like, Is this ever going to end?”

So she’s accepted her new COVID-19 routine: coming home exhausted, feeding her cat, and going to bed.

“I had some terrible days where I could punch the clock in time and leave and never come back. I felt so bad,” she said. “I was thinking to myself the other day, How can I get this into my mind? How can I have a more positive attitude and realize that it’s the way it is? I just don’t have the answer.”

In the early months of the virus, when one of the first known cases of COVID and cruise ships with sick passengers off the coast of San Francisco in Santa Clara County, the virus was a terrifying enigma, something from the other side of the world in which the heroes were threatened. It required donning suits and inspired balcony orchestras of pot-and-pan-playing neighbors to salute those on the front lines.

We were lucky that we didn’t get it. Now we are lucky not to get it a second time.

Taryn and Jeff Cross of Los Gatos have been spared from the early variants and the more-contagious Delta and O’Micron. But her daughter got sick once and her boyfriend tested positive twice.

He has learned the lessons of lockdown – living a simpler life with more meaningful connections – and plans to continue that way, no matter what. His nightly cocktail hour with one of his kids – in the living room with no cell phone – sometimes now extends to a bar. And Taryn’s running group who meet at 7:45 each morning have formed deep, lasting friendships.

“We’ve come together in a way we didn’t expect,” she said.

Some scientists see February as the next turning point, when infection rates should drop. But an enduring pessimism is also brewing in.

“I don’t think there’s any end in sight,” said Matthew Rodriguez, owner of Willow Glen Sweet Shop, “even after months of supply chain issues, the gummy shark cans are still empty.” “Kids are getting it in middle school, and it’s scary. I have twins. What if they get it? You’ve heard that the symptoms are mild for kids. Hopefully, it stays that way.” “

Down the road to The Universal Connection, a spiritual shop that specializes in crystals, the new normal hasn’t changed much since the pandemic began. As of 2020, customers are still reminded to clean their hands at the sanitizing station outside the front door, and no more than 12 people are allowed into the store at once – following county rules now is not in place. Only one employee is allowed to have lunch without a mask at a time in the breakroom.

Owner Tracy Rothschilds said it makes good business sense to stay vigilant as the virus ebbs and flows, avoiding sick workers, quarantining and shop closures.

“No incentives now, no EDDs again,” she said, referring to the government benefits office that gave the COVID relief.

With parents still scrambling as schools announce they are open then closed, and employees are alerted by orders from bosses to show up at the office, then work remotely, resilience survives The key to staying may be what lies ahead.