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When can we live normally again?

Art by Lily Hoagland

When it was announed that school was to be canceled for two weeks last March, I, and many others thought, “Cool, no school.”

I soon realized the weight of the situation: The entire world was going to change dramatically for a long time, and COVID wasn’t going to be waited out. Ever since then, I, along with most others, have wondered constantly, “When will COVID end? When can I go back to my normal life?”

For months, we have sat around in quarantine wondering when a vaccine would be ready to distribute, with estimates ranging from eight to eighteen months. The good news finally came in December when two vaccines (Pfizer, and Moderna) with 95% efficacy rates were approved for usage in the United States. A collective joy swept across the nation as the end of the pandemic appeared on the horizon.

It has been over two months since the vaccines were announced, but during those months, the U.S., and Los Angeles in specific, have undergone the worst COVID spike yet. To my dismay, the pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere, and we still have to live under the same restrictions and fear we have endured since the beginning of the pandemic.

All this begs the question: When will the pandemic actually end and when will school return?

The vaccine rollout has been slower than anticipated. As of February 3rd, only 27 million Americans have received their first dose of the vaccine. Only 6 million have been fully vaccinated, far short of the sixty to eight-five percent of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity, achieved when enough of the population has immunity to the virus that transmission is minuscule.

In Los Angeles, we are currently undergoing phase 1A of vaccine rollout, making the vaccine available to health care workers. Under Governor Newsom’s new COVID guidelines, the vaccine has become available to any California resident over the age of 65. This has brought backlash from many essential workers who feel that they have not been adequately protected from the virus. Essential workers are supposed to be covered in phases 1B and 1C of the L.A. county vaccine rollout plan. Those in the food and transportation industry can receive vaccines beginning March 1st.

As most readers are younger than 65 and not essential workers, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Alright, but when will I be vaccinated?”

There is great promise with President Biden’s vaccine plan, which aims to administer 1.5 million vaccines a day and 100 million doses over his first 100 days in office. Those between the ages of 16-49 who aren’t essential frontline workers and who aren’t immunocompromised are on the bottom of the COVID vaccine priority list. Those in this category under the L.A. county rollout plan can expect to get their first dose as early as May or June. Six hundred million doses of the vaccine are expected to have rolled out by the late summer or fall, so you can expect to be vaccinated sometime between May and September. Additionally, full herd immunity is expected to be reached by late summer or fall.

Now that vaccines are being distributed, many schools are trying to open for in-person learning once again. While many districts have reopened, LAUSD has not. The news on when we will open is often confusing and contradicting.

Under Governor Newsom’s new COVID plan, elementary schools could open relatively soon, with middle and schools potentially opening in spring. With L.A. County elementary schools now eligible to reopen, Superintendent Beutner has rebuked Newsom’s guidelines. Beutner and the LAUSD teachers union have promised not to reopen in-person learning until all teachers are vaccinated. Beutner has discussed the possibility of students needing vaccines to return to on-campus learning. Sadly for LAUSD students, especially older ones, this means that they might not return to campus before the end of the 2020-21 school year, or at the very least, not until late spring.

With all of this in mind, it is reasonable to estimate that we can return to “normal” life somewhere between late 2021 and early 2022. In the meantime, though, it is extremely important to remember to continue to wear a mask and remain socially-distanced. And, even when you do get a vaccine, you still have to remember to wear a mask and distance while in public.

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