An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. Photo: Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News

Barron: Will the world ever be the same again?

I’ve heard many people say that they can’t ever see themselves in a crowded room

I wonder whether the world will return to what it was before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

I never realized just how much I used to love going to see a new release in a movie theatre (even with the exorbitant prices they charge for popcorn and pop), checking out a cool band in a packed and humming nightclub on a hot summer night, or the ability to hop on a plane and be in a completely different part of the world within just a few hours.

Many of these freedoms have been taken away from us over the past year as we were mandated to stay home as much as possible, not be in large groups and wear masks in public buildings.

Now that there are numerous vaccines available, we are being asked by the authorities to be patient and continue to follow COVID-19 health protocols until everyone who wants to be vaccinated (hopefully it will be almost everyone) has had the opportunity.

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But will our lives return to what they were before COVID-19 once that goal is reached?

Probably not.

I’ve heard many people say that they can’t ever see themselves in a crowded room with people should-to-shoulder ever again without a mask or some other form of protection on.

Others have said they don’t ever plan to fly in the close quarters of an airplane again, or take another cruise because of the close proximity of other (possibly plagued) people.

We always knew that diseases can spread when sick people breath on us, but the full extent of just how many minuscule water droplets actually come out of our mouths, and how far they can travel when they do, was not fully known to many of us until the pandemic began.

At the beginning of the health crisis, I watched a news program in which one person at a dinner table of six had a very thin and invisible coating of fluorescent moisture that could be seen only under a dark light placed in his nose and mouth area.

The six people sat around the table and passed the food and liquid refreshments back and forth to each other as they would at any meal time.

When dinner was over, the regular lights were turned off and a crew came in with dark lights to scan the room and the dinner guests.

The fluorescent moisture was everywhere.

The person it was first planted on had unknowingly touched his face many times during the meal, as all of us tend to do hundreds of times a day, and had spread the moisture from his hands unto the food bowls, plates, glasses and cutlery, and then it was transferred onto the hands and faces of the other guests.

Under the black lights, the scene looked like something from a horror film, with fluorescence covering the table and everyone around it.

It was not hard to see by this experiment just how easily a virus can spread through respiratory moisture.

It’s also jarring to listen to virologists say that we’ve been lucky that we haven’t had a pandemic of this magnitude since the Spanish Flu at the end of the First World War.

They say that, considering the steady growth of the human population on the planet and the close proximity many of us live in everyday, we should be getting hit by pandemics much more often.

That’s why the world will likely never be the same again.

Even after we’ve licked COVID-19, I expect the wearing of face masks will become routine for many in crowded places, even if they are not mandated legally to wear them.

I also believe social distancing will remain ingrained in many people’s minds, like those who told me they would never get on an airplane again.

Of course, people say a lot of things in the midst of a crisis that they probably don’t really mean and will forget about once the crisis passes.

But I think COVID-19 has changed us in fundamental ways, and we’ll see the repercussions from it for many years into the future.

We’ll be living in a different world than the one we remember in 2019.

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