A year ago (well, 364 days ago), I wrote that it looked like the end was in sight. Turns out it was really just beginning.
I’ll give myself a little bit of credit: It sort of ended, before it really started. A year ago, I was just about three weeks out from my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. It was pretty great. By the end of April, I was fully vaccinated. Vaccinations were skyrocketing and cases were plummeting. The end was in sight! What more could I ask for? Maybe I could have asked for an enormous swath of this country to not be complete fucking lunatics.
A year ago, the usual cretins at Fox News were still cheering on the “Trump vaccine.” They had yet to go fully scorched-earth against Joe Biden. It was probably trending in that direction, but God’s dumbest freaks had yet to go completely anti-vax. Older people and the easily bamboozled were still mostly on board with the concept of getting vaccinated. We had a few great weeks, from July to September or so, where we didn’t feel terror at the idea of entering a grocery store without a mask. I actually made a trip to see a live show in New York, and it was like things were semi-normal for a bit. But the usual assholes realized there were cheap points to be scored by cranking up the dumb shit meter, and things started to go downhill.
Cases rose throughout the fall, but things were manageable. Thanksgiving happened more or less as usual, but on the ride home from my sister’s house that night, I read about a new variant on my phone. They were calling it the “Nu” variant, and it had the potential to spread much quicker than the Delta variant that had been rising up until then. A day or so later, somebody apparently decided that a homophone for “new” was probably not a great designation for this variant, and “Omicron” was born.
Cases started spiking at my daughter’s school in the beginning of December. The school had been sending an email whenever anybody in the school had tested positive, and from the beginning of the school year through December 1, we had received a total of eight “community letters” advising us that someone had tested positive. From December 1 through December 21, we received the same number. And then the school stopped sending individual letters.
Also around that time, the virus that we had been studiously avoiding finally hit home. On December 16, the other kid came home from school not feeling well. He crashed on the bed in my wife’s office, complaining of a fever. I didn’t wait around to see how things went. I stopped work early and dragged him to the local PCR test site. The next day we had our results: I was negative, he was positive. We sent him to his room in the basement (it sounds bad, but being left alone in a room with a big TV and unlimited video games is his preferred location), and kept the door open only a crack for the cat. We were hoping he would be better in time for us to travel to Pennsylvania for Christmas. He was fine after a day or so, but we kept him down there just to be safe. Three or four days later, Jen, whose office he Sawyer had been in when he came home from school, started experiencing similar symptoms. She got a drop-off PCR test from DC, but they lost her test. Still, it was obvious. I had spent hours driving around trying to find rapid tests, but it woudln’t matter: She was clearly positive, and we weren’t going anywhere. That was fine. There was no point in endangering our parents. We had a nice Christmas at home, for the second year in a row.
A few days after Christmas, I bumped into my neighbor Ernie. He told me his twin boys brought it home from school. His wife also tested positive, but he was fine so far. That was the last time I would see him. He checked into the hospital on New Year’s Day. His condition improved briefly, but he would spend six weeks intubated before the doctors finally had to tell his wife that there was no hope of recovery. Ernie was not the first person I knew who died of Covid, but he was the first person I knew well enough for it to hit home. I learned about it the next day completely randomly through Twitter, which I really do not recommend.
So anyway, shit sucks. We will miss Ernie. I’ve had good neighhbors and bad neighbors, but Ernie was one of the best. I had told him I was going to make him pizza using the pizza oven I got for Christmas. I’ll miss his neighborhood gossip — virtually every conversation I ever had with him started with the words so didja hear about…. But life goes on, for most of us anyway.
The pandemic seems to be circling the drain (again). Schools are fully open, and masks (both literal and figurative) are off pretty much everywhere. Everybody who doesn’t have a certain kind of brain worms has received multiple rounds of vaccination. I think we’re at the point where this whole thing is here to stay. There are better treatments on the way, and the virus seems to be getting milder (but who knows). I don’t know where we go from here, but it’s clear that people aren’t interested in completely eradicating this thing. Just like smart people get a flu shot every year, we’ll probably get a Covid shot every year.
Year Two was less scary than Year One, but actually worse in many ways.
Anyway, here goes Year Three.