When and How Do We Return to Normalcy?

When do we stop hiding and start accommodating? When do we reach the point where we can attend in-person events, while masked and taking other reasonable precautions?

I'm sure most of you have noticed by now that our world has been engulfed in a deadly pandemic for the last year and a half. If you're like me, your first reaction was to cut off all nonessential travel and turn into a hermit. By nonessential, I mean something pretty close to hiding under my bed during the first wave. Then, right before the new vaccines came out, we experienced an even more severe second wave in late December and early January, which was then, over the next five months, greatly mitigated by the rollout of the various vaccines. I saw people going back to the gym and unmasked people in the grocery stores, but there were also people like me who kept the mask on and, over the peak winter months, retreated back under the bed.

Then, just when it seemed like the whole thing had died down, came the Delta variant, and another, lesser wave, and we are now in the middle of widespread anxiety about breakthrough cases.

I'm bringing this unpleasantness up again because I think all of us--in the financial services profession, clients and everybody else--are in the early stages of facing a new and interesting dilemma. Even if this next wave begins to fade, we may experience another one, and one after that, each perhaps lesser than the one before, like aftershocks from a severe earthquake. If this happens, it means COVID will gradually become less deadly, more of a nuisance, something that we have to live with and accommodate in our lives, like the seasonal flu.

At what point do we transition from radically altering our lives to adopting habits that allow us, with reasonable safety, to move to something closer to normalcy? When will we decide that we need to go about our lives as we did before, even if that includes new precautions, like, perhaps, a habit of mask wearing indoors in public places like the gym or grocery stores, one more annual shot to take, wearing masks in airports and on the plane the way Asian citizens have been doing for decades?

At what point in this pandemic do we get back on with our lives? And what does that look like in its various stages?

The answers are going to be different for everybody, of course. I think about it like driving a car; if you look at the national statistics, driving on the freeway is insanely dangerous, but we accept the risks and take precautions like seatbelts and speed limits – and feel like the rewards of convenient travel outweigh the risks.