The litany of COVID-19’s curtailments is long. In-person schools and offices, the freedom to visit friends and family at will, and indoor gatherings of many types rank high, among many others. These share a tantalizing commonality: If the virus ever subsides, we can get past them and resume a semblance of former lifestyles. 

The PAC-12 added to the losses list by canceling the season of college football and other fall sports. The widely expected decision showed how farsighted planning must be to even contemplate a post-COVID-19 life: months, not weeks. This year’s Apple Cup is gone. So are other widely watched events for Huskies and Cougars alike, at least until January.

The pandemic and its costs have been needlessly prolonged by several factors: the botched federal response, resistance to protective measures and casual departures in discipline. Businesses that disregard state mask mandates and distancing share the blame. So do masses of fraternity members who congregate for maskless beers, and politicians who dismiss and undercut mask-wearing.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Rigorous, responsible and self-enforced protective efforts by everyone could bring a semblance of normal life back within weeks. 

That’s science talking, not just wishful thinking. The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study July 29 assessing the potential reopening of America’s elementary schools. Its examination of successful global efforts pegged significant pandemic suppression to “less than two months” of “stringent community control measures” — that is, everyone in a mask and nonessential indoor spaces shut down for a short, difficult period. 

“If such measures were adopted now, transmission in many states could probably be reduced to safe levels for mid-September or early-October school reopenings,” wrote the paper’s authors, researchers from Harvard University and the United Kingdom. 


Weeks later “such measures” are not uniformly required. The medicine is hard to take. Masks aren’t comfortable, and shuttered businesses don’t make money. But look around — the series of closures and re-closures now extends months ahead. And as long as the infection rate stubbornly rises again after each dip, this ordeal will endure. Children will likely be home from school for long months. Perhaps a vaccine will be discovered. If so, testing, distribution and mass inoculation will require still more time. 

Don’t wait. Help now and act responsibly and vigilantly.

“Where we see the transmissions occur are when we let our hair down and have a good time with our friends,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday on TVW, where he has now delivered more than 50 televised COVID-19 updates.

To get normal life back, exercise extraordinary discipline in the near term. The PAC-12’s athletic directors just showed what the alternative looks like: months until there’s any hope of return. 

Mask up, and stay socially distant. It hurts, but it’s the way.