Social workers, please note: the pandemic is NOT over!

March 14, 2021

An extraordinary number of messages suggesting, in effect, that “COVID is over!,” are suddenly saturating popular culture. Inducements to celebration seems to be coming from all sides – news stories along the lines of “looking back on the year of the pandemic,” advertisements touting all the opportunities to “break out of seclusion,” formal government pronouncements lifting mask mandates and restrictions on commerce (even a cautiously optimistic President Biden this week encouraged the nation to look forward to July 4 barbecues), and, perhaps most significant of all, dramatic shifts in mass behavior, i.e. ordinary folks simply acting as if the dreary and oppressive pandemic days are done. Back to normal at last; hooray!

Alas, the liberation mindset is in fact delusional, and it’s all too likely that the nation will once more pay a heavy price for its fantasies of safety from a biological antagonist it has only begun to understand. At present only 10% of the population (Mississippi tracks the nation rather exactly in this regard) has been full vaccinated, and vaccine distribution and vaccination rollouts continue to be problematic. The incidence of new COVID cases, while indeed generally on the decline, remains higher than the peak of summer 2020, with the daily U.S. death rate still running in the thousands. Most alarming is that new strains of the virus are appearing across the country, accompanied by scientific uncertainty regarding their potency and the effectiveness of available vaccines to protect against them.

Social workers connect with vulnerable clients and populations every day, and our first priority is their well-being, beginning with physical health. So let’s stay smart. Hold fast to evidence-based practice for the protection of self and others. We will eventually see COVID in the rear view mirror, but certainly not by pretending we’ve already sped past the continuing threat it poses.

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