It is impossible to overstate just how much daily life has changed in the last 365 days.
One year ago today, on Jan. 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a Washington State resident was the first person in the United States to have a confirmed case of a mysterious, pneumonia-like Coronavirus disease that had recently emerged in the city of Wuhan, China.
At that point, COVID-19 had killed 4 and infected more than 200. Health officials mulled over whether to declare an emergency. People went to work. Children went to school.
In the United States, meanwhile, the national conversation was dominated by political turmoil; the Senate had only begun impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump days earlier. Most Americans took one side or another in that debate or avoided it entirely to live their lives.
One year later and 400,000 Americans have now died horrible lonely deaths. Let that sink in.
The virus, still rampaging, shows no signs of slowing down. There are more cases every day. The Biden-Harris Administration, breaking barriers and making history Wednesday, promises to orchestrate a coherent federal response to the crisis, conducting more tests, more vaccinations; convincing distrustful Americans that masks and restrictions are a patriotic duty and civic responsibility, not a partisan issue or means of social control. But after the inauguration this week, with each challenge our new President and Vice President will soon face, and with the nation’s Capitol rocked by violence this month and bracing for more — can they deliver?
They now lead a bristling nation of weary people who have had to adjust to this bizarro world of isolation and loss. There is no precedent in modern times for the work that needs to be done to finally get a foothold against the virus. And no matter who was in charge, this fight against COVID-19 would have been tough. But this pandemic will carry a legacy of shame for leaders who did not heed warnings or who misled the public into thinking that nothing was wrong.
Now in the Oval Office, President Biden and Vice President Harris have promised to take the pandemic seriously. And what a difference that will make. They intend to put the whole government to work to help people through this pandemic, but it remains to be seen for now if they will succeed, or whether their efforts will be thwarted by congressional gridlock.
Most states have already learned through this pandemic that they can’t wait for help from Washington, and you know who to blame for that. That’s why Gov. Inslee, consistently deferring to health practitioners and scientists for their expertise since March, unveiled this week an updated plan for the delivery and administration of vaccines from the federal government to increase the number of Washingtonians vaccinated, targeting 45,000 per day. Effective immediately, the first phase of this vaccine distribution will now include those who are 65 years of age and older.
Step forward, Vashon.
According to the most recent census data, almost 30% of the island’s population is aged 65 or older. That means a third of us are now at the front of the line to receive a vaccine. Imagine: with so many people vaccinated, life on Vashon would be well on its way to returning to normal, to say nothing about our most vulnerable residents no longer having to live in fear, leading safe and healthy lives again.
Biden-Harris has a chance to get this right. And you might have a chance to be inoculated soon. So don’t delay it. Be patient with local providers as they may be overwhelmed with so many individuals who are suddenly eligible to obtain a vaccine. The road to recovery is long, but we should be grateful for real leadership — and work together to help make these some of our country’s most proud and optimistic days in memory.