Vaccinated!

Today, Fandango’s provocative question (#FPQ) is all about the COVID-19 vaccine. Fandango asks: have you gotten vaccinated for COVID-19 yet? If not, are you planning to? If you have, or are planning to, how do you think your life will change afterwards? If you’re not planning to get vaccinated, why not?

First, yes, I did get the COVID vaccine. I got the Pfizer one and got the first shot in early february and the second just shy of two weeks ago. I never doubted whether to get the vaccine or not. I, after all, have always been pro-vaccine and especially with the coronavirus. I mean, I’m not worried that I’ll get very sick with COVID, but I do worry for those I live with. I also think that, the more people get vaccinated, the more likely we are to return to some semblance of normal. I’m not naive though: I know COVID will likely never fully go away. My hope is though that we can control the worst effects of the pandemic.

As for how I think things will change now, not likely anything will within the near future. Our staff have all gotten the letter to ask them to make a vaccination appointment, but they’re due to get the AstraZeneca one. With that requiring eleven to twelve weeks between the first and second shot, they won’t likely be protected against COVID until sometime in May or June. That is, if the Netherlands starts using the AstraZeneca vaccine again. The government has currently suspended it for now because of “concerns”.

Well, let me be very clear: even if one in 100,000 people do get thrombosis after being vaccinated, and it’s actually the vaccine that’s to blame, I’d still have taken the risk had I been offered this vaccine rather than the Pfizer one.

That’s not to say there are no side effects. I had none from the Pfizer vaccine and even worried I hadn’t gotten the shot right. Many of my staff got some immune reactions like fevers or a sore arm due to the first AstraZeneca shot. Those are short-term though and, to most people I know, are outweighed by the long-term benefits of the vaccine.

Ultimately, I hope that, once my staff are all vaccinated, the day center will reopen. I think that’s the first positive thing that will come out of the vaccination campaign. Other than that, I’m not sure. I rarely attend concerts or other large events, so I won’t need my vaccine report for those.

Speaking of which, I’m not 100% decided on the topic of vaccination reports. In the voting guide for today’s election, I did say that I do think venues should be allowed to ask for a vaccine report before allowing people in. I do feel that, if you’re able to be vaccinated, it’s really a kind of moral obligation that you are, but there are also people who aren’t able to.

What do you think?

What a Day, What a Year! #SoCS

Today I got my COVID test results. Thankfully, I’m negative. Like I mentioned yesterday, I went into room-based isolation with cold symptoms and a sore throat yesterday morning. That day in isolation was hard. I constantly imagined testing positive for COVID. That’d mean at least five more days in quarantine. It’d also mean I would have to alert my nurse practitioner and the facility’s behavior specialist, both of whom I’d seen on Thursday.

I felt intense guilt about possibly having infected my staff too. After all, when I was still only experiencing a sore throat, the staff tried to reassure me that I couldn’t possibly have COVID. It may be true – I had my second shot of the vaccine last week -, but I couldn’t be sure.

Can you imagine that, a year ago, we were just at the beginning of this pandemic? On March 12, 2020, the first local case of COVID-19 had been discovered. On March 13, the community service event that was due to take place at my day center as part of a countrywide volunteering initiative, had been canceled. The day center closed five days later, on March 18.

I hadn’t seen my husband since the first weekend of March I think and wasn’t going to see him again till sometime in late May. After all, at first visiting the care facility was discouraged, then it was completely prohibited except in rare cases when a family member was essential for a client’s care. My husband wasn’t.

I am so glad that now, during the second lockdown, care facilities remain open to visitors except when there’s an outbreak of COVID or suspected COVID, as in my case yesterday. I am so glad one of my fellow clients, who had her birthday on Tuesday, may receive a visit from her family tomorrow.

I had my own birthday on June 27, one day after the final restrictions to visiting were lifted, provided there’s no countrywide lockdown or COVID outbreak. Though we’re in a countrywide lockdown again, the lockdown policy remains that care facilities can be open. I credit the prime minister’s late mother, who died in a nursing home during the first lockdown or so I believe.

