Keep safety in mind, despite the reopenings

We here at the Lanthorn have written a lot about the pandemic over this academic year; the university imposing safety guidelines, students struggling to follow those rules, the times that we’ve succeeded at keeping each other healthy, and the development and rollout of several safe, effective vaccines. 

Looking back at our archives, we can track GVSU’s tumultuous journey through the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s not over, and there are still dangers people need to consider when socializing, shopping and dining. 

Maybe the most relevant of those potential dangers is the reopening of businesses and the relaxation of safety protocols in Michigan, and the rest of the country; like the return of indoor dining. This is a little disquieting since it seems to ignore the pattern of reopenings, closings, and subsequent reopenings that have been impacting small business owners across the United States. The previous administration’s drive to reopen the economy without a clear plan helped spread the disease, but it also hurt restaurants and retailers as they were encouraged to start-up, shut down, and start up again. 

But the previous times states reopened, saw a rise in cases, and subsequently closed were before the government had started to distribute multiple different vaccines. However, the existence and the promise of the vaccine doesn’t matter if employees don’t have access to it and will still be in as much danger as they were before. 

Only 2% of the US population has received both doses of the vaccine; and 285,279 people in Michigan have received the full treatment, which is only about 1% of our prioritized population, which includes adults over 75 years of age, school and childcare staff and front-line essential workers and varies from county to county and institution to institution. 

So, while you might feel like it’s safe to return to normal– likely because someone in a position of authority has said that, or implied it– it is still important to limit participation in in-person social engagements and refrain from going inside crowded indoor spaces, especially if you’re a consumer or a customer. Because even if you have been treated with the vaccine, it’s likely that the people who are serving you food or ringing up your purchases don’t have access to it. 

While the reopening of indoor dining and the relaxation of restrictions pushes us a step toward normalcy, little has actually changed. Those who are serving staff at restaurants or cashiers at stores – the low-income workers – are exposed to the same danger from largely unvaccinated customers as they were before. 

If anything, this step returns these disparaged workers to the risk they’ve faced throughout the pandemic, if not more. In the next few months, it will be important to support local businesses safely, like continuing to opt for contactless pickup and delivery, and other methods that keep workers and customers safe.