In April and then in July, I asked my friend Oscar Rios to describe the situation in New York, where he lives. A former cemetery worker turned writer, Oscar is of Spanish-American origin. He analyzed for Release the way in which “The fish” spread in his country while “The conservative media called it all a liberal hoax to harm the President [Donald Trump à l’époque, ndlr]». And humbly explained how the little people, during this “Class act of genocide” in a country where health costs can ruin you, had adapted to take: “We try to be indulgent with ourselves and with each other, and we do our best not to become a statistic. We are doing our best not to strain a nearly overwhelmed medical system. ” When I learned that Oscar had been vaccinated, I asked him to pick up the pen for a new letter from America:
“Life in America has been very strange in recent months. I won’t dwell on the attempted fascist takeover of our democracy, not really. Let’s focus on the deadly global pandemic. One nightmare at a time.
“We thought things would change when the vaccines came in, but for a long time they didn’t. The virus had spread like a deadly cloud, infecting people, sending them to hospitals, killing some of us while our so-called President, too focused on canceling an election he had lost and the attempt to impose a dictatorship, chose to ignore it. His rhetoric made matters worse. He continued to attack the scientific community and embolden his supporters to ignore social distancing and reopen businesses despite the risks. When he was finally ousted from power, things finally changed as our leadership regained some semblance of sanity.
Like seats at a concert
“It was neither quick nor easy. No logistics plan had been put in place to distribute the vaccine, so the new administration had to start from scratch. At first he was almost hopeless trying to get a vaccination appointment, limited to older citizens and officials most at risk. The weeks dragged on and for many of us it seemed like we would never get our doses. We would spend hours on the computer, jumping from website to website, desperately trying to get a date when our turn came.
“But more and more vaccination centers have opened, as production ramped up in our factories and the government launched a coordinated plan to vaccinate our population. Slowly the ages were lowered and lowered again, but we still lived in fear and holed up at home. Finally, our turn has come, and I have taken action.
“I was finally able to make an appointment for my whole family, with a friend who helped me get one for my mother-in-law. For most of us, I would watch when a new vaccination center opened, find out when they would start making an appointment, and hang out online refreshing my browser, like trying to get some tickets to a rock concert. For my kids (18 and 26) this meant driving an hour’s drive, four times (first and second dose included) but I preferred that rather than waiting another four to six weeks for a hypothetical appointment available at proximity.
“But on the 15th day after my second dose, someone flipped a switch in my brain. A fog arose, to which I had become so used to it that it had become normal to me. I let out a long, slow breath and thought to myself, “You survived. You got to the other side. ””
— Oscar Rios, writer in New York
“We’ve all had our doses, most from Pfizer and one of us from Moderna. None of us got sick or had a reaction, apart from feeling tired and having difficulty concentrating the day after the second dose. What can I tell you about vaccination? I can tell you that in the line, while I was in my car, Here comes the sun of the Beatles went on the radio, and I burst into tears. I can tell you that the woman behind me started to cry, saying it was the first time she left her house in seven months.
On the other side
“The time between the first dose and the second was surreal. You knew you were protected, but not fully. Life hasn’t really changed. Ditto after the second dose because we were told that it took another two weeks to achieve 95% immunity. But on the 15th day after my second dose, someone flipped a switch in my brain. A fog arose, to which I had become so used to it that it had become normal to me. I let out a long, slow breath and thought to myself, “You survived. You got to the other side. ”
“It was April 28 for me. I was happy and relieved. And over 574,000 of my compatriots had died. Part of me was crying for them, because they weren’t on this side, they would always be on the other side. I was grateful that no one in my immediate family had died, and that those of my friends who had been infected had recovered. I started working again, more productively than I had done in a long time. It was an adjustment, stressful, I seemed to find parts of myself that had been dormant for so long. I was no longer the same person. None of us will ever be, I imagine.
“It was finished. Is not it ?
“Even in New York City, a city that had taken the pandemic seriously for a long time, people still wear their masks. We carry our immunization cards with us wherever we go, just like any other form of identification. I went to the movies, with a mixture of excitement, nervousness and outright fear. I didn’t want anyone near me. I still don’t want it. We went out with the family to the restaurant, feeling as uncomfortable as toddlers learning to walk. Why ? Because so many people still don’t take the coronavirus seriously, refuse to be vaccinated, and get sick. Since my vaccination on April 28, there have been 9,000 additional deaths, for a total of 583,000 as of this writing.
“When our new president took office, he pledged to vaccinate 100 million American citizens during his first 100 days in office. His political opponents laughed at him and explained that it was impossible. We did it in 58 days. By the end of Biden’s first 100 days, 230 million vaccines had been administered. Today you don’t even need an appointment, you can just walk into many centers and get vaccinated. We had finally taken charge.
Nothing was finished
“But even that remains bittersweet, because I talked to my friends abroad and watched the news.
“Amazingly, unbelievably, after dealing with the pandemic so tragically, my country has successfully rolled out the vaccine. My friends in Canada, Europe and the UK will still have to wait months. Many told me that their dates would only take place in the middle or end of summer, some even told me that their age group would not be eligible until September. I couldn’t believe it, few of us here could. How did we finally get it right when throughout 2020 we had failed miserably on all fronts? And so, even for me, so far away from you in New York, and fully vaccinated, it’s not over yet. I have too many friends around the world who are still at risk. Until we’re all safe, this isn’t really going to be over.
“The nightmare of the Indian wave has begun. Their second wave, fueled by political rallies and religious rallies overwhelmingly backed by a government in denial and ignoring its own scientists, swept the country like fire in a conifer forest. To a New Yorker survivor of the first two waves of covid-19, it all sounds horribly familiar. Instead of the mass graves and roadside refrigerated morgues we have known, they cut trees in parks for open-air public cremations. My heart broke as the wave swept out of the cities, into the countryside, and across the border into Tibet.
“Nothing was finished.
“The variants keep appearing, more contagious, sometimes more virulent. The more people who are infected, the greater the risk of a more dangerous mutation. I wonder how long it would take before it mutates to resist our current vaccines. Until the virus is brought under control everywhere, it will never be over.
“I’m sitting here at my window. It’s a beautiful spring day. And I wonder about the future. Am I really safe? Is it really over for me? Or am I just catching my breath before the next wave hits? Did I really get to the other side, or am I just in the eye of the hurricane? I guess we’ll all find out together. ”