This post was written for today’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) prompt of day/week/month/year.

Back to Normal?

It’s been nearly a year since the coronavirus pandemic hit the Netherlands. Today, I’m participating in one of Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop prompts. It asks us whether anything is back to normal yet. The short answer is: it depends on your reference point.

Last summer, we were pretty much back to as normal as you get it. We were still social distancing, but shops, restaurants and cafes were open. There were even plans to allow for festivals and the like. And then the second wave hit.

On December 15, the Netherlands entered into the second lockdown. Restaurants and cafes had already been closed sometime in November. In December, schools, including elementary schools and nurseries, closed. Daycare centers and elementary schools opened again the second week of February. However, non-essential shops were also closed. By January, a curfew was issued, allowing people to only be on the streets for certain exceptional reasons from 9PM until 4:30AM.

It is supposed to be a strict lockdown. That being said, this time around it feels easier to me than our first lockdown. After all, even though that one was said to be less strict, and in many ways it was, care facilities were not allowing visitors then. They are again now. Also, physical therapists, dentists and other medical contact professionals are allowed to remain open throughout this lockdown.

On Tuesday, our prime minister held a press conference. In it, he said that, though infection rates didn’t warrant it, society did need a loosening of the lockdown. From next week on, secondary schools will be re-opening part-time. Hairdressers, beauticians and other non-medical contact professionals are also allowed to start working again. In addition, shops are now able to allow at most two customers into the shop at a time. You’re required to register a set timeframe to shop. This will supposedly help small businesses. I already heard a joke about a major budget store being booked full till July of 2023.

Honestly, I’m rather pessimistic about us going back to “normal”, whatever that may be. I’m pretty sure we’ll enter a third wave of the virus in April and that’s assuming the current infection rate is down enough to re-open. Like the prime minister said, it really isn’t. We still get over 4000 new cases of COVID each day.

Last week, my husband Googled the ultimate question: when will COVID end? He saw an article dating back to mid-December predicting that, if by late January, new cases would be down to 1200 a day, COVID would be over by the end of 2021. For the record: new cases were almost ten times that number by then. Vaccination is also going much slower than expected. I predict it’ll be at least the summer of 2022 before we’re back to whatever semblance of normal remains.

Mama’s Losin’ It

The Lockdown Tag

I don’t think anyone specifically tagged me for this tag, but I saw it on a number of other blogs. The idea is to answer a number of questions about life in lockdown. We just went into “partial lockdown” again, or really are going tonight, but the prime minister delivered the news yesterday evening. I think it’s about time I write about life in lockdown again.

1. Overall, how are you handling the quarantine?
I’m hanging in there. Now that at least some restrictions have been going on for over half a year, I’m coping less well than at the beginning of the lockdown.

2. Have you violated any of the restrictions? If yes, what rule(s) did you break?
Honestly, yes. When the no-visitors policy in care homes was lifted last May, we were expected to still keep our distance from visitors and avoid physical contact. Well, I did at first try, but I just couldn’t resist hugging my husband.

3. What viral recipes have you tried during the lockdown?
I didn’t even know that this is a thing. I haven’t really tried any new recipes, honestly.

4. What activities have you missed the most during quarantine?
At first, of course, I missed seeing my husband altogether, as it wasn’t allowed at all. Now that we’re allowed visitors again, I miss going places, like restaurants, with my husband. Restaurants are closed again for two weeks at least from tonight on, but even when they were still open, I wouldn’t take the risk.

5. Do you wear a mask when you leave the house?
Uhm, no. I don’t travel by public transportation at all or go to public places much. Until yesterday’s press conference, the government didn’t want to mandate mask-wearing except on public transportation, but only “strongly advised” it in public places like stores. As of tonight, a mask will be required in all public places and also outside of classes in secondary and tertiary education. It’s not required when going for walks outdoors. I do think that, when my mother-in-law visits tomorrow, I’m going to wear a mask to protect her, as she’s generally very careful and I’m not.

6. Are you an essential worker? If yes, what is your job title?
No. I don’t work. Thankfully, my staff are classed as essential workers and we didn’t get holiday or weekend staffing levels so far, which I was worried about at first.

7. How do you exercise during the lockdown?
I go for walks, go on the elliptical, do weight training and yoga. Basically, all my usual exercise activities. I was on the waiting list to go swimming before lockdown and had considerd going to a gym too. Swimming was canceled here at the facility and, though gyms are still open, I don’t want to take the risk.

8. Have you subscribed to any new subscription services since the lockdown started?
No. I did briefly restart my Netflix subscription, but canceled it again after a month. I much prefer reading to watching.

9. What did/does your daily schedule look like before the pandemic started?
I’m assuming the question is meant to ask how our schedules differ now that we’re in lockdown, because of course the pandemic is raging so there’s no present tense “does” before the pandemic. Anyway, before the pandemic I would go to the day center at around 9:30AM and stay there until 4PM. Now that we’re provided day activities in the home, I usually don’t start them until 10AM at least. I also take more breaks than I used to. I much prefer the current arrangement.

10. Do you think that the pandemic is getting better or worse?
Worse. It’s all pretty awful. I really hope they’ll find a vaccine soon.

11. What have you learnt/became grateful for during the lockdown?
I’ve become more appreciative in general. For example, I’m grateful for my health, my ability to still go outside for walks, being able to see my husband… lots of things!

12. How do you think the world should learn from this pandemic so that things are better in the future?
I think in general people have learned to be more health conscious. Other than that, I don’t think the pandemic taught us any big lesson or whatever. Of course, I could get all fluffy about people possibly being kinder and more grateful towards each other and the planet, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I’m not tagging anyone, but if you want to do this tag, feel free to.

Pandemic Positives

Today, Fandango asks in his weekly provocative question wehther the need to quarantine as a result of COVID-19 has made you a better person.

Lockdown here started in the middle of March with restaurants acutely closing their doors, school closures and, a week later, a no-visitors policy in nursing homes and care facilities. I couldn’t see my husband for nearly three months. Then we could see each other, but we had to keep our distance as much as possible.

Life more or less returned to some sembleance of normal at the end of June. Still, people are scared. I, not so much, though I do take COVID-19 seriously. There are still certain restrictions, most of which don’t affect me too much.

The main thing affecting me was not being able to see my husband. This certainly made me appreciate our very special relationship even more than I appreciated it already. I mean, I chose to go into long-term care last year, of course not knowing that this would mean not seeing my husband for a few months. However, I doubt most marriages would survive even that decision, let alone the consequences. I attribute the success of our marriage mostly to my husband’s everlasting love, but I do deserve some credit for it too.

In general, too, the pandemic has made me more appreciative of what I do have. I am physically healthy and so are my loved ones. In April, a man at the home below me died of coronavirus. Though he was in his 70s, this shocked me a little. My father is in his 70s too, so I’m all the more grateful to still have him.

Other than gratitude, I think the pandemic taught me some level of creativity. Before the lockdown, I found it hard to connect to my husband when I didn’t see him. Now we call each other multiple times a week and text multiple times a day. Of course, I could’ve done that before too, but out of need grew the solution.

I also read somewhere that some people are particularly happier now than they were before the pandemic. I have to say so am I. The reasons may not be related to the pandemic at all, as I’ve also finally settled into the care facility and such.

In general though, I think the pandemic has had and continues to have negative effects on the world, of course. However, if it affected me personally at all, it’s positively. By this I don’t mean my economic, social or health status, of course. Though I’m still financially secure and healthy, no-one knows whether this will remain this way given the huge economic costs of the pandemic. I’ve just become a more positive (or should I say less negative?) person.