On my birthday last year, 116 people died of COVID-19 in Arizona. Coming about two weeks after Thanksgiving, this was near the beginning of the third wave in AZ. For a while, December 14th was the date with the highest reported number of deaths in AZ, surpassing even the summer peak in July. This was at the beginning of a trend that lasted through Christmas and well into the New Year.
116 people died of COVID-19, in Arizona, on my birthday and that breaks my heart. While I was celebrating making it through another year, so many other people were dealing with fresh grief. I don’t know any of the people who died on my birthday, but I imagine a few of them were like me: a wife, a daughter, a sister, an in-law, a friend.
116 people died of COVID-19, in Arizona, on my birthday and that also makes me very angry. More angry and disappointed than I, a social optimist, have ever been because many of those deaths were preventable.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve wanted only two things. One was to not get sick. The other was to do all I could to not contribute to other people getting sick. To not contribute to other people dying.
The CDC recommendation was to social distance and wear a mask. I stayed home. Not everyone has as lucky circumstances as mine, but I wasn’t needed anywhere. Did I want to go places? Of course. I’m not a social person, but I missed shopping trips, the library, the movies, playing ultimate frisbee. I missed holidays and I missed special events. I wore a mask when I did go out.
And the CDC recommendation worked. As long as people followed the recommendation. But by Thanksgiving, people were tired. Following guidelines had become even more of a political thing. Why should people’s freedoms be curtailed? And on my birthday, 116 people died of COVID-19 in Arizona.
As of my writing this today, an estimated 600,000 people have died in the US of COVID-19. I don’t remotely know how anyone is okay with that when we had recommendations to control the spread.
The CDC recommendation now is to get vaccinated. In the United States, we have three safe, effective vaccine options. Even if you’ve had COVID-19, the recommendation is to get vaccinated. A vaccine trains your immune system better than illness. A vaccinated population stops the spread of the virus; if the spread is stopped, the virus no longer has the opportunity to develop variants. A vaccinated population also protects its vulnerable members, people who have immune deficiency problems due to other illnesses and treatments.
And a vaccinated population can get back to doing all the things maybe you didn’t do in 2020, if you followed the recommendations. One of the things I did in 2020 was realize that 116 people died on my birthday in Arizona of a disease we let run rampant.
We can stop COVID-19 from going further. Get vaccinated.