Opinion: Life after COVID crisis won’t be just the same

Life after the Spanish flu pandemic that killed tens of millions in the late teens and early ’20s of the last century was never quite the same as before.


Some public health measures, like mass vaccinations, became normalized. New health and cleanliness standards were imposed on restaurants and other businesses. So it would be grossly unrealistic to expect no changes as the COVID-19 pandemic that has plagued the last two year shifts gradually to an endemic ailment that we deal with regularly and not with crash programs and emergency tactics.


One change that figures to be permanent is the relocation of millions of workers, in California and elsewhere, away from office buildings and into home offices. That has already opened up billions of square feet of vacant office space that could be turned into housing far more quickly and economically than new construction.


So the solution to both homelessness and the shortage of affordable housing is upon us and beginning to happen, even if Gov. Gavin Newsom and a California Legislature largely funded by developers studiously ignores it.


Another likely permanent change: Even though it won’t be compulsory in many places, count on grocery stores, gyms, theaters and other privately owned public places to require or recommend that the unvaccinated populace (at least) wear masks for the indefinite future, with the most health-conscious among us gladly going along.


State, county and city masking requirements have already been eliminated or eased considerably, partly the indirect consequence of Newsom and mayors Eric Garcetti and London Breed of Los Angeles and San Francisco getting videotaped maskless in a skybox during a January professional football playoff game in Inglewood.


Expect masking in schools to disappear gradually, and figure on vaccinations remaining a major political issue. They already were before COVID appeared; the virus accentuated the conflict as millions claimed enforced vaccinations infringe on basic freedoms.


Those who make those claims, of course, are essentially saying they have the right to infect everyone around them for the sake of their own momentary comfort, as COVID can be passed on even by persons who exhibit no symptoms of the disease. If anyone dies as a consequence of their refusals – and many already have – that makes some refusers little more than premeditated murderers, as by now most know the possible consequences of their failure to mask or vaxx.


All this has led to a vast expansion of the anti-vaccination movement which opposed compulsory inoculations of schoolchildren long before anyone heard of the coronavirus or its Greek-lettered variants like Delta and Omicron.


So it’s highly likely California will for the foreseeable future be a vaccine battleground even more intense than it was before the pandemic.


At that time, all the way back in 2019, anti-vaccine protesters were being arrested regularly for various forms of disorderly conduct and some even assaulted a state legislator.


That was Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, who authored two state laws that make it far more difficult for anti-vaxxers to claim religious-belief exemptions to shoehorn their children into schools, public and private, without getting shots protecting against threats like smallpox, rubella and whooping cough.


Pan was beaten up while walking on a sidewalk in his own district, not far from the state Capitol.


Undeterred, Pan — also a pediatrician — now is sponsoring a bill to add COVID immunizations to the list required before kids can attend school.


“The vaccination requirement is a cornerstone to keeping schools open and safe,” Pan told a reporter. “This vaccine has proven to be safe and effective.”


Pan also authored a bill clamping down on doctors who made a cottage industry of providing medical excuses for children of anti-vaxxers, often without actually seeing the kids involved. It’s likely only a matter of time before he or others promote and pass a bill tightening up on Internet clergy who now sell religious-exemption statements against COVID inoculations to ani-vaxx parents and public employees they’ve never met.


All of which means some of the pandemic’s changes, including several that have not yet completely played out, will become permanent, while others will remain matters of fiery dispute for years to come.


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Email Thomas Elias at tdelias@aol.com. His book, “The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It” is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit www.californiafocus.net.