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  • Jan Flynn

The Suspense Might Kill Us First

Please, just shoot us now

Life right now feels like the last months of a war

We are battle-weary. We’ve suffered monumental losses, more deaths than in World War II. Our daily lives have contracted and changed shape in ways we would hardly have believed bearable a year ago. We’ve made personal and communal sacrifices in an effort to hold the enemy at bay. We’ve railed against those who refuse to do their share or deny the enemy even exists. It has been, no pun intended, a strain.

But the tide is turning. We have new leadership, with an invigorated commitment to enacting the measures we know can hold stave off enemy incursions  — masks, social distancing, staying hunkered down — for as long as it takes until we can unleash enough of our newest weapons, the vaccines. We know it will happen, we just don’t know how long it will take.

Meanwhile, people are still dying, by the thousands each day. And none of us wants to be the last soldier to fall in this war.

In my sphere, vaccine talk has replaced political talk

Since I belong to two demographic groups who are vaccine-eligible according to my county’s guidelines — those over 65 and educators who have direct contact with children — I’m surrounded by people who are in acute waiting mode. And I’m right there with them.

Most everyone I know is pleased with the results of the election, relieved that we have competent adults back in command of the country, and hopeful that an administration grounded in reality will lead us out of the pandemic. But we also know that a few weeks of responsible governance is not enough to undo years of belligerent make-believe. The vaccine rollout is still piecemeal and patchwork, still maddeningly arbitrary. It’s driving us all a little tiny bit nuts.

In a county south of mine, our friends who are the same age as we are have had their first doses. I’ve had my first dose, due to my employment with a school district that is one of the few in California with in-person learning. Most of the people in my community over age 75 have had their first shots as well. Some of our agricultural and other essential workers have.

Two weeks ago when my colleagues and I were told to grab our school I.D. cards, hustle down to the vaccination clinic and get in line, we were giddy. The atmosphere at the clinic itself was as close to a party as I’ve been to since early last spring. It was the beginning of a long-awaited end. If things went as expected, my husband would get his shots soon too and we could look forward to seeing our kids in Colorado, maybe by St. Patrick’s day!

Then the expression “supplies are limited” got real

We’re approaching mid-February, and my husband, 68 years old and with a pre-existing lung issue, hasn’t had shot one. The local health department, city councils, and regional health care providers have all issued communications essentially pleading with all of us to be patient. The county currently has only 50% of the doses it needs to give the second shots to everyone who has received their first.

I was due to get my second dose on February 12. That may be postponed as late as the 26th, following the recent determination that it’s acceptable to extend the waiting period between Monderna doses from 28 days to 42. Second shots will be administered according to the previous triage formula: health care workers, then age 75 and up, then teachers and school workers. If the supply runs out before they get to my end of the line, well, we just hope for the best.

No more first shots will be given. Not until the supply pipeline opens up. There is no word on when that will be. Meanwhile, with new variants cropping up, including one apparently home-grown right here in California, even more caution is called for. With some protection from the first shot, I’m less worried about getting COVID myself but increasingly worried about bringing it home to my husband.

Prospects of a St. Patrick’s day reunion with the kids have faded into the realm of the highly unlikely. The giddiness of that first shot has subsided into the dull resumption of the day-by-day, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other pandemic slog, now with double masks.

It’s like we’re waiting for the liberating army

Alas, the army is stuck in traffic and it’s running out of ammo. We know it will get here eventually. We know it wants to save us. We just have to hold on until conditions improve, which they will.

But the invisible enemy is still out there, and it’s not ready to surrender.

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