Since January of this year, our country has gone from a peak of nearly 300,000 coronavirus cases a day to a rolling, 7-day average of 70,000 cases a day. And during the past few months, while common preventative measures—masking, social distancing, and hand washing—have helped slow the spread and bring infection rates down from their early January peak, a new element has entered the picture to help reduce the number of new cases: vaccines.
As our country races to vaccinate its population, and as more of us get vaccinated, it seems as though we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel—that the possibility of a “return to normal” is less remote. Recently, we spoke to Door County community members Phil Biebl, Jeff and Gloria Heck, and Joan Fox about their hopes for the future and about their experiences with the vaccination process.
How has your life changed since last March, and what have you missed the most about pre-pandemic life?
Phil: Well, I am a very social person, and I really miss being together, in person, with family and friends. So since last March, that has changed a lot and I’ve had to make some adjustments in my life in order to get with this new way of life. But, on a more positive note, this past year I have become a way better cook, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. So, even when things improve, I feel I’ll be spending some quality time in the kitchen rattling those pots and pans.
Jeff: Primarily, our lives changed by trying to be responsible citizens here—following guidelines and basically staying home. What we’ve missed the most is the companionship of friends and family—being around other people in general.
Joan: A few friends and I actually started our quarantine a little before March and we immediately postponed some vacation plans for spring and summer. At this point, I absolutely miss being able to be in person with people we care about locally, whether it’s in church, or in friendly restaurants, or just socially with the neighborhood.
Do you feel like the pandemic is almost over? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel or is there still a long way to go?
Joan: The 1917 pandemic took 2 years to resolve, and so I guessed early on this pandemic would take at least that long to resolve. And, while I feel we’re nearing the end, I also agree with the current estimate—that it will be at least Christmas of this year before things feel really safe and back to usual.
Phil: I definitely feel that there is a light at the end of this tunnel—I can kind of see a little bit of a glow, but, I also really feel that we may be a ways away from having the pandemic totally be a thing of the past. However, when I see people going into gas stations or restaurants, and they’re still not masking, it makes me realize that we all still have to hold together in order to get back to some degree of normalcy.
Jeff: I know we both agree that we do see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve begun volunteering again in the hospital at the outpatient surgical area, and I think because of the vaccination process we are absolutely turning the corner.
What did it feel like when you got your first COVID-19 inoculation? Was it emotional? What were the thoughts and feelings that you had?
Phil: I went into the whole thing with a mixture of relief, optimism, and a little bit of anxiety, because I didn’t know if I was going to be one of these people who experienced severe side effects. I can happily say, “No, I did not.” I’ve only had the one dose so far, but I didn’t really feel anything as a result of it—not even really much of a sore arm. So, I’m ready for part two. [Since this article Phil has received his second dose and did not have any side effects.]
Gloria: I felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders. I had this sense of relief, and a lot of stress and sleepless nights seemed to have evaporated. And I felt a lot safer by having the vaccination.
Joan: When I got my appointment I was thrilled. I think the emotion I experienced in the moment of the injection was actually relief—relief that I did not have a reaction whatsoever to the injection, and pleasantly surprised that we had almost no side effects later on.
Now that you’re vaccinated, how has life changed for you?
Jeff: For us it’s a sense of confidence—we can be out and about. Now, it is a sense of certainty—if I’m in a setting where the virus may be present my protection is just that much better.
Joan: What’ll change for me is not much—I will be careful going out; I’ll still wear a mask; I’ll still keep my distance. I will, however, feel comfortable to meet with people who have been vaccinated in an isolated situation—perhaps have coffee or go to another couple’s home once we’re all fully vaccinated.
Phil: Since the vaccination, I haven’t really changed my regular routine—I still socially distance, mask up, wash my hands. Even after my second vaccination I don’t believe I’ll change this routine, which is a healthy one. One thing that perhaps will change is that I will be able to give out handshakes and hugs again! We’ll see!
When the pandemic is over, is there anything you hope doesn’t go back to normal?
Phil: Many companies had their employees work from home. I think that was a new addition to how the workplace operates and I think there have been some positive results from allowing families to work from home when the need arises. I hope that continues.
Jeff: On a personal level, what I’ve witnessed is a community coming together—the way the community rose up and said, “How can I help my neighbor? What can I do?” That sense of community was one of the values that really attracted us to Door County in the first place. For me, I hope that continues at the level that we’ve seen it since the pandemic started.
Joan: Initially, I saw in Door County especially, a huge outpouring of concern for our fellow citizens—we were worried about those who were home; we were worried about their meals; we were worried about their loss of jobs, and I think there was a financial and emotional outpouring. I hope we don’t lose that compassion and kindness going forward.
There are some people that are considering not getting vaccinated. What would you say to those people? How do you respond to them?
Phil: Well, being vaccinated keeps all of us safe, and I think we all want to have that feeling that each of us is part of this group that is all doing our best to make sure that we’re safe. Our health, and the health of our loved ones, is so precious and important, if each of us can do what we can to not only protect ourselves, but those we love, let’s do it.
Gloria: I’d say, “It’s a personal choice.” But, I would personally hope that everybody gets it, because getting vaccinated would help all of us. I didn’t have a lot of side effects. Most people I’ve talked to haven’t. And again, the sense of relief that you feel after getting vaccinated is just amazing. So, I would urge everyone to go out and get it.
Joan: I would say to someone who is slow to take the vaccine, “Please reconsider.” We need every single person to accept this inoculation, so that we can more quickly get hold of this virus. The longer it circulates, the greater the probability of another variant developing, and some of those variants can be very problematic.
It’s all up to you—we really need everyone. It really is up to us to do this for each other.