After pandemic wanes, emotional effects remain

“A lot of us are expecting to get out into the world now that things are a little bit better and feel joy. But it turns out that when things start feeling better, people don't necessarily immediately feel better themselves,” says Ed Yong. Photo by Shutterstock.

The worst days of the pandemic appear to be over in the U.S., and a lot of us are trying to return to some semblance of normalcy. But the sum total of these past 14 months is astonishing: Nearly 600,000 Americans died, more than 33 million were infected, and our way of life was totally upended.

Now with the constant fear of infection melting away, we should feel relief, excitement and joy. But that’s just not happening for some people, or maybe for most of us.

“A lot of people crumble. … As things become a bit safer and calmer, it's not that people are just going to snap back to how they lived in 2019,” says the Atlantic writer Ed Yong. “A lot of what they'll have to do now involves once again re-establishing their sense of what is dangerous, what is safe, what is the right way to live in the world.”