I have said, and I imagine you have as well, that if I never say or hear the word COVID again, it will be too soon. In early 2020 it was easy to think that this virus might never affect us but, of course, by February we knew that would not be the case. At that point in time we talked about COVID in the context of preparing for the “what if” scenarios. By the end of March and through all of April we talked about COVID non-stop because the enemy was not just at our doors, it had breached our defenses. Staff and elders fell ill and some did not survive. COVID became not just our reality, it became the enemy that we were focused on defeating—finding ways to heal, finding means to prevent wherever possible. As the initial surge subsided, as we saw people recover and became ever and ever more vigilant in infection control, many of us began to pin our hopes on vaccine. In the middle of the night, when sleep would not come, I remember repeating the phrase “Please let there be a vaccine,” over and over again like a mantra.
We followed the news on vaccine development with rapt attention and then waited, anxiously, for the dates of our vaccine clinics to be shared with us. I vividly remember getting the phone call, late one evening, that our clinic dates were booked beginning December 28, 2020 and my eyes filled with tears of relief and hope. Our three vaccine clinics on each of our campuses could not come quickly enough and the days were days of celebration. On our Assisted Living campus, the rabbi wrote a prayer for us to say together as the day began and many of our voices shook with emotion as we read those words in unison.
In the spring we began to think that life was returning to normal. Volunteers were back in our buildings, more visitors were present and there were times when we could allow elders, in rooms where everyone was vaccinated, to take off those much-disliked masks. In our personal lives we were venturing out more, eating at restaurants, cautiously traveling and reuniting with friends and family we had not seen for so very long.
And here we are in August 2021, once again concerned, once again focused on COVID, once again thinking about vaccine, this time boosters that we want to be certain our elders and staff receive. We have come so far, we have overcome so much, and yet the anxiety has not lifted and the worries are never far from our minds. We know so much more than we did before and yet there are days when we feel as if we know so little.
As an organization we took a strong stand on vaccination, mandating vaccine for our staff as of July 1, 2021 and I am proud to say that we achieved that goal with very few staff deciding to leave because of this requirement. It has made us feel safer . . . but not safe enough. Today, as we wait impatiently to begin giving booster shots, we continue to hope that everyone will choose to be vaccinated, that everyone will value health and safety the way that we do, that the word COVID will disappear from our daily lexicon and from our daily lives.