What’s especially pertinent to this anecdote? New York City has no general indoor mask mandate currently in force. Nor does it require social distancing. All the above nonsense is voluntary — the great and the good going overboard to seem even greater and gooder. The Grand Neurosis that gripped the Big Apple in 2020 is showing the sharpness of its talons.
For at least in New York, hypochondriacal hysteria seems here to stay. Sure enough, even the co-op board of my parents’ apartment building, where family gathered before the service, has not got the metropolitan message about elective indoor masks. In order to traverse the 30ft from the front door to the lift you have to mask up, or suffer the doorman’s disgusted rebuke. Only two people are allowed in the lift at one time, although the city has also ditched capacity limits. Inside the lift, we were still provided a handy sanitiser station, as pretty much nobody has absorbed the quiet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory that fomites are a Covid transmission vector in only about one in 10,000 cases. This building houses a large elderly cohort, and I can’t see their casting aside any of these superstitious rituals anytime soon — if ever.
In both the US and the UK, loads of institutions, universities and employers have taken the public health crusade into their own hands, continuing to enforce strict, often scientifically senseless ‘Covid security’ regulations that the law does not require. I’ve a sick feeling this internalised psychosis makes both governments perfectly happy.
One shock of this whole Covid fiasco has been how readily authorities can summon a formerly alien, even repulsive set of cultural norms by instilling widespread fear. When sharing memories at my father’s memorial, I was disheartened to look out on dismally isolated clumps of mourners anonymised by facial swaddling. My father deserved better, and so did his friends and family. But there will be many more such oppressive convocations before any of these protocols are rescinded.
And will they ever be rescinded? It was astonishingly easy for officialdom to manifest a whole new rancid, anti-social ethos. It may prove far harder to make the Grand Neurosis go away.
For some, there’s little value in a vaccine against a disease they have already recovered from, even as new variants develop. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that by May, 120 million Americans of all ages (35% of the population) had already been infected with SARS-CoV-2. New data  shows natural immunity is six to 13 times  more protective against emerging variants than vaccines.
Friend: “Be safe”
Me: “Enjoy life”