PHOTO/SUSAN SKORUPA: RN&R editor Frank Mullen with some of the COVID-19 masks his family collected during 2020.

Most of us are acting like the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rearview mirror—but it’s not our call.

The virus alone will decide when it is over, and that’s not anytime soon. Over the last month, I’ve known almost as many friends and acquaintances who tested positive than I did during the past three years—and I already knew dozens of people who caught it, including several who died or became “long haulers.”

The virus is still mutating and spreading, experts say, in part because we haven’t reached the 80 to 90 percent vaccination rate that may allow us to reach herd immunity. People who have been vaccinated typically suffer less severe symptoms if they do catch the latest, more contagious variant, but there are no guarantees.

After the series of lockdowns, mask requirements and other precautions, the government has given up on mandates. It’s up to us, individually, to decide what’s acceptable, and what’s not, in public, particularly indoors. People should assess their own individual risks, experts advise. We all need to decide for ourselves what precautions—including mask-wearing, social distancing and avoiding indoor venues—we should be taking.

As for me, I still keep masks handy for indoor venues that are crowded and/or poorly ventilated. I shun dense gatherings. Some folks throw caution to the wind and figure they will catch it eventually, so why try to avoid it? I’m not one of them.

Someday, God willing, I’ll put on an old jacket, find a mask in a pocket, and recall the bad old days of the contagion that disrupted all our lives. But until then, as much as I hate it, I’ll think about COVID-19 every time I leave my house.

We can’t live under rocks. But pretending that we—and not the virus—are in charge is magical thinking.

Stay safe out there!

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