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Column: A different week after a summer of normal
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

At the start of this summer, I wrote about how “normal is beginning to sink in.”

Now, at the end of summer, it seems we’re in a tug of war to keep that normal, and we’re losing. We published a political cartoon earlier this week that captured it pretty well: 2021 depicted as a man being yanked back into the dark doorway of 2020.

Last week’s editorial addressed why you should seriously consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t yet, so I’m not going to get into that here.

But after a summer of normal — going out to eat with my kids, enrolling them in indoor activities, working at the office daily — this past week has been different.

I worried about whether we should still go eat brunch like we planned. We did.

I worried about the kids finishing out their indoor ninja classes. They did.

I wondered whether I should wear my mask at the office. I didn’t.

I may make other choices in another week’s time.

I did wear my mask at the grocery store and in the doctor’s office picking up kindergarten paperwork. I rummaged around in drawers trying to figure out where in the world the rest of my masks went as well as those of my kids.

I read about whether the delta variant is more dangerous and couldn’t find clear answers among the many sources. I asked one of our reporters to work on a piece about the dangers it may or may not pose to children (look for that next week).

I talked with my family about my sister’s upcoming wedding and whether delta is trying to ruin it. 

And I watched those numbers in the hospital go up and up and up. The health system is still far off from the peaks of last year, but the numbers have climbed rapidly.

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote about my hopes moving forward past COVID: deeper connections and relationships, going to in-person celebrations, taking a rest when we need it. Delta doesn’t feel like quite the threat COVID did this time last year — I’ve got a shield of protection now. But it is threatening some of my hopes for moving forward. I’ve got concert tickets later this fall. Will the concert get canceled? Kids start school next week. Will they have to quarantine or go virtual again?

I vaguely remember the intense workload of spring and summer 2020. While it seemed everyone else went home and found extra time, I was clearing out space in my house to work and publish story after story about COVID, often rewriting them several times as information changed. This past week has reminded me of that. And I really don’t want to do it again. I will, of course, but I don’t want to. I imagine many health care workers feel a similar, albeit more intense, feeling of dread and exhaustion just thinking about the possibility of returning to peak COVID cases.

At this point, I just hope to discover my worries are unnecessary — the risk of severe COVID in children was low and that risk also appears low in vaccinated adults, though it’s not as low as zero. I hope those risks remain low for the delta variant.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for the summer we got. Before we stare down another day of COVID update after COVID update on gainesvilletimes.com, let’s look back at the happy, but brief summer in the sun. 

I wrote at the beginning of summer about how we chose to keep our boys home. It has been an adventure.

They recently returned home from the neighbors covered head to toe in mud. They spent a week at a lakeside cabin with their dad and my mother-in-law, practicing their swimming and going bowling. 

We all went to the beach, including eating out at beachside restaurants this time. 

They watched fireworks and ate cotton candy, pushing their way through crowds at a July Fourth event. They made a neighborhood lemonade stand, and even turned a profit.

They played in the lake at Beach Bash with their friends. I told them they could put their feet in, and soon they were in chest high. 

They recorded books they read from the library and got prizes. They played putt-putt in the blazing hot sun and then cooled off in a mountain lake.

Honestly, there was more I had hoped to do — more time in the mountains, more time with family — but somehow summer is almost over. 

I hope there is a safe vaccine for kids soon. I hope school classrooms will be safe. I hope the vaccines will continue to provide protection against COVID variants. I hope people make good choices out of kindness and love for themselves and their neighbors. I hope all the good normal stuff doesn’t become a faint memory yet again.


Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident.

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