Ah, remember those days of late summer when, not only was the sun beaming down on this soggy corner of the country, it also felt like we were emerging into that sunshine from a COVID-19 cave in which we had all been entrapped for nearly 18 months? Well, welcome back to the cave.

Maybe.

Dubbed omicron, a new coronavirus variant has emerged in South Africa. Medical scientists, vaccine manufacturers and world-health officials are scrambling to gather information about this new variant because it contains multiple mutations that could make it easier to transmit and, perhaps, more able to bypass both natural antibodies and the defenses provided by vaccines.

Biden administration pandemic specialists are cautioning against undue panic. They point out that the world is far better prepared to deal with a new coronavirus strain than was the case two years ago. Another round of booster shots or a quick reconfiguration of the vaccine recipes may quickly head off this new threat.

Nevertheless, the appearance of a pesky new variant is a reminder that a return to normal — life as it was before COVID-19 — is still out of reach. In truth, we may never go back to things exactly as they were. The good news is that we now have medical weapons to fight off this deadly virus. The bad news is that the viral enemy is resilient and persistent.

The new normal may be a protracted war with many battles yet to come.

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