At a point in time, I talked about “the last 18 months” when I talked about COVID and the experience we have had with this virus. I switched that in the fall to talk about “the last 20 months” and now find myself having to describe it as “the last two years.” There is no question that none of us ever anticipated this to go on so long, that no one imagined that this deadly virus would subside and then surge again, shape shifting just enough to mount another attack. While we are grateful that our staff and elders are close to universally vaccinated and boosted, it is not preventing them from contracting COVID, even if they had COVID previously. The good news, if there is good news, is that those who are fully vaccinated, with booster, are having mild symptoms or are even asymptomatic and recovery has been much swifter and much less complex. For that we are grateful.
And yet, the stress of this yet-again COVID surge is undeniable. Even with swifter recovery times, staff are out and we have to work hard to ensure that all shifts are covered and that there is no disruption in any of our services or programs. Elders are subject to twice weekly testing and the possibility that they will be moved into another area for either closer observation or quarantine. The use of PPE, which has never gone away, has ratcheted back up to the nonstop wearing of N95 masks, goggles, face shields and all the rest. The fight goes on but the fighters, many of them, are weary of the struggle, worn from the constant anxiety and stretched beyond fatigue.
Yes, we are tired but we are not defeated. We are battered but we are not without hope. In the last two years, we have come an incredibly long way. We look back at those terrible months in 2020 when illness was everywhere and we had no information, no resources and no support. We remember those sleepless nights and endless agonizing, our mantra repeated over and over “what else can we do, what else can we do, what else can we do.” We have learned, mostly self-taught, how to keep our elders safe and protected and, more importantly, how to help them heal. We have seen our dreams of vaccine come true and we have seen the powerful protection they can offer.
There is nothing easy about where we are right now. But it is a far brighter, far better place than where we have been. We know, all too well, that we must face this renewed challenge with all that we have and, at the same time, we must not lose sight of the future, we must not lose hope. Hope is not, for us, a matter of closing our eyes and making a wish. Hope is opening our eyes wide, recognizing how far we have come and holding tightly onto the knowledge that we can and we will and we are moving forward to better days, days of health and safety for all.