Though images of family gatherings and crowded beaches have returned for Memorial Day weekend, a clinical psychologist told CNN that many people may still be dealing with emotional effects from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Whether it’s someone they know that has Covid or someone that they know that died or friends who talked about it or just seeing it in the media, all of those things caused everyone some sort of trauma,” Dr Jeff Gardere told CNN’s, Pamela Brown. “Covid has changed our lives.”
According to the TSA, nearly 2 million people travelled through airports at the start of this holiday weekend, a new high for the pandemic. Summer revellers flocked to beaches like Miami Beach and Santa Monica this weekend, with 50% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“It’s a whole year of staying indoors, and now you come outside everybody is out riding their bikes, jogging, exercising, partying,” KerryAnn McGregor, a Miami Beach visitor, told CNN. “It’s OK now.”
Making the transition to a more normal life after going from the disruption of isolation and masking to the overwhelming effort of mass vaccination may not be easy for everyone, according to Gardere.
“We had gotten ourselves into a very safe bubble … But now it kind of feels like the rug was pulled out from under our feet — doesn’t it — for people who are quite fearful of returning to the workplace, back to school,” he said. “People are having anxiety.”
Instead of avoiding anxiety, Gardere recommends confronting it with healthy coping mechanisms such as meditation, breathing, peer support, and counselling.
“Each day you confront that anxiety, the better off you will be,” he said.
This year’s Memorial Day beach gatherings aren’t as concerning to health experts as last year’s.
People who are fully vaccinated and in good health “should feel very well protected,” according to CNN medical analyst Dr Leana Wen.
The high vaccination rate has resulted in a decrease in cases among those who have been vaccinated. However, the risk of large gatherings remains high for those who have not been inoculated because “the virus has fewer places to go,” according to Wen.
“We do have more transmissible variants, and unfortunately those individuals who don’t have immunity are not protected from these variants that can wreak a lot of havoc,” Wen explained.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber expressed concern about the influx of tourists this Memorial Day weekend.
One of the issues, according to Gelber, is that “We’re one of the few open, but we’re also a very appealing location. Simply put, there are too many people coming.”
“The virus is still here,” he reminded everyone when speaking with CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Friday. “The volume of people that have been coming here is very unprecedented, and some who are coming are looking to sort of act out.”
Over the long weekend, the mayor said, there will be “an enormous saturation of police officers” on patrol.
Experts are focusing their efforts on determining the virus’s origin, despite the relief of high vaccination rates and declining infections.
The virus was most likely transmitted from an animal, according to experts. However, after a US intelligence report revealed that several researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became ill in November 2019, former FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb said last week that there is “growing circumstantial evidence” that Covid-19 originated in a lab.
At the time, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian dismissed the report, accusing the US of “hyping up the lab leak theory.”
“Through field visits and in-depth visits in China, the experts unanimously agreed that the allegation of lab leaking is extremely unlikely,” Zhao said.
According to Wen, the Chinese government has not been transparent on this issue, but it is critical that the international community get to the bottom of it.
On CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday, Gottlieb stated that the scientific community may never know the exact origin.
“Unless we get very lucky and we either find the intermediate host, we find a colony of civic cats or pangolins where this is epidemic and it could have first spilt over into humans, or we have a whistleblower in China or regime change — which we’re not going to have — I don’t know that we’re going to find out with certainty that this came out of a lab,” said Gottlieb.
“I think we’re going to ultimately come up with an assessment and a probability on whether this came out of a lab versus a zoonotic source,” he said.
Dr Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that knowing the origin is “essential.”
Following the original SARS epidemic and the MERS epidemic, Hotez explained that the Covid-19 pandemic is the century’s third major coronavirus epidemic.
“Mother Nature’s telling us what’s going to happen,” Hotez said. “There’s going to be Covid-26 and Covid-32 unless we fully understand the origins of Covid-19, and this is critical and what’s needed.”