Opinion | COVID-19 is still here

Just because COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out does not mean COVID-19 is going away anytime soon.


Shivansh Ahuja for The Daily Iow

Doctors prepare to administer a COVID-19 vaccine at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Modern vaccine for its employees.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Contributor

“I feel like I just won the lottery.”

My grandfather was ecstatic over the phone call with my mother about the news of him being on the list to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

He and my grandmother currently live down in Florida, where many “snowbirds” — someone who migrates south during the winter months — do not qualify for the vaccine, because they need to show “two forms of documentation. . .a deed, mortgage, or rental agreement in addition to a utility bill, bank or tax statement, or a piece of mail from a government agency.”

Our family let out a breath we did not know we were holding. At least, for the moment. Because while my grandfather receiving a vaccine is wonderful news — similar to my father receiving one as well — we still have many worries. They are both still at risk of contracting the virus — they just have a lower chance of getting it and dying by the virus.

We cannot lower our defenses as the vaccine rolls out. We cannot celebrate early because there are still many people who do not have the golden shot in the arm. The Iowa COVID-19 report, as of Jan. 25, reports that only 5 percent of the entire state has either started or received both doses of the vaccine.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, according to Harvard Gazette, “Let’s say we get 75 percent, 80 percent of the population vaccinated. If we do that, if we do it efficiently enough over the second quarter of 2021, by the time we get to the end of the summer, i.e., the third quarter, we may actually have enough herd immunity protecting our society that as we get to the end of 2021, we can approach very much some degree of normality that is close to where we were before”.

That degree of normality is what the Republican majority is trying to reach in Iowa, way too soon. Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state Legislature are pushing for a full in-person option in K-12 schools in the Midwestern state.

Reopening schools does not take into consideration the emergence of more contagious COVID-19 strains that scientists have found in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa. Studies suggest the vaccine protects against new variants, but as the Hawkeye State lingers in the single-digit percentages of people vaccinated, COVID-19 remains a very real threat.

As much as we would like to believe that we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we haven’t made it above ground. It’s too risky to return to pre-COVID-19 normal. Even with a vaccine rolling out — which would possibly lower the restrictions and precautions set in place — the other strains and the fact that some people just do not care to take any precautions puts too much risk on the community, especially its most vulnerable members.

While it is sad that we have been living through this time for almost a year, we need to keep at it. Stay in your bubble as much as possible, wear a mask when you go anywhere outside, wash your hands, and wait for the vaccine.

We will get through this. But it will just take time.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.