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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Pandemic Daze: The Vaccine Emotional Rollercoaster

 Vaccines have always seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic.  We spent months knowing that scientists were working hard to develop them, and that thousands of brave volunteers were participating in clinical trials.  It seems now like nothing short of a miracle that we have two highly effective vaccines approved in the US with several other promising candidate yet to be approved.

The giant caveat to this, of course, is that vaccine doses cannot be produced quickly enough to keep up with demand.  The fact that the vaccines currently approved in the US require two doses further complicates issues (not looking a gift horse in the mouth, mind you--I'm very grateful for any vaccines we can have!).

The solution has been identifying higher priority groups who should be vaccinate first.  Unfortunately, we do not yet have enough doses even for these groups.  With limited doses and sky-high demand, it feels that the vaccine roll-out has degenerated into a complicated free-for-all.

I think Scott and I can serve as a very small case study of some of the things that can happen with determining vaccine eligibility and actually receiving the shots.  We both live in one district and work in schools in another.  As people working in K-12 schools, we have been placed in a higher priority group to receive vaccines.  Scott works for this district as an employee; I work for them as a contractor.

The whole business of working for them as a contractor has been the root of a lot of aggravation.  When this district first partnered with a local hospital to provide vaccines, I only found out through Scott because I am not included on all of the email distros.  In theory, we would be able to sign up and use our employee badges as proof of employment.  As a contractor, for reasons I cannot even begin to understand, I have been issued a badge designating me as a volunteer.

On a side note, is there anything that will give parents more confidence than thinking that an unpaid volunteer is diagnosing and treating their children's communication disorders?  But I digress.

At that point, I contacted HR to ask for a letter confirming that I work in the schools.  They initially refused to help me, but ultimately relented when I escalated the matter up the chain.  So, I had my letter, and Scott and I both initially had vaccine appointments for tomorrow.

Then the hospital that was supposed to vaccinate us ran out of doses last week and cancelled appointments.  I don't know how that happened, but I'm guessing the mythical national vaccine stockpile may have played a role in their miscalculation.

A couple days later, they got more doses and issued invitations for people to sign up for appointments.  Except...Scott received one and I didn't.  I escalated this up the chain again, and this time they were a lot less helpful ("dismissive" is really the word that comes to my mind).  I'm happy to say he has an appointment tomorrow, but concerned that I don't.

In another email that I didn't get as a contractor (and Scott showed me), the district where we work said they would send an email to employees who were not invited to reschedule vaccinations to confirm that they still wanted the vaccine and then take next steps.  My question at this point is whether I (as a lowly contractor, rather than a high-fallutin' employee) will actually receive this email, or whether I will be completely shut out of the process.  As of now, as someone working in a school, my only option is for the district where I work to arrange for me to be vaccinated--I can't just take my letter confirming I work in the schools to a local pharmacy and arrange for an appointment that way.

So, the past few days have been an emotional rollercoaster for me, one that I suspect will continue for some time.  I know I'm not even in the worst position.  There are people who, in my opinion, are in risker occupations than mine who have not even been invited to start the process yet.  But I dream about the day when vaccine supply is no longer an issue and all of our hopes aren't centered around being able to receive shots.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Pandemic Daze: The Joys Of Working While Wearing PPE

 My job is currently mostly virtual, although that may change soon.  Plenty has been said about the challenges of working and learning remotely, but under the circumstances, working in-person is likewise not a picnic.

I had to go into a school today to conduct a speech and language evaluation for a kid.  First of all, as an issue entirely separate from the pandemic, evaluations are not my favorite part of the job, particularly ones that involve standardized assessments.  I have yet to find a way to make a standardized assessment fun for anybody, and they sometimes drag on for an unreasonably long time.

With schools in the district where I work being virtual for now, conducting one of these evaluations involves coordinating with parents to bring their child to school.  This always leaves open the possibility that they will be late or forget.  Also, they may have scheduling constraints for pick-up that do not match the realities of the testing.

Also, of course, we have to use PPE while we do the testing.  I'm pretty used to wearing masks, and I believe they are necessary, but they also prevent me from drinking water during a period of time when I have to do a lot of talking with a clear voice.  I'm always parched by the time I'm done.  I've been provided with what I think of as a crummy face shield (though I wonder how good they ever are), which is basically the equivalent of having to look through dirty glasses for the duration of the evaluation.  Today, at the request of a parent, I had to also wear a plastic disposable gown and some sort of slippery plastic gloves.

So, imagine the scene...I'm sitting with a kid I've never met before, possibly boring him to the point of tears with standardized assessments.  I'm getting a headache from dehydration and looking through a plastic sheet that is most definitely not transparent.  The plastic gloves I'm wearing are so slippery I have trouble turning pages in the test books that I'm using to show the kid pictures for the assessment.  And I'm straining to hear the kid's already quiet voice, which is muffled by his mask and the plexiglass barrier between us.

If we ever return to any approximation of "normal," so many things will feel so much easier than they are now.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pandemic Daze: Already Missing The Capitol Steps

 One thing that has been clear since the beginning of the pandemic is that we won't be able to just resume life as it was.  Too much has changed.  In the worst cases, this has meant people dying prematurely of COVID-19 or suffering long term health problems.  But many valued businesses have also closed, leaving employees without jobs and customers without the services they provided.  We already know of a few favorite restaurants in our area that have closed, for example.  But that didn't prepare me for how sad I would feel this morning when I heard that the Capitol Steps would be shutting down.

For the uninitiated, Capitol Steps is a wonderful political satire group that has been around since the 1980's.  I became interested in them around middle school, when I became interested in politics and news events.  My family used to play their radio shows on NPR, and I used to record them using blank cassette tapes, and then go back and transcribe the songs I particularly liked.  There are some political events from years ago that I remember specifically because the Capitol Steps wrote songs about them.

I've been fortunate to have gone to several of their live performances.  I don't recall exactly when I went to the last one, but I had already started grad school 2.0 by then, so it was within the past couple of years.  Scott and I were talking about seeing another one in that elusive future time when such things may become possible again.

I've tried not to turn my blog into an extended political rant, but I have expressed some of my views about Trump on here before.  I've been very disturbed by his presidency for reasons that go far beyond the fact that he and I belong to different political parties.  But the fact that satire continued during the past four years gave me hope that things would ultimately be okay, and gave me much-needed laughs.  I could use some laughs now, as a matter of fact, having been swinging between sadness and anger since last week's insurrection at the Capitol.  (Though to be fair, I think it would be hard to find a humorous angle there).

Capitol Steps, you will be sorely missed.