Originally published in the Silent Noise in December 2020.
After nine months of the coronavirus in the United States, ‘Covid fatigue’ has reached an all-time high. Most Americans would like nothing more than to go out on the town or hug a loved one. Regardless of our wishful thinking, the situation is dire in many parts of the country, Buffalo included. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many have feared the seemingly inevitable arrival of the ‘second wave’ – well, it’s here. In early December, the US recorded its worst day for Covid with record highs in diagnoses and deaths. Our healthcare infrastructure has been pushed to the brink. The winter ahead looks bleak – yet, Americans hold onto the hope they’ve kept since March.
In an unscientific survey, City Honors students were asked about their post-pandemic plans: “What would you do if you got the vaccine today, and you never had to worry about Covid again?” Responses varied, but most involved reuniting with friends and reveling in the conclusion of this dark chapter for humanity. Some said they would attend a big party, dance at a concert, or go to the movies. Others wished for travel, visiting family across the border in Canada or flying out to tropical islands. With what feels like years of lockdowns dominating recent memory, these seem like fantasies from an alternate, less dark timeline. For at least a few more agonizing months, they will be. However, with new developments in the world of science, these cathartic moments may be closer on the horizon than we originally thought.
Over the last few months, several vaccines have emerged from pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Pfizer. As government regulators studied and scrutinized the cures, hope spread throughout the populace, perhaps more quickly than the virus ever did. Then, on December 14, the United States reached yet another grim milestone: the death toll from Covid had surpassed 300,000 people. It was an utterly flooring number, a vast quantification of the incalculable loss the world has endured throughout 2020. However, that same morning, the first American received the Covid vaccine: a healthcare worker in Long Island was the first in line to get the shot, beginning a long process of vaccinating millions upon millions of citizens. Trucks full of doses poured out of a Pfizer facility in Michigan, marking what many hope is the beginning of the end of this pandemic.
Administering vaccines to the whole of the United States will be one of the greatest challenges this country has ever faced. Many have likened it to World War II. Indeed, this crisis is comparable; about a week before the vaccinations started, deaths in the US surpassed American casualties in that conflict. Experts have debated who will receive the vaccine first – the current model sees high-risk groups like frontline workers and elderly Americans getting the shot before others. If all goes according to the timeline, young people like City Honors students could be rolling up their sleeves in a few months, after more susceptible populations are taken care of. The superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools, Dr. Kriner Cash, expressed hope for the prospect of returning to school with vaccines being rolled out. In a press conference, he stated that BPS students could start coming back in person at the beginning of February, with most in the building by late March.
The distribution of the Covid vaccine will be an operation of historical proportions; the United States will need all hands on deck to ensure that no American is left behind in this effort. Once we achieve this feat, we can begin to return to normal – to take the lessons we’ve learned through this tough time, and rebuild society as a stronger people.