As I look at the calendar, I realize it has been roughly a year since the world turned upside down. April of 2020 was only 12 months ago and yet it seems like we’ve lived a couple of lifetimes over this span. As I write this, we’ve lost some 560,800 Americans to Covid-19. We’re tops in the world, but this is not a category to boast about. More than anything it is a sign of our dysfunction, a hard reminder that freedom without a responsibility can be a brutal thing.
Over half a million dead and one thing we don’t get to do a year out is assume that it was inevitable, that it was somehow unavoidable. I can’t say what the numbers might be today had we reacted better because history doesn’t tell us what its alternatives might have been. But I can’t escape the thought too many died in the name of ignoring science and blowing off the experts.
Yet despite this hard and brutal year, there is some sliver of light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are rolling out, however haltingly, so that people will have a greater degree of protection. Right now infections are leveling in some places but we still have to remain vigilant because they’re rising in others. That will be hard to do because we’re tired of masks and social distancing and everything else that has been part of everyday life for the past year.
There is no way to know what lies ahead, but we have to be ready. Some see a major surge in cases here in the coming weeks, citing what’s been happening in Europe right now and a pattern that suggests that they’re generally a few weeks ahead of us in terms of how things play out. I hope they’re wrong, but the pattern has been pretty consistent.
Even with the vaccine, until many more are vaccinated and we know more, it is still necessary to use masks and practice social distancing because these vaccines, regardless of which one we get, are not a 100 percent guarantee against infection.
Vaccines make infections less severe should we get sick, cutting down on hospitalizations and deaths. I don’t know how many will ultimately get vaccinated, but I encourage everyone who can to do so because that will get us to the end of this pandemic much faster.
This matters because spring is here and our parks and basketball courts and playing fields will be filled with people in close proximity to each other. The more people who are vaccinated the better, because as difficult as it was to get people to wear masks last spring, it will be nearly impossible this time around.
Such is the dilemma of public officials and health officials as they balance people’s desire to get back to normal against the potential risks and dangers we’ve all been living with for the past 12 months.
A year out, I think it is remarkable that we have not one, but three vaccines against this virus. In the terror that was April 2020 if you would have told me that we would have three vaccines, all with a high degree of effectiveness against this virus, I would have thought it impossible.
A year later, I am grateful to the people who used their energies and talents and powers to fashion a weapon we can fight with and rather than hold them in contempt, I hope more of us will take advantage of what we’ve been given.
If we do this right, the spring and summer of 2021 will be a time when we move slowly toward some sense of normal, though we’ll never be the same. It’s been a long year.