Happy New Year–With or Without COVID-19

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions anymore. I know myself too well. I know that I tend to make promises to myself that I can’t—or won’t—keep. Two years ago I swore to finally read James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” I felt like someone as well read as I like to think I am should have read it. Besides, I wanted to see what all the fuss has been about. The dust on that book is two years old now.

So, as we begin a new year, I haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution. But I know what I’m going to do in this fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m going to do what matters most to me. You see, I have come to understand that whatever I’m doing at any given time is what matters most to me at that moment. Whatever I’m doing, I have made a choice. It may be a choice made automatically from habit, it may be something I feel an obligation to do, or it may be a conscious decision driven by something I have thoroughly researched and carefully considered.

Two years ago this month I decided to accept an invitation to join a community effort to mitigate the impact on my family, my friends and my neighbors of the pandemic that was showing no sign of ending on its own. We decided to call our group Let’s end COVID! —too optimistically, as it turned out—but we were hopeful. (Besides, Let’s mitigate COVID! wouldn’t have been as effective a rallying cry.)

God knows we have tried, and we believe we have helped. You’ve participated in our vaccination clinics, seen our billboards, heard our radio and television ads, and read the series of essays in this space so generously provided by the Sun-Gazette. For almost two years now, members of our team, healthcare professionals, and community members have shared information, advice, and personal stories about COVID in these pages.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is about to have yet another birthday.

Let me tell you what I’m going to do this year.

I’m going to be as cautious as I can about exposing myself to COVID. By nature, I am highly averse to risk—and I’m well past 65. My wife has health conditions that make her even more vulnerable to COVID than age alone. We are going to keep using curbside pickup for groceries and other things whenever possible. We will keep shopping online more than we prefer to. I will wear an N-95 mask when I go into stores and other public spaces, even when COVID levels are low.

I will trust the science. Medical science saved my life in 1950 (thank you, Dr. Sanford!) and I have every reason to believe that it’s what will keep me as safe and healthy as possible in the time I have left.

I will keep following the COVID news and try to learn as much as I can about the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the local, national, and worldwide efforts limit its effects. I am encouraged by the research that is going on to develop new and better vaccines and treatments. When new vaccines and boosters become available, I will get them.
I am still hopeful that we will end the pandemic, if not COVID itself. I will do whatever I can to make that happen.

That is not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s just what I do. It’s who I am.
And so I wish you all Happy New Year, which more and more often now I put as “Healthy New Year.” To me they are synonymous.

A mIRACLE HOVERing
Watching the hummingbird
sipping at the window box,
dipping its thin beak into bloom
after bloom, I’m reminded
of the clip shown a hundred times
on the nightly news: a machine
injecting COVID vaccine into ranks
of vials to be sent into the world
like little soldiers intent on battle
with the spike-headed dragons
swarming everywhere, and I think,
this, too, is a miracle hovering
before us; this is how God
will save us, if only
we believe.

Michael Heyd, a retired medical librarian from Fairfield Township who spent more than forty years searching the literature for professional hospital staff, is a member of Let’s end COVID!
Published 1/7/23

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