“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away.” — Don McLean
One of those life moments happened yesterday and it has the feeling of being anti-climatic now. I was able to get one of the first runs of the vaccine. In this case, I got the Moderna version, but it really doesn’t make a difference because they have the same protocols. You have to take two rounds before they become fully effective.
My second dose is scheduled for the beginning of February, so I’m obviously not really protected until at least then. Still, we have heard reports of health care workers testing positive even after getting the vaccine. Most experts assert that it will take at least several weeks for the antibodies to build up enough to protect you.
So, this is a dangerous time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel finally after a seemingly unending winter that has lasted nearly a year. The question is whether that light is the sun or an oncoming train. I suspect that will largely depend on how we collectively handle the next few months as we wait for most people to get vaccinated.
This is where the story of how I got vaccinated becomes relevant. Our district sent out a questionnaire to all of its employees. If you work as a health care provider (school nurses), are over 65, or have an underlying health condition then you get to move to the front of the line. I have Diabetes Type 2, so I got added to the list.
They (it will remain vague since I’m not exactly sure which agency is running it) set up a station at our district fieldhouse and I waited in a line of cars at my prescribed time. They verified my appointment, took my temperature and then vaccinated me without me having to leave my car. I waited for 15 minutes afterwards just to make sure there were no side effects and then went home.
I tell this story for two reasons. First, it highlights an important lesson. Government can work. One of the myths of the last 40 years is that government is just a collection of incompetent boobs that couldn’t organize a two car funeral procession. Yet, we have examples every day of this not being the case. If they are allowed to and given the resources to, government can run an efficient and effective organization.
Conservatives have run a four decade con game they call “starving the beast.” Essentially, they have defunded (remember that term?) so many government programs that it has achieved the appearance that government cannot work. If you give someone 20 dollars to do a 100 dollar job you will come away underwhelmed. Some details will be missed and some expertise will be missing. It’s tempting to focus on the failure and not on why the failure occurred.
The second reason for the story is simple. Even though some of us are getting the vaccine, that does not mean we are out of the woods. Health experts have said these next couple of months will be the most dangerous yet. Part of that is the fact that we are still in the winter when flu season is at its worst. The other part is that as people get vaccinated, more and more people will think we have finally returned to normal. They’ll stop wearing masks, stop socially distancing, and start having mass gatherings again. The death toll will skyrocket and somehow it will be blamed on the new administration.
Sure enough, local conditions (Houston and Harris county) are already dire enough for the mayor and county judge to consider shutdowns again. At the same time, our school is not only going back, but we are set to add 200 new students that used to be learning online. I’ve talked about that before and educationally the reasoning is sound, but when you consider just the idea of putting more people in close proximity to each other it just doesn’t make much sense.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have shut down before. At least we squandered the time we gained to get something done that would make us substantially safer. It seems the outgoing administration never really quite understood the fact that you actually have to do something. Now, people don’t want to hear calls of another shut down. I get it. However, now seems like a perfect opportunity. We can see the end. If vaccine production could be ramped up, we could get most people vaccinated by this Spring. Then, it would be mostly over. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is up to us as to whether it is sunlight or an oncoming train.