Loudoun vaccines high-priority groups

Medical Reserve Corps volunteer and registered nurse Deborah Henley prepares to vaccinate a member of Loudoun’s high priority group on Dec. 28.

Even with the end-of-year arrival of vaccines for COVID-19, it’s going to be hard to celebrate the arrival of 2021, knowing that we are entering the worst phase of the pandemic. December was the deadliest month in the United States since the pandemic’s start, with more than 63,000 Americans losing their lives as of Monday.

We may want to avoid making any New Year’s resolutions or statements about how 2021 is going to be a year of great change. A year ago, celebrating the arrival of the 2020s was followed a short time later with the greatest upheaval of our lifetimes.

That doesn’t mean we cannot hope the vaccine will prove effective in preventing people from getting infected or spreading the disease. We can also hope that the rollout of the vaccine will pick up speed so that a large majority of Americans and the rest of the world can get access to the vaccine by the end of 2021.

As Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department, told the Times-Mirror Monday just before getting the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, “We do have a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines. It’s a long tunnel, and it’s going to be a dark tunnel.”

Getting through that tunnel will involve mask-wearing and social distancing until there is widespread immunity to the virus, he said.

Loudoun County Supervisor Mike Turner (D-Ashburn), who was monitoring the county’s administering of the vaccine Monday, agreed with Goodfriend: even with the arrival of a vaccine, county residents need to remain vigilant about preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

But Turner also views the arrival of the vaccine in 2020, less than a year after the start of the pandemic, as a welcome achievement.

While in Leesburg two weeks ago for a Hanukkah ceremony, Turner said it seemed extremely fitting that he was lighting candles “on the same week that the first vaccine was administered.”

As the vaccine delivers hope, the arrival of any sense of normalcy in 2021 will depend on how effective the vaccine is and how quickly it can be deployed.

Across the country, federal and state governments will need to pick up the pace if enough Americans are going to get inoculated by the end of 2021.

And even if most Americans prove receptive to getting vaccinated and if enough get the shot to provide immunity to the virus, the havoc wreaked by COVID-19 is not going to be repaired in one year. The economic upheaval caused by the virus will remain with us for years to come.

As health experts and policymakers have repeated many times this year, we will need to get used to a new normal. Mask-wearing will become far more common post-coronavirus. Work environments will be redesigned, perhaps with employees allowed to work from home on a more regular basis. Schools and universities will need to reconfigure the learning experience. Entertainment and sporting events will struggle to return to packed stadiums and arenas.

Given the turmoil and tragedies of 2020 and the challenges ahead of us, some psychologists believe we should avoid making New Year’s resolutions heading into 2021. The last thing we need to do is put more pressure on ourselves or set a goal that might not be realistic during a global pandemic.

Instead of setting ourselves up for disappointment or failure, let’s look at the positives of 2020 — how people came together to help and protect their neighbors — and try to do more of the same in 2021 as we look forward to the time when there will be mass immunity to COVID-19.

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