When the darkest day of the year arrives on Monday, the coronavirus pandemic will likely be at one of its worst points since the first person was infected in Virginia back in March. The new wave of coronavirus cases started its surge in November, and now hospitalizations and deaths from the disease are spiking.
But residents of Loudoun County should still take a moment to let themselves enjoy a brief celebration. After the winter solstice, the days will start to get longer and the light at the end of the tunnel will gradually grow brighter as an increasing number of people receive a vaccine to the coronavirus.
Many of our loved ones have gotten sick or died from the horrible disease since the start of the year — when no one had immunity to COVID-19, there were no drugs to treat it and there was no vaccine available. The scariest part of the disease is how it spreads: through the air by respiratory droplets exhaled by an infected person.
Since the virus first arrived on U.S. shores in January, estimates varied on the timetable for the development of a vaccine. Many experts predicted it would take more than a year for a vaccine to go through the clinical trial and manufacturing stages.
But with the disease affecting the entire world, medical researchers, pharmaceutical companies and governments recognized the dire situation and worked to speed up the process. Vaccines normally take years to develop and manufacture. The Pfizer vaccine was produced in less than 12 months.
In Loudoun County, the beginning of the pandemic’s end arrived Tuesday when Meg Sourbeer, a long-time health care worker at Inova Health System, became one of the first people in the county to receive the Pfizer vaccination, Times-Mirror reporter Nathaniel Cline wrote this week.
Residents of the county’s long-term care facilities will join health care workers at Inova Loudoun, StoneSprings Hospital and other health care offices in the first group of people to receive the vaccine.
Not far behind Pfizer in the race to develop a vaccine is Moderna Inc.’s, which is expected to be approved by the FDA in the coming days. In early 2021, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected to seek FDA authorization for their vaccines.
As it turned out, the power of science, combined with working for the common good, created a COVID-19 vaccine with amazing speed.
But the pandemic is far from over. It could take as long as next summer or fall to get a large percentage of Americans vaccinated. In the meantime, Dr. David Goodfriend, director of the Loudoun County Health Department, wants residents to continue with measures like social distancing and mask-wearing to lessen the spread of the coronavirus in Virginia, where cases continue to soar.
“The vaccinations don’t replace mitigation efforts,” Goodfriend said this week at a Board of Supervisors meeting. “So, we expect, no matter what, that January is going to be worse than December, and we’ll see what February brings.”
Goodfriend said his hope is that as more people get vaccinated and as residents continue to take measures to prevent the spread of the virus, this coming spring “will be much better than last spring.”