Today is my Pandemiversary. One year ago today I knew that everything had changed and I was fairly certain there would be no going back. Even very early on, I was working through my emotions trying to set up a pandemic life I could be happy inside for a year or more. I cried for losses before many people knew there were losses. A year ago today WHO officially declared SARS-CoV-2 (Covid 19) to be a pandemic, Disneyland closed its doors, the NBA called off March Madness, and church meetings were canceled. Prior to this day last year I lived in a world where none of those things seemed possible, then suddenly I lived in a world where they were real. In the evening I made a quick run to the grocery store to pick up bread and felt the urgency and panic in my fellow shoppers. Did I even have a mask at that point? I can’t remember. We all stood in a long line, six feet apart, made anxious by the shelves picked bare. It would be months before supply chains adapted and the shelves were re-stocked again.
Yesterday Howard got his first dose of Covid-19 vaccine. The fact of that is a testament to scientists, lab workers, and manufacturers who, without taking any risky short cuts, pushed this vaccine into existence twice as fast as we believed possible. I scheduled the appointment the very day that he became eligible. Him being vaccinated reduces our load of fear because he was the most vulnerable of my household. We know that even after vaccination we need to be responsible for reducing risks to others. Our behavior probably won’t change much, but not having to carry that fear makes everything easier.
President Biden announced that he wants every American eligible to be vaccinated by May 1st. The state of Utah already announced that it will open up vaccinations to all adults on April 1st. These announcements sound like good news, they’re certainly good for my family, however I can’t help but feel that my country has elbowed its way to the front of the vaccination line. I have friends in Canada who will have to wait into August or September. For other areas of the world it will be even longer. This is not fair. Over and over the pandemic has shone a light onto all sorts of unfairness. So guilt will be mixed in with my gladness when I’m able to make appointments for my household to be vaccinated. We will be adding to herd immunity, but I hope that someone in some other place doesn’t have to pay the cost for our benefit. I have no say over how much vaccine gets shipped to which location in the world. I can only follow the directions of my local public health officials and show up to get my shot when they say it is my turn.
We still have a long road ahead. I think it will be 2022 before we can see what post-pandemic normal looks like. I know I will be careful in deciding which things get welcomed back into my life and when. I need to see what happens to case rates when vaccinations make people over-confident. I need to see what impact variants have. I need to see whether the vaccine effectiveness sticks around for longer than six months. We’ve entered a new phase, which is not the same as being cleared to go back to life as it was. That life is gone, whats next is something new. Vaccinations mean that I won’t feel a stab of guilt or fear each time I interact with someone in my pandemic bubble. It means I can again visit with a friend or two outdoors from several feet away. It means my 18yo can seek a job without being afraid he’s risking his dad’s life. It means we can begin to address the agoraphobia that some family members have developed without having to simultaneously face down pandemic panic. Maybe I can walk inside a church building at some point this year. I’m not ready for much more than this. Not until I see how the next months play out.
I wanted to mark today’s pandemiversary in some way, have some conscious recognition of the year just past. I’d half planned to have a fire in my firepit out on my pandemic patio. Then task followed task: car maintenance, shipping packages, listening to emotions, spending time watching a movie with Howard, laughing at cats, bringing in the mail, cooking shared food. It was all so normal, and the hours slipped away. Now it is cold and I don’t really want to venture outdoors to light a fire. But perhaps letting today be entirely ordinary is a better answer to pandemiversary than creating a ceremony. A year ago the world changed, today it just continued forward. I can’t think of any better evidence for our ability to overcome and survive whatever comes next.