Living on a Roller Coaster

I’ve never been on a roller coaster, but I think we are all living on one as this COVID ride enters its eighteenth month. I can’t even keep track of the ups and downs we have lived through since it all began in January 2020.

Strange as it sounds, I look back on the beginning with a certain nostalgia. Yes, it was a tough time with everyone in an endless state of isolation, but we were all in it together, secure in our houses, wearing sweats, eschewing makeup, binge-watching Law & Order SVU (Well, not everyone was binge-watching Law & Order SVU, but we were all binging on something).

Here are some of the highlights on the COVID timeline:

January 2020: Images of Wuhan, China, in lockdown begin to surface as officials attempt to contain a mysterious virus. Almost immediately, new cases of and deaths related to this virus surge in Europe.

March: The virus spreads, cases multiply, and it’s official: this is a pandemic, and it has a name—COVID-19. A cruise ship, docked outside of San Francisco, has infected passengers; the Bay Area is first in the US to announce shelter-in-place orders; hospitals become overwhelmed as cases grow; and there is a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

April: The world shuts down; countries seal borders; sports teams cancel seasons; businesses close; employees go home; and Americans start wearing masks and “social distancing.”

May/June: Cases begin to skyrocket again as states “reopen” in different phases of the disease; researchers continue to race to identify treatments and develop vaccines.

July: Americans struggle as continued unemployment, working from home, learning becomes virtual, and the US breaks records for daily cases and deaths.

December: The FDA authorizes two vaccines, supposedly developed in “record time,” but actually, the result of decades of R&D. Major variants begin to emerge.

2021: The year begins with a race to vaccinate; vaccine rollout is uneven; there is not enough vaccine to meet the demand. While cases and deaths begin to fall, variants are on the rise. Around the world, the race is on to vaccinate as many people as possible in time to slow their spread.

The manufacture of vaccines speeds up until there is enough for everyone, but then, not everyone wants them. In fact, close to 50 percent of US citizens refuse to get vaccinated, decreasing any chance of reaching “herd immunity.” The vaccine has become a political issue, and many would rather die than get the shot. And die they do until close to 100 percent of deaths are attributed to the unvaccinated.

The genie is out of the bottle, and stuffing it back in won’t be easy. Two months after the CDC said vaccinated individuals didn’t need to wear masks in most settings, we are once again close to a national mask mandate. The Delta Variant is running rampant; cases and deaths are up; and we are back where we started at the beginning of last year.

Most of us have motion sickness or whiplash from the ride that doesn’t ever seem to end.