It was about a year ago that many of us began hearing the word “coronavirus” being tossed around on TV and in newspapers – an unfamiliar and increasingly worrisome virus that by the final week of January 2020 would be roaring through Italy and Spain.
Last January it was hard to imagine just how quickly it would arrive on our shores and in our communities and how much its presence would permeate every aspect of our lives – from the ways we shopped and dined out to how we interacted with our own families.
As is natural for a nation of this size, with its disparate cultural, physical and political qualities the reaction to the pandemic varied, a situation aggravated by a hands-off federal response which dumped responsibility on individual states.
To this day, Illinois and Cook County feel the effects of that decision from federal leaders, but there’s optimism nonetheless.
Even with a stop-start federal rollout of vaccines – millions more doses were promised than delivered and a supposed federal stockpile turned out to be a mirage – the Biden administration has rolled out a new federal strategy, including invoking the National Defense Production Act and aiming to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days.
That’s a mighty ambitious goal, and one on which we may end up falling short, but it’s at least the kind of national effort this crisis demands.
During the past month, the state of Illinois has targeted vaccine distribution to those working and living in frontline health care settings and long-term care homes.
On Jan. 25, the state moved into the next phase of vaccine distribution – which includes hundreds of thousands more people, including senior citizens and essential workers.
What we’ve quickly learned is that vaccine doses remain in very short supply – every appointment made available through Cook County Health at noon on Jan. 25 was snapped up within 24 hours.
It’s frustrating to the thousands who continue to wait for a turn in line. Sure there are some who will luck out by visiting a local pharmacy and get asked to receive a vaccine because someone else failed to show for an appointment, but that’s no way to reach herd immunity.
The agency with the power, personnel and the pockets to organize such a campaign is the federal government; it always has been. It’s for moments like this that the federal government exists.
When vaccines are available, local and state agencies will gladly receive them and with the help of the National Guard, which has already been deployed to assist, we can do this.
The next month or so, we’re guessing, is going to be frustrating and it’s going to seem like we’re failing. But, we also have renewed hope in the national response, which is the key to success locally.
Yes, vaccine appointments right now are precious. But, more will be coming and there will be more locations giving the shots in the future. It’s going to take a little more time, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Let’s get there together.