Jan. 21 marks one year since COVID-19 arrived in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the first case of the 2019 novel coronavirus had been confirmed in the state of Washington. Here in Minnesota, it was late February when concerns about the virus’s spread started to feel serious and mid-March we first went into lockdown. Then, I assumed, like many of us did, that it would only last a few weeks, maybe a month or so at the most. That assumption seems laughable now, but of course, hindsight is 20/20.
Fast forward to today, when almost a full year has passed, and our individual and collective lives have changed dramatically. COVID-19 has impacted nearly every aspect of our world. Zoom is now a permanent fixture on my laptop. Laundering my face masks is a part of my weekly routine. I have not seen my family since last Christmas and just celebrated the holiday by FaceTiming them from my apartment rather than gathering with all of them at my parents’ home in Michigan. The last year has proven to be extremely challenging for all of us, at least on some level, especially as the pandemic has dragged on and on with no clear end in sight. It feels especially cruel and ironic that in a crisis like this, when we need each other more than ever, the safest thing is to stay away from one another.
Finally, though, the end feels as if it might actually be near, or at least not so impossibly far off.
The first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines were sent out to states last month, and initial doses have already been given to healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. My cousin, an ER nurse, received her vaccine last week and texted a selfie to our extended family group chat shortly after. I teared up as I looked at it, feeling overwhelmed both by the suffering the coronavirus has brought and the lives that a vaccine will save. After nearly a year of isolation and uncertainty, as the vaccine rolls out to more and more people, it feels like there is finally light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
However, we are not there yet. Most of us will need to wait several months before we can expect to get vaccinated, and the next few months in the U.S. are set to be devastating. Thousands of people are dying each week, and thousands more are getting sick with a terrible disease that takes a simple bodily function like breathing and turns it into a nearly insurmountable task. The devastation the virus has wrought has been immense. The consequences if we fail to get it under control will be even worse.
All things must pass, and I have hope that eventually the COVID-19 pandemic will too. Surely, the vaccine will help bring about that long-awaited end, especially as more and more people get the opportunity to receive it. But in the meantime, we have to stay cautious, continuing to abide by public health guidance and take precautions to limit the virus’s spread, like hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing. There are brighter days ahead. Here’s to helping each other get there.
Elizabeth Callen is the editor of the Shoreview Press. She can be reached at 651-407-1229 or email@example.com.