Not long ago, it seemed the solution to the COVID-19 pandemic was simple in concept, but daunting in execution. Wear masks, socially distance and wait for a vaccine that could be years away.

Now, with very effective vaccines widely available, we struggle with variants from across the globe that are more contagious than the original bug. We see unanticipated complications in young people, and we see long-lasting aftereffects among adults who have survived the virus’ initial ravages—the long haulers.

As this pandemic’s onion-like nature leaves increasing layers of questions in place of solid core answers, one thing is clear. Our lives have forever changed.

Much like universal precautions in the wake of the AIDS/HIV threat of the 1980s and ‘90s, and the unceasing travel and security precautions in place since the terrorist attacks of 2001, it appears that COVID-19 will have lasting effects on how we congregate, eat, greet, travel and socialize.

Likely gone forever are the handshake, the casual greeting hug-and-kiss, the incredible energy of the large close crowds at ballgames, concerts, weddings and other celebrations.

Likely here to stay are social distancing, ubiquitous hand sanitizer, tests and temperature checks, plexiglass everywhere.

We’ll get used to it. Many of us already have. We’ll vaccinate, separate and hibernate when we need to. We’ll become more alert to the risks, but also more relaxed and rational with them.

Still, the politics will continue to swirl and, in fact already are. As a slightly less intense feud about vaccination and vaccine passports begins to displace the divisive mask-wearing culture war, the presence of viable vaccines seems to be slowly softening the conflict.

In spite of that, the state of affairs is sure to ebb and flow as the pandemic continues to serve as a proxy in the Red vs. Blue politico-cultural war that continues rage.

In the end analysis, there is hope for a more unified approach to fighting this virus and overcoming its ravages, so long as we all realize we are in it for the long haul.

If we can separate the pandemic from politics and realize that when it comes to COVID we are all long haulers, there is reason to believe we can come together with sensible compromises and policies that help obviate the political obstacles to finding a common cause in tacking the pandemic.