Editor’s Desk: It’s a new year and the pandemic is back 

 

I know you’re exhausted. The new year has arrived, and the pandemic is still on.  

It’s like a slog through the mud, all this endless mask wearing, wondering how much mask wearing is appropriate, and thinking about vaccines and loved ones. It didn’t help that the rug was pulled out from under us. 

It seemed like the pandemic was ending. In the spring, didn’t it feel like we were heading in the right direction?  

By the numbers, we were. The Wisconsin COVID-19 graph looks like a mountain. We started with no known cases before March 2020. With fits and starts, we trudged up the mountainside, reaching more than 5,000 new cases reported daily in parts of the winter. On the other side of the mountain, it dropped like a rock until we had zero new cases reported on some summer days. 

The sun was shining, and the pandemic was subsiding. Everything was beautiful. Until it wasn’t. The Delta variant and our national and worldwide failure to get to herd immunity seem to be introducing us to a new mountainside, rising before us. By mid-August, we were back to days with more than 1,000 new cases each. 

Israel is in the same boat, if not worse. In mid-August, active cases of COVID-19 rose above 50,000, after sitting at around 200 just a couple months ago, according to the Times of Israel.  

This all means it’s time to raise the COVID-19 alarm again. And yet, we’ve had it. 

Exhaustion presents itself in different ways. I’m fully vaccinated, but did I belong out to dinner the other day? Who even knows anymore? 

And when I saw my waitress had her mask beneath her nose, instead of over it, should I have said something right away? I didn’t. I feel like 2020 pandemic Rob would have stood on the table and given a big speech about mask wearing.  

I’m sure many of you feel like I do. My sense is the only way to get past our pandemic fatigue is to see it. We can’t get around it. We must walk through it. This is our reality. We must meet the challenge. 

Meeting the challenge means we accept the latest advice from the experts, even though it changes as the pandemic changes. And when the experts aren’t sure yet, we do our best with that. We push through and carry on.  

“It is time to say it out loud: the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away,” Foreign Affairs magazine tells us, in their summer issue. “Rather than die out, the virus will likely ping-pong back and forth across the globe for years to come. Some of yesterday’s success stories are now vulnerable to serious outbreaks.” 

Maybe that’s true, but pandemic opinions are like Talmudic opinions. I’m sure I can find you more.  

This much, however, is indisputable: The Jewish people have plenty of experience with meeting challenges. We can do this.  

Our tradition tells us that all of Israel are responsible for each other. Our community is strong and resilient.  

We can’t see very far up ahead, but we can know that together, we can scale this mountain, too. 

Rob Golub is editor of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.