At the start of the pandemic, there was minimal information surrounding COVID-19, leading to confusion around the safety precautions necessary to protect ourselves from the virus. As a solution, people became more aware of their cleaning habits and developed new sanitary practices that will stay with us for years beyond the end of the pandemic.
On our last day of school last March, I remember seeing only a handful of students wearing masks and hearing students talk about how the virus spreads or how long we would be away from school. In the days leading up to the lockdown, I had terrible allergies, and I would sneeze during our class discussions — about COVID-19 — and feel afraid that I might alarm my peers.
When I left my house for the last time before the lockdown, I went to the grocery store wearing a surgical mask and latex gloves, avoiding touching any public surfaces. Even though there were only a handful of cases in our county at the time, my family and I didn’t want to take any risks.
Early on in the pandemic, people would disinfect all of their grocery items with Clorox wipes, apprehensive about contracting the virus from the products’ surfaces. My family used to leave our Amazon packages and our non-perishable grocery items in our garage to let possible traces of the virus die, until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that there is a low risk of contracting COVID-19 through contact with packages. Although we no longer disinfect our products, we’ve learned to recognize how many other people have touched these products before us and are sure to sanitize hands after leaving a store or any public area.
As time passed, wearing masks and sanitizing our hands became a normal part of our routines. Before last March, I never considered washing my wrists, but living through a pandemic has made me more aware of how quickly germs spread and what I can do to prevent myself from getting sick. Even though more and more people are getting vaccinated, I plan on continuing to wear my mask for the foreseeable future. I’ve gotten so used to only showing half of my face and double masking when I’m near large groups, that I can’t imagine going back to the “old normal”.
Now, I am a lot more attentive to what I’m touching, from door handles to crosswalk buttons, not out of fear of getting the virus, but to be more sanitary in general. In a few years, when we are completely back in school, I won’t be going to school if I ever feel even the slightest bit under the weather, now knowing how fast a sickness can spread. The pandemic hasn’t necessarily turned us into germaphobes, but it’s given us insight on how to live more sanitary lives and it has taught us practices we can use to keep ourselves healthy in the future.