Louise McEwanThe new normal. It’s a phrase that trips lightly off the lips. But, is the new normal actually something that has changed our behaviour?

I don’t think so.

The new normal implies that the restrictions and practices of the last year and a half have changed the way we live and move. It implies that we will automatically practice hand hygiene, coughing into our sleeve, physical distancing, and mask-wearing when we are in the company of others.

My experience suggests otherwise. Immediately following the easing of public health orders in British Columbia, the community where I live was back to the old normal. It seemed to me that we had learned nothing from the recent past; rather, we had forgotten it altogether.

We were behaving like the foolish characters in the biblical story of Noah and the ark. Despite all sorts of warnings, people continued eating, drinking and carousing right up until disaster, in the form of an epic flood, wiped them out.

Click here to downloadNot so very different, and regardless of vaccine status, we have been carrying out our daily business as usual. Heedless of the threat of the Delta variant, we forged ahead reverting to our old patterns of social interaction.

Clerks in some local businesses, even if still behind Plexiglas, were no longer masked. Directional arrows that previously guided customers safely through the store had been removed. Customers were visiting in the aisles of supermarkets with little regard for physical distancing. And in some places, I had to look hard for the hand sanitizer that had been ubiquitous only a short time ago.

So much for the new normal.

About two weeks ago, I noticed a change. Mask wearing was slowly regaining popularity. This coincided with an increase in cases in the local health authority.

Around the same time, two people I know contracted COVID-19. One of them was not vaccinated and seems to have transmitted the virus to the other, who was fully vaccinated. Fortunately, the vaccine did its job, and my friend did not become seriously ill, nor require hospitalization.

As I write this, Doctor Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s top doctor, has just announced a tightening up of restrictions for the entire Interior Health region where the virus is spreading, fuelled by a low vaccination rate as well as by people moving about because of wildfire evacuation orders.

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Henry commented on the low vaccination rate in the Interior Health region, where only 77 per cent of eligible people have had one dose, and 68 per cent two doses. Apparently, the low rate of fully vaccinated individuals is not due to anti-vaccine beliefs but to convenience.

How convenient is it to get sick and land in the hospital? Or, how socially responsible is it to make someone else sick because you could not be bothered to get vaccinated?

In the Kootenay region where I live, case counts are increasing.  A physician at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital warns that we are courting disaster unless people get vaccinated, wear masks, sanitize and practice physical distancing.

I wonder, will we be like those foolish characters in the biblical story. Will we carry on like nothing is amiss?  Or will we heed the warnings?

If you live in the Interior Health Authority, you no longer have a choice.

Louise McEwan has degrees in English and theology. She has a background in education and faith formation.

Louise is a Troy Media Thought Leader. For interview requests, click here.

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