Hope for the Holidays

Of all the single days I will remember over the years, Tuesday, December 15, 2020 will be near the top of the list. That day, last Tuesday, the first COVID-19 vaccinations were administered to COVID-19-facing providers at UVM Medical Center and Rutland Regional Medical Center, followed quickly by vaccinations at all other Vermont Hospitals. It was the perfect holiday gift—a bit of light among the darkness we’ve waded through this year. And as the first healthcare workers received their shots, there truly was an air of celebration.
The end of December is always such a funny time of year in that we’re simultaneously asked to look back at what’s happened over the course of the year and also look ahead with eagerness at what’s next. This year is no different in that regard but what is different is the enormity of all that’s happened and the sense of relief that we will pull through this in 2021.
I chose to move to Vermont four years ago when the opportunity to run our hospital
association came my way. I knew at the time I would enjoy working in health care in Vermont. What I didn’t know—what I couldn’t know—was how grateful I would be to live in this incredibly special place. A place where state officials of all ideologies value science and data over politics and fear. Where hospital leaders work together and share PPE and testing resources to put the health of patients ahead of individual or regional needs. Where nurses and home health care providers raise their hands, risk their health and walk into long-term care facilities to provide supplemental staff when outbreaks occur. And where nearly all members of the general public adhere to basic guidelines like wearing masks and social-distancing to protect each other. Vermont is a remarkable place. I am so fortunate to be here.
As we look back on the most profound and difficult years most of us have experienced, we can feel pride about our response. As we look ahead to a 2021, where COVID-19 is potentially eradicated, we must stay vigilant in our response. It will take a while for vaccines to be broadly available; until then, all the precautionary measures have to stay in full force.
And, we must continually remember all the people around us whose lives have been affected in ways unimaginable when we rang in the new decade 11 months ago: Those who lost loved ones to COVID-19, suicide and overdose. Those who are hungry and whose businesses have been harmed or closed. Those who have been isolated for months on end.
Please check in with your family, friends and neighbors who may be experiencing sadness and loneliness this holiday season. The path to emotional, economic, cultural and health recovery will not be fast or linear but we are on it – and staying together. What I’ve learned of Vermont is that is what we do.
Happiest holidays to you and yours.
Jeff Tiemans, VAHHS President and CEO