Remembrances of Covid: Winter 2020 – Spring 2021
23th September, 2021
�Ơ This is my fourth post in my Remembrances of Covid series. Click here to check out the third one.
My last post discussed:
- leaving my employer, my only ever full time job, and one I had held for more than six years.
- moving out of the house my friends and I had rented for about 5 years
- traveling across the country and road tripping through Southwest United States with a friend of mine.
October 2020-March 2021
Coming off of the fall and leading into the Winter, I found myself in a totally new world. I no longer lived in Downtown Madison. I no longer worked at Epic, an employer that dominates the local economy and for which many of my friends still work. I no longer woke up each morning with a plan for the day.
I had moved to my friend Rob’s house, with two others, and inserted myself into what at the beginning felt very much like “their house”. They accommodated and moved items in the fridge around, made space for me in the pantry etc.
Jacob, one of my roommates, was the only one that still went into the office, as everyone else took advantage of the local “facilitate remote work” orders that the Dance County public health commission issued.
I spent much of my time developing for my company, and preparing for interviews with Google and Facebook, both of which were isolating and daunting tasks.
As the fall leaves became snow covered and my social calendar emptied, I began to feel a sense of depression.
Had I made a mistake leaving my job? I’m almost thirty, single, paying my friend’s mortgage, and with no employer. What was I doing?
I think a lot of this stemmed from the isolation that accompanied the winter time pandemic, living outside of downtown and the lack of coworkers for which to interact with. Despite my other roommates living at home, it really was a quiet place.
I would wake up, begin programming, and the sun would rise. I’d still be working. I’d work all day and the sun would set. And I’d still be programming. Most days I would take one or two long walks around the neighborhood, which was full of turkeys that lived in the trees in a nearby park. There was a ton of snow that winter, and I really enjoyed stomping through the 18 inch iced over snowfall with my LL Bean boots and not feel a tinge of cold.
Sierrane (another roommate) and I decided around this time to build an igloo after work.
We spent many many hours on the igloo, largely in the dark and at night, as the sunset happened around 4 PM in January-March. Many times we worked in below 0*F temperatures. We talked about a number of designs (hexagonal ice blocks?!) but ultimately decided to use those aluminum turkey pans and fill up with water and then remove them and mortar them with a ice/water mixture. Read more about the planning of our igloo here.
This activity was a saving grace and I am so grateful that Sierrane suggested it. It broke the monotony, the never-ending cycle my winter days and nights had become.
Eventually, the temperatures improved, and so did the world’s outlook on Covid as vaccine programs began to be rolled out. Israel first blazed the trail, but the USA became a world leader in vaccinations, and vaccinating an incredible amount of people in a short period of time.
The vaccine “rollout” process looked very much like an airplane “boarding” process in that select populations became eligible before others–some of which made sense (clinicians and other essential workers [grocery store workers, bus drivers, etc.]), and others that did not (racial minorities).
Dane County did a pretty effective job in communicating the “phased rollout” plan to the public, and it was clear to me when I was eligible to receive one.
Since I was diabetic and considered “high risk” I was going to be eligible before many of my friends.
It was around this time, in mid-March to mid-April that everyone was pontificating on how to get the vaccine. A few of my friends regularly volunteered at a food shelter operating out of a church, and the woman that ran the shelter opted to issue some of her “vaccination eligibility tickets” to them. Friends of mine that were going out on essential Epic travel got vaccination opportunities through Epic before many others.
I began looking for other nearby counties that were further ahead in the vaccination phases than Dane county, and I ended up finding that Winnebago County in northern Illinois (home of Rockford) about an hour from Madison was vaccinating diabetics and other high risk individuals.
I used their online scheduling service near the end of march and schedule both of my Pfizer shots, the first for April 2nd and the second two weeks later.
I arrived at the vaccination location, an abandoned mall, likely a former department or hardware store on April 2nd. I was astounded at the logistics of the operation and very impressed with how well it was run.
The whole thing took no more than 4 minutes:
- I walked in, an officer pointed me to the check in tables, which were broken down by segments of the alphabet. The warehouse was a massive, 20,000 square foot space with no walls, so you could see the scale of the operation.
- The front desk officers scanned the QR code emailed to me and checked my ID. Behind them lay rows and rows of tables, two officers to a table, one running the computer to document my vaccination, and the other giving the shots.
- The second check in officer pointed my to a table (numbered to easily indicate which I should walk to). And the officers vaccinated me. They told me they were doing 10,000 people a day, and hoped to get to 15,000 in the coming weeks.
- After I received my vaccination, they gave me a piece of paper indicating the date of my first shot, and I was told to go to the waiting area on the left hand side of the warehouse to wait for 15 minutes. Presumably this was so you could find if you had any adverse reactions.
- I had no desire to wait, so I left, and went to the nearby Walgreens to buy a cold brew for the ride home.
The absolutely massive amount of cost to have the military out there vaccinating people and the logistics to track populations of vaccinated individuals was just incredible. I will admit I felt a sense of pride in my country when I left to drive home.
The side effects of the vaccine, which had been characteristically overblown and sensationalized by the media were nil, besides a sore arm. I did not experience the slightest amount of fatigue after the first shot, and went hiking at Blue Mounds State park later that day.
While my vaccination was complete, and I certainly felt a weight lifted off my shoulders (I made it through the pandemic without getting the scarlet letter of a diagnosis!), many of my friends and peers in Madison were still awaiting theirs.
Despite the proper communication, it seemed that Dane County was much more conservative in opening up the vaccine to the broader population, instead opting to continue to limit the vaccinations to the elderly, minorities, essential workers until that population’s vaccination rate became a trickle.
When Dane County did open up the vaccinations, the supply was still limited, and there were a few weeks of very hard to acquire appointments. A friend of mine had shared that Walgreens and CVS (who weren’t able to deliver the vaccine in Wisconsin, but could in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota) uploaded their appointment openings at 6AM Eastern, so friends of mine were awaking early in attempts to get appointments there.
Eventually though, by mid-May, it seemed nearly everyone was vaccinated, or at least had their first shot, and we had turned a corner from this very dark period of in world democratic policy.