Yesterday I found myself in a rare situation. Rare, at least, for me during the last year.
I was indoors around a bunch of other people. Everybody was wearing a mask. But still, I was uneasy. Indoors. Around lots of people. But not for very long.
My stay indoors during the tour of the Monument Health COVID-vaccination clinic in the old Herberger’s store at the Rushmore Mall was shorter than the other reporters’. The full-timers. The ones who had to be there and had to stay long enough to get their stories.
In my semi-retired state of journalism, I didn’t have to be there at all. I didn’t have to stay for the whole tour. Nor did I have to wait around to pose a question to Congressman Dusty Johnson, who took the tour and spoke with reporters. He also offered enthusiastic support to Joan Petersen of Rapid City, as a Monument health-care worker lined up her COVID shot.
“Here it comes, Joan,” Johnson said. “Getting back to normal.”
I haven’t yet had my getting-back-to-normal shot. But I’m hoping I’ll get it soon. My age group, 65-to-69-years-old, becomes eligible next week.
I’m signed up on Monument’s website to be notified when I can schedule my first shot. And yesterday morning, as I drove to the vaccination-clinic tour out at the mall, I got a text from Monument saying I will be called to schedule my appointment when I become eligible.
So, I’m closing in on getting back to normal, whatever “normal” will be in the post-COVID world. It will be better than what it has been, for sure.
There was nothing normal for me about being indoors with lots of others yesterday. For almost a year, “indoors” has been my house. It has been a few stores for essentials, usually early in the day when few people are there and most are wearing masks.
It has been clinics of one kind or the other, where COVID protocols are priorities.
And it has been St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church for mass, on days when there are plenty of open spots in the already restricted seating.
But no indoor basketball games. No live music. No political chatter with pals seated comfortably at local coffee shops. No casual shopping trips. No strolling around at the mall just to see what’s new.
Not everyone has given so much up. I chose to. And I’ve missed a lot.
But help is on the way. Earlier this week I emailed Dan Daly, a former Rapid City Journal colleague now working for Monument Health, to celebrate news that my age group would be eligible for vaccinations next week, Dan responded: “Congratulations, Kevin. You’re almost to the finish line.”
Indeed, it has been a marathon-level slog for all of us toward the new normal. It waits on the other side of widespread vaccinations and a crucial herd immunity produced by science rather than by simply allowing the virus to spread.
Our world, our nation, our state has suffered mightily from the virus in the last year: 110 million infected and 2.4 million dead worldwide; 28 million infected and 493,000 dead in the United States; 111,000 infected and 1,847 dead in South Dakota.
There is much to remember and grieve from the last year, but much to hope for now, as regular COVID vaccinations increase and research focuses on bolstered vaccines and boosters to fight even-more-challenging strains of the virus.
We’re not there yet. But we’re working on it, one tiny inserted needle point after the other, just as I saw yesterday at the mall.
“The Herberger’s clinic has been going well,” Dan said. “They’ve been getting people in and out quickly, and allowing them to keep their distance from each other. Let me know if you want me to come out and shoot a photo when you get your shot.”
I said I would. And I will. Getting vaccinated will mean not just more security against a potentially deadly virus but also a return to a more normal version of life.
Coffee with the guys. A spot on the bleachers at a basketball game. An indoor date with my wife that is somewhere beyond our house. And, before long, a big hug for my newest granddaughter down in Sioux Falls, who I have yet to meet in a face-to-face situation that wasn’t on a cell-phone screen.
Never before have I been so excited about getting a shot in the arm.
Kevin Woster writes a blog and offers radio commentary for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.