This week marks a poignant milestone in my work at Peabody Home. Last March, at this time, I gave what turned out to be my last in-house tour of 2020 to a gentleman from Gilmanton, interested in learning more about Peabody Home as an option for a loved one coping with failing health to the extent, he realized, the day would dawn when he could no longer provide care at home.
COVID was wreaking viral havoc in the Lombardy region of Italy at that time, with Prime Minister Conte quarantining over 16 million Italians in the northern provinces that included Milan. Similar misery followed in the United Kingdom and then of course, right here in America.
We thought we were relatively safe, us New Englanders. Our genetic Yankee resolve and self-sufficiency would stand us in good stead; not to mention, our low population density. We didn’t have that much infection and our death rate was low. That was to change over the course of 2020- Annus Horribilis. The coming months exacted a terrible toll on our physical being, not to mention the emotional and spiritual price we paid for lockdown, isolation, work at home, job loss and associated medical insurance loss, children schooled remotely (which forced many women to sacrifice work to care for family). By April 2020 18 million people were jobless and worrying about paying their bills.
The summer saw infection rates drop but by autumn as we went inside and started to suffer from ‘COVID Fatigue’ the US death ratcheted up. I won’t belabor those details – we’ve witnessed this unfolding suffering daily on the evening news. At the point that 500,000 Americans lost their lives to COVID, #46 President Joe Biden, gave a moving, poignant speech that not only empathized with this unprecedented loss but reminded us all that we would get through the pandemic. While for me it wasn’t quite the ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ speech from Winston Churchill, but it certainly paralleled national strength, a call to arms and unity.
“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we will remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind. We will get through this, I promise you. But my heart aches for you — those of you who are going through it right now.
For those who have lost loved ones, this is what I know: They’re never truly gone. They’ll always be part of your heart. I know this, as well — and it seems unbelievable, but I promise you: The day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye. It will come. I promise you. My prayer for you though is that day will come sooner rather than later. And that’s when you know you’re going to be okay — you’re going to be okay”.
Indeed we will walk again on the Sunny Side of the Street. Now we have not one, or two, but three vaccines available.
Small rural states such as the Poster Child for how to do it right, West Virginia; managed to roll out an impressive and well-thought-out vaccination campaign.
Maj. General James Hoyer of the National Guard and leader of the Joint Interagency Task Force on Vaccination, said it best when asked how he’d managed to create access and a hotline so folks could find out where they could get vaccinated, “I’m just doing my damn job”. As of this writing, 601,000 doses have been administered, with over 233,000 West Virginians fully vaccinated, representing 13% of the state’s population. I’d opinion he’s doing his job very well and I suspect, other entities took a leaf out of his playbook.
New Hampshire thus far as administered 121,000 doses with 31,000 Granite Staters fully vaccinated or 2.3% of our total population. This past weekend, the NH Motor Speedway in Loudon pledged to vaccinate another 12,000 New Hampshire citizenry.
It is still a little too early to throw out the ubiquitous masks we’ve all been wearing and we do still need to practice good hand hygiene – perplexingly a message that got lost. We also need to keep our distance from others in confined indoor and outdoor public places, but a bit of the grey cloud begins to lift in the realm of long-term care.
The NH Department of Public Health just last week stated there is no credible evidence that companion animals spread COVID-19. Some non-essential workers if fully vaccinated will be allowed back into our facilities, which means we will again see the hairdresser, the dietician, physical therapists, radiology technicians et al.
Right now, Peabody Home is in Phase 1 of reopening. In spite of our COVID-free status, we reside in Merrimack County with a positivity rate of 9.5%. Families have been able to visit with appropriate screening, masking and barrier between resident and resident family members. We have communal dining but maintain 6ft distancing. Activities are cohorted and require masks worn by all, maintaining six-foot distancing.
Best of all, quarantine restrictions are lifted for new residents, if they are 14 days out from their full Covid inoculation.
So while we are still in the tunnel, the light shines a little brighter at the end. What we all must do now is stay the course, continue mask-wearing until we know we don’t need to, and be mindful of gatherings and social distancing. Children are slowly going back to school and one day soon, we’ll be able to enjoy a meal, in a restaurant, with our friends. One day soon families will again enjoy the luncheons and events we held throughout the year at Peabody!