Oliver: Until all of us take this pandemic seriously, none of us can go back to ‘normal’

Here we go again. After almost two years of dealing with the effects of a global pandemic, many things have been said. I know I’ve said some, but I feel the need to revisit the subject once more.

Every time we think we’ve rounded a corner and are headed in the direction of “normal,” something happens to derail us.

This time it’s the omicron variant of COVID-19. This one is highly contagious, which a lot of people have found out the hard way, as case counts skyrocket around the U.S. and even here in McHenry County.

Meanwhile, our area hospitals are facing a deluge of people who are seeking help, to the point that there are very few beds left for anyone else.

This is exactly what we were warned about at the beginning of the pandemic. That was back when there really wasn’t anything anyone could do about getting sick, short of holing up in one’s home and having no contact with anyone.

I can attest to the fact that this strategy is effective. However, it really isn’t one that is sustainable over the long haul for most people. After all, we aren’t made to be hermits, and isolation truly does take a toll on one’s psyche.

Hope came in the form of vaccines that were made widely available and were provided without cost. You’d think that fact alone would have had more people willing to roll up their sleeves.

Those of us who are on the older side or who have pre-existing conditions jumped at the chance. A short period of feeling icky in exchange for not dying if infected with COVID-19? That seemed like a pretty good tradeoff.

By now, it’s safe to say that very few people have had the adverse reactions that those who oppose vaccination said we all would. Instead, we’re seeing that those who are dying mostly are those who have not been vaccinated or those who did not receive a full two-dose vaccination and a booster.

It’s hard to believe that people still compare COVID-19 to the flu or the common cold. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anyone I know or who I know through friends or family who have died from the flu. And that’s over a 50-year period.

This past weekend, I went to another Zoom funeral for someone that I know personally who died from COVID-19. I’ve had friends lose parents and friends lose spouses, and it’s heartbreaking every time. That’s not to mention the friends who have been in and out of the hospital because they needed help to breathe.

Granted, not everyone who contracts COVID-19 has such a dire outcome. A lot of people test positive and have no symptoms at all. That’s one of the most frustrating things about this pandemic.

None of us likes to have our “normal” life infringed upon, yet those in health care are being asked to deal with conditions as bad or worse than they were at the beginning of the pandemic. No wonder so many of them are dealing with burnout and quitting.

Is it fair that we’ve asked them to do that, all because some of us think that getting a shot infringes on one’s liberties?

This ultra-contagious variant, which wreaked havoc on holiday travel, no doubt will mean that restaurants, stores and other services we count on won’t be available when staff members are forced to stay home because they’re sick or testing positive.

If the virus is allowed to continue circulating freely because so many people refuse to take it seriously, there’s no telling what other variants will be coming along. Will the next one be not only more contagious but make people sicker? Will the vaccines we now have stop working?

I, for one, don’t want to find out. No doubt you don’t either.

Please get vaccinated.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.