Journal of a Pandemic Year: Part Forty-Five

Dear Readers,

My name is Hutch, Lee Hutch, and I’m having a James Bond marathon this week. I’m on my summer break, so it gives me something to watch in the afternoons/evenings. (Mornings are for working). James Bond is always good for mindless distraction. Oddly enough, I’ve only read a couple of the novels, probably because I was raised on the movies and just never really got all that interested in reading the books. Maybe I should.

As I reflect back over what all has transpired since I first heard the word COVID in February of 2020, I sometimes wonder what the world has learned. What lessons will we take away from all of this? A pandemic should not have come as a surprise since that is something that both doctors, scientists, and historians have been warning of for a long, long time. I remember the bird flu scare in (I think) 2004, the swine flu scare in 08 (or was it 07?). We can’t say we didn’t know it was possible.

I think sometimes we find ourselves guilty of something that I saw time and time again during my time in public safety. We only want to plan for best case scenarios, not worst case scenarios. Sure, we’ll drill for a response to a Category Five hurricane, but when one is bearing down on us, local governments prefer to assume that it will turn away at the last minute. Sure, sometimes it does, but what if it doesn’t? Granted, the world is fortunate that COVID-19 doesn’t have the mortality rate of something like Ebola, but that is of precious little consolation to those who have lost a family member or friend.

During the early days of the pandemic, I would hear people say over and over again that it “only” kills the elderly or people with pre-existing conditions. At that time, the statement certainly appeared to be true. You can imagine the looks on their faces when I pointed out that I was one of the “only” ones. Looking at me from the outside, you cannot tell that I have chronic health issues that put me at high risk. I’m glad to know that so many people felt, and still feel, that people like me are disposable.

Even though I’ve called this whole series “Journal of a Pandemic Year” (even though we are well beyond a year now), I haven’t talked much about the pandemic itself as I wrote these missives. The virus was always in the background, occasionally popping up when I had to get tested or something. Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe I should have been talking about it all along. I just figured that there was so much of it on the news, especially a year ago, that people would prefer to read anything but my repetitions of what I was seeing on the news, especially since I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one in bars. (I pretend to be an attorney). I’m kidding, of course, I didn’t go to bars before the Rona and now that they are all open again, I have no desire to.

I worry about what is going to happen this fall as it relates to schools. Children under 12 cannot be vaccinated. The majority of 16-25 years old’s are not vaccinated. Classrooms are overcrowded on a good day. And we are forbidden from requiring masks. As a college professor, I cannot even ask a student to wear a mask when they come into my office, even if they are visibly sick. Add to this, a more contagious strain that is able, in some case, to defeat the vaccine, and it is a recipe for disaster. (We are seeing increasing breakthrough cases in my area. Not a large percentage, but enough to raise questions, at least for me). Even though I am fully vaccinated and have been for quite some time, the vaccine was never tested in people with auto-immune diseases, and so it is unknown how much protection I actually have. For this, and an abundance of caution anyway, I have not altered my pre-vaccine activities at all. I rarely go out and I always wear a double mask. However, I am going to be forced into what is essentially a COVID breeding ground in exactly four weeks.

Maybe we’ll be lucky. Maybe it won’t get that bad. Maybe they’ll be booster shots. That’s a lot of maybes. And, if we are going down that road, with so many unvaccinated people and rampant spread of a new strain, maybe we’ll see the evolution of a variant that can elude all vaccine protection, thus putting us back at square one.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist or pessimistic. I just wanted to get some of my thoughts on what we’ve seen and what might be to come written down. Hopefully one day, I can look back at this post and say that I was scared for no reason.

Until next time, friends, take care of yourselves. And each other.

L.H.

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