THIS week, one of the major stories has been the easing of mask mandates nationwide. Now, they are voluntary outdoors as long as the place is well-ventilated. 

Is it time? Are we finally to be rid of these accursed masks, which have long been a part of our lives for nearly three years now?

Well, if you would ask me, I would answer with a pointed “no”.

It is entirely possible that everything from this point forward is paranoia, but I know I am not alone in thinking that the risk is still extant and far from nonexistent. I see comments of people declaring that they, even with the option not to, will continue to wear masks in public. I will likely be among this number for the foreseeable months.

COVID-19 has done a myriad many things. For one, it widened our vocabulary as suddenly social distancing became the word of the day for how many days. But more than anything else, it exposed the inherent fragility of the precarious balancing act that supports our new society.

As it turned out, we were only a single step ahead of being turned upside down, and COVID-19 closed that gap rapidly. The economy receded, lockdowns became commonplace, and people began to fear that which could not be seen. Interaction and education moved into the online space, as did most everything else, and those without were cut off.

Naturally, this didn’t last forever. We returned to a new breed of normalcy, and yet, the damage was done. The world was changed. Even now it continues to change. Vaccines gave us back the semblance of the pre-pandemic world, and now with the mask mandate eased, we inch closer to that. 

It will never return to the old normal. 

Not that this is entirely a bad thing. If anything, it is a good thing. We have come out more educated and better prepared for the next wave, because surely there will be one. We have come out of this with the newfound and profound knowledge of how fragile the normalcy of our everyday life is, and hopefully, the will to participate in the prevention of the next such crisis.

But of course, we circle back to the titular, eponymous question. Safe? 

Not quite. Not entirely. COVID-19 has entrenched itself so far and wide into our societies that getting rid of it would be a frankly impossible effort. Especially with all the people who can but refuse to get vaccinated, and others of their ilk. The best we can do is turn it into a manageable disease, which is the end goal. To turn it from a pandemic into just another illness that we can sleep off. And from that, we’re not too far off.

But still. Best to stay safe.