As I took my car out for some exercise to keep it running on the first day of 2022, I was filled with hope. We had recently received some significant rain that we desperately needed to help lessen the severity of the two-year-old drought. The sky was blue. There was snow on the higher area mountain peaks. There was a chill in the air under the bright winter sun. As was my habit I donned my masks, which this time of year also helped keep my face warm, and I noticed as I passed others walking or riding their bikes that most were also masked. I was filled with hope that others in my area were still taking the COVID-19 threat seriously as the Omicron variant of the disease was causing case counts to spike to new highs.
I was also hopeful having read several recent articles that morning reporting that new studies were showing the Omicron variant to be demonstrably less severe than previous COVID-19 variants. The articles claimed that based on animal studies, this new variant was far more transmissible because it infected the upper respiratory tract instead of the lungs. Even so, test subjects recovered faster with far less damage overall, especially to the lungs. The reports cautioned not to lower precautions such as masks and vaccinations, but if the study data held it could mean that we were getting closer to exiting the pandemic phase of the virus that has dogged us all for two years so far. For me, my masks are here to stay given that beyond avoiding deadly diseases, I rather like not getting seasonal colds and flus.
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge this first week of the year, many local artistic groups have postponed rehearsals or performances to wait until we get past the peak to keep performers and audiences safe. The performing arts aren’t going into complete seclusion, they are just moving forward more cautiously and in some cases extending their winter hiatus a bit. Rehearsals and performances are expected to resume soon, although the exact timing is somewhat fluid as we all wait and see what happens with this latest surge. Some local schools have also started to move toward remote learning temporarily as well in an abundance of caution. Even these actions give me hope. Rather than just plowing through and ignoring the risks, caution and science are guiding decisions.
I have hope that people are energized despite the ongoing struggles to protect our democracy. As we passed the first anniversary of the 2021 insurrection, there is a lot happening now through various investigations. I’m anxious to see some of the upcoming hearings to find out from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol what they’ve uncovered. On the first anniversary of the attack, the January 6th Committee Twitter account released a concise timeline of those events gleaned from hundreds of witnesses in closed door testimony and thousands of official documents they’ve examined. The irony of course is that the former president had used Twitter to spread dangerous lies that harmed the public before his account was removed, and now others are using the platform to help educate the public about the actual events that transpired.
This first week of 2022 has been a wild economic ride as the markets swung widely reacting quickly to various reports on inflation, jobs, and the effect of the latest surge of the pandemic. Still, that the Federal Reserve plans to start raising interest rates sooner rather than later highlights the good side of the economy and provides a positive outlook going forward.
New shortages are surfacing, this time related to COVID-19 testing as people try diligently to obtain home tests or appointments for tests administered by healthcare providers. Appointments for vaccinations are also weeks off in many areas as people scramble to get initial vaccinations or boosters against COVID-19. Those trying to do the right thing are facing obstacles. Still, the fact that so many are taking action to protect themselves and those around them is encouraging.
Part of what keeps me grounded during these uncertain times is reading and watching people like Heather Cox Richardson. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about our history that I hadn’t learned from school, work, or previous reading. I’ve also gained a better understanding of the significance of current events, and what they means for the future of our country and the world. Watching foreign conflicts from afar was always terrifying, and before the past five or six years, I never thought that those kinds of conflicts would happen here. While last year showed that the U.S. was not immune to the kinds of uprisings we see in other parts of the world, I am encouraged that so many are working hard to prevent them from happening again. People nationwide are standing up for our democracy, and while we also need Congress to do its part to help preserve our democratic norms, I am more encouraged now than I have been in a long time.
While I’m not thrilled to be living through such tumultuous times, we are not alone. Our parents and grandparents lived through even more dire circumstances during the world wars, and they did their parts to get through to the other side. Now it’s our turn.
The year is young yet, and so much is still unknown. What is certain is that this year will be full of surprises, some good, some bad, but no matter what they should be interesting.