Photo: National Zoo.

March 11, 2021 marked one year since we officially entered a pandemic. One year since we thought we would stay home for two weeks, flatten the curve, and then go back to life as we knew it. One year since our minds were racing, hearts panicking at the uncertainty of what was going to happen next. In retrospect, I think we all have to acknowledge our naivete at the time.

With no other choice, we adjusted to social distancing, wearing masks, working from home if we were lucky enough to retain our jobs and were not part of the huge numbers of Americans who suddenly found themselves unemployed and without resources. We ordered groceries online and had food delivered from our favorite restaurants with contactless delivery. We broke down for recycling more Amazon boxes than we can count. We learned to Zoom, and to help our children navigate an abrupt shift to remote learning. We had inventory alerts on our phones for when Wegmans restocked toilet paper and disinfectants, we suddenly got really serious about hand washing. Crafty people created a cottage industry sewing multi-layered cloth masks.

We cheered, rang bells, played cellos from balconies, put signs in our yards to show our appreciation for the health care workers braving the front line clad head to toe in personal protective equipment that made them look more like aliens than the caring humans we know them to be.  With little to no sleep and facing a monster they could not yet fully understand, they cradled our loved ones as they struggled to take their last breaths, alone in sterile hospital rooms. We did not get to say goodbye.  We can never get back what the pandemic has taken from us.

Our health care workers segregated themselves from their families. They stayed in hotels, backyard RVs, temporary apartments, the guest room in the basement. They undressed in the garage, sanitized their clothes and shoes and phones. They tried to soothe the raw skin behind their ears and under their masks and keep going, day after day. They could not tuck their children into bed at night, hug their spouses and parents. Seeing what this virus could do to a patient, and the total roulette wheel of how severe it would be, they took extraordinary steps to protect their loved ones and the community. They begged and pleaded with us to take the reasonable steps necessary to slow the spread of this virus.

Last Spring, we sang the praises of the teachers who scrambled to adapt to a whole new way of educating our kids. They worried about their students, some of whom would struggle mightily and some who would easily rise to the occasion.  We worried about how this would affect their learning and their chances to get into good colleges.  We convinced ourselves that surely the admissions committees would put an asterisk next to 2020’s academic records.

As summer came to a close, we accepted that our children would start the school year on a remote or maybe hybrid basis. Convinced they are invincible or that the risk was worth it, many in our community gathered for fall holidays and Covid quickly reminded us that it was still in control so long as we refused to take it seriously. Our phones pinged with daily notifications from school – another exposure here, more kids and staff quarantined there. Desperate for their old normal, afraid for the mental and emotional health of their children, isolated at home for nearly a year, some began to vilify the very teachers they’d so recently celebrated.  Make no mistake – those teachers, and the administrators and bus drivers and lunch ladies and maintenance workers want to be back in school, too. Our districts finally got guidance from New York State, the County Executive and Health Commissioner, that will allow them to increase the population of students who can be in school every day. The logistics are being sorted out now for a return to school in April. Hallelujah!

Brilliant scientists, funded in part by national treasure Dolly Parton, worked around the clock to develop and test vaccines in record time. We now have three vaccines approved for emergency use and mass vaccination is taking place around the country. Our President has brokered deals with the vaccine producers to ensure that there will be enough supply to vaccinate every adult by the end of May. Testing is ongoing to ensure vaccine safety for children, with the hope that they will soon be among those eligible for the promise of protection contained in those little glass vials.

Here in Onondaga County, vaccination appointments are available 24 hours per day so that the maximum number of us can receive the shot(s) as quickly as possible. The site at the NYS Fairgrounds is second in the nation only behind the much larger Javits Center in NYC in terms of the number of vaccine administrations over the weekend.  Some among us will not be able to be vaccinated, and must rely on the herd immunity that will only come when 85-90% of us have rolled up our sleeves. President Biden’s chief medical officer Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted this week that at the pace things are moving, we may reach pre-pandemic ‘normals’ by the end of this Summer. Normal is of course a relative term, especially now, but it’s pretty great to have something to look forward to.

With that in mind, if you have been wearing the clothing version of a mullet – business on top, sweatpants on the bottom since only your head and shoulders are visible on that Zoom call – you might want to make a plan to see what pants still fit. Even though the pandemic has greatly eased office dress codes around the country, in most places it is still not ok to wear your Batman pajama pants and fuzzy slippers. The pandemic has brought with it significant changes to the American way of life, as we learned that we could accomplish remotely so much that we used to do in person.  If I am being totally truthful with you, as an introvert I have kind of enjoyed the excuse but at the same time, can acknowledge that it has ramped up my hermit factor and I will be working on reintroducing myself to society again. We have all gone a little bit feral, hiding behind our masks and with fogged up glasses. How strange will it be to shake hands again? Do we even know how to be out among other people anymore? The good news is, we are about to find out.

Jennifer Granzow Headshot

Jennifer B. Granzow

Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.

More Details About Jennifer B. Granzow