Bracing for Impact


As we close the door on 2021 and look to the new year, here’s what I sadly cannot tell you—that COVID will be gone and life will return to how it was in January of 2020. We are never going back. COVID is here to stay in one form or another. The holiday wave of cases set infection records unimaginable in the early days of the pandemic. With Omicron spreading rapidly, our hospitals face the possibility of another surge of patients in the coming weeks.

Typically I would not start a new year’s message with such troubling facts. However, these developments continue to distress already worn-out parents, restaurant workers, teachers, state officials, students and so many others. For hospital staff, there are all these factors plus more: the stress of managing health care delivery during a pandemic—both personally and professionally—is significant and growing. Our health care providers have been doing this tiring work for two years. And yet they continue to show up for their patients and stay through the most difficult days.

When 2020 concluded, just about one year ago right now, there was awesome hope that vaccines would help us beat COVID and get back to our lives—travel, family gatherings, concerts and events. Well, vaccines did improve our lives because they offered protection and the ability to gather again. We showed the nation how Vermont comes together to achieve an important goal—in this case vaccinating our neighbors and friends in an orderly and fair way. We also kept kids in schools and limited major outbreaks. We tested early and often. Then, when Delta and now Omicron arrived, we adjusted our strategies and kept up the fight.

The new year is a great time for renewal. Social media is full of resolutions touting change: lose weight, save money, buy a Peloton, eat healthier. Nothing wrong there but I think we can keep it even simpler: stick together and keep up the fight. This means taking care of each other mentally, emotionally and physically and continuing to sacrifice sometimes to protect others.

Staying together for the benefit of all means getting vaccinated and boosted; Omicron accounts for the vast majority of new infections, but does not seem to cause serious illness for vaccinated people. We need to limit gatherings and try to avoid meeting with people we know to be unvaccinated. We need to continue masking indoors when in public. These safety measures may seem old and annoying but they still save lives and aren’t that hard to manage.

I won’t say that there is a glimmering light at the end of the COVID tunnel because none of us know when or, really, if ever the virus will be entirely eradicated. And maybe that’s not the point. Instead perhaps the point is how we responded and continue to respond to this adversity. Our health care providers and frontline workers are choosing YOU every day when they go to work. Let’s choose them back and keep up the fight.

Here’s to a happy and healthier 2022!