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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

To understand COVID-19 better, maybe we should think of it as a storm

I’ve been trying to figure out some kind of unifying theory to make sense of how we should deal with the waves of COVID-19 that we’re dealing with now and probably for a good while longer.

It feels to me like none of the extreme positions on COVID make much sense. It’s foolish beyond belief to blow off COVID as some minor threat. Nearly five and a half million people have died from it – more than 830,000 in the United States alone. Kids will be reading about this in history books 100 years from now. It’s not just a freaking cold.

But in its current form, if you’re vaccinated and boosted, it’s not the same threat it once was. I can understand the fear of people who want to lock things back down every time there’s a surge in cases. But we have to come up with some way to calibrate the proper level of caution.

Maybe we should think about COVID the way we think about hurricanes.

The first strain of COVID was a Category 5 – Hurricane Katrina but on a global scale. It killed the cautious and the reckless alike. The best you could do was board up your house and hope that it didn’t hit you.

The current omicron variant is more like a tropical storm. It’s still dangerous and can still be deadly, especially for the unprepared. But if you take precautions, it’s less likely to be a disaster.

There have always been people who believe they can ride out any storm. They’re the ones you see every time the Weather Channel is out on the coast somewhere, interviewing some doofus who thinks he’s invincible. They’re the ones you see these days protesting in some Burger King because you have to wear a mask to order a Whopper.

But even for the rest of us, there are so many variables that it’s not clear at any moment what we should and shouldn’t do. It would help to have some sort of threat level, paired with a set of instructions. Is this strain of COVID a Category 3? Maybe we go back to wearing masks indoors, but still send kids to school. Whatever the doctors and scientists think makes the most sense.

Of course, there is one big difference between the pandemic and a hurricane. Hurricanes aren’t contagious. There aren’t any conspiracy theorists who think hurricanes aren’t real, or anti-evacuators who mock people leaving for safer ground.

COVID is not just an act of God or fate. It’s something where each of us can act in a way that tries to protect our fellow human beings. Those who refuse to do that turn themselves into storms.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs Mondays on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.