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Let's Hang In There, Just A Little Bit Longer | Community Voices Commentary

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Robert Smith

Originally aired March 26, 2021.

The following is a commentary from Dr. Robert Smith, Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Illinois Springfield.  

As I prepare this commentary President Joe Biden just delivered a reflective talk to the nation about where things stand one year into the COVID 19 pandemic.  It gave me hope, not because Biden is a Democrat or had just signed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, but because our President said we’re “getting there” and by May 1 all citizens over 18 will be eligible for vaccines and he even spoke about hope for normalcy by July 1. And yes, I believe him.

But he also reminded us that we still need to be diligent, still need to embrace safety precautions, practice social distancing and wear masks. And again, I believe him.

Why should I believe him or why should you believe him? I believe him because I look around at my neighbors, colleagues, students and friends and everyday acquaintances and I see and sense something that has been absent for a year or more. I see hope…a sigh of relief…a breath of fresh air…a sense of direction. It’s hard to quantify. I don’t know…maybe it’s just spring fever…but I think it’s something more.

Yes, the Pandemic is still with us, 530,000 Americans have now died, distribution of vaccines is uneven, states have opened…then closed… then opened again, the economy is only slowly coming back to life, political divides are still there (like who voted for or against relief—really does matter), dribble…is promoted as news, gunshots have been heard around our own Capital City, and now even the British royal family is in turmoil.

But despite all that something seems different. The President’s talk acknowledged the best in us, and highlighted American resiliency and ingenuity and faith even in the worst of times. He asked us to join him and be realistic and care about each other.  I suppose it was something I just needed to hear and maybe it’s something we all need to hear. Maybe it’s simply finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Indeed…the weather is warmer, vaccines are becoming more available every single day, COVID restrictions are easing, $1.9 trillion is on its way to help us pay rent, buy groceries, meet day to day expenses, save our small businesses, our towns and cities, and schools and universities! Goodness… friends are even making future vacation plans, and most important baseball will start next month!!

But, I’m not ready to start the party just yet. Why? It’s because the President said we still need to be cautious. And I believe him.

Science and doctors and public health officials suggest the same type of caution. If we managed a full year (or more) with COVID restrictions can’t we hang in there for just a little bit more? Let’s make sure we wait until most citizens are vaccinated, continue to practice social distancing when we can, and wear masks as needed and allow the summer weather, fresh air and outdoor activities to kick in.

I realize we all want to get back to normal, visit relatives and friends, hug and kiss loved ones, and get back to our normal routines at home, school or work…but can’t we postpone some of that until July sometime? For young people this is especially hard and everyone recognizes you’ve missed a lot, but can’t a Spring Break become a summer break? All large gatherings for conferences, movies, concerts, and sports events can still be enjoyed in July or August…can’t they?

Those additional months of caution may be all we need to beat the pandemic for good. For spring can we all just hang in there until the middle or end of summer? The same health precautions seem warranted through then.

These days I realize it’s hard to believe in anyone or anything, especially in government or politics. But at some point in some way we need to believe in something or somebody! I believe the President and our health officials…I hope you can too.

Let’s be extra safe through Spring and early summer, follow the guidelines, get vaccinated…and at minimum…believe in yourself...for the sake of all of us.

Robert W. Smith, Ph.D.

Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
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