‘Grateful to see people’s smiles again’: DC-area residents living life differently in post-COVID world

The World Health Organization says COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency. But in a post-pandemic world, many D.C. area residents are living life in different ways.

WTOP spoke to people in the D.C. region to see their level of concern is surrounding COVID-19 and to see what precautions—if any—people are still taking.

“Personally, my level of concern is very low as a relatively healthy individual who has had it multiple times and been OK,” said D.C.-native Emerson Howells.

Howells, who is in his 20s and vaccinated, told WTOP he feels like things have been “back to normal” for some time, but also added that he still makes it a goal to be respectful of everyone’s comfort level.

“I operate in the workplace or among friends at the level that the most concerned person in the room might need,” he said. “If someone is more comfortable with me wearing a mask, then I’ll wear a mask. But short of that, I don’t feel like I need to.”

“I’m seeing things go back to normal, but I still think it’s important to respect other peoples’ decisions,” Howells added.

“I’m asking people if they would like me to wear a mask, and if they say yes, I do. I carry one with me all the time just in case,” chimed in Kim Irish, who says she and many of her middle-aged friends aren’t taking a lot of precautions right now. However, she added that they also want to be cognizant of people’s perceived safety, because the disease is still out there.

Irish told WTOP she got the COVID vaccine and boosters, but knows others in her life who didn’t and won’t.

“I know some people who have operated on a much lower level of caution for a very long time, which is disheartening to me, but at the same time, I have to respect their choices,” she said.

“I’m just really grateful to see people’s smiles again,” Irish added.

There are also those who say they still need to take more precautions than others sometimes if the situation demands it.

“I visit a friend who is still housebound because of COVID, and we wear masks and sit apart when I go over,” said Izzy Kovach, who was out in D.C. with her husband Mark on Thursday.

The couple said they have some older friends, and while they aren’t taking many precautions right now, the pair are very aware of spreading the disease to others they know—and those they don’t.

“We’re traveling today. I took a COVID test. I don’t want to get anyone else sick,” Izzy said.

Mark added that they hope people learned from COVID-19 and that the world is “better prepared” for the next pandemic, if there is one. That said, he says he’s happy to live normally again.

“I got all the vaccinations, I got all the boosters,” he told WTOP. “Right now, I’m considering it’s over.”

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Matt Kaufax

A Northern Virginia native who grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, Matt is thrilled to be back home in the D.C. metro area covering news for a station he grew up listening to. Keeping the community he calls home informed about the day's events is something he considers an honor and privilege.

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