The seven day average for new COVID cases in Alabama is 815.

How I had hoped this was all behind us.

We had a birthday party at our house on Saturday. It was the first big get together we had hosted since Easter of 2019, and it felt so nice to have everybody gathered around enjoying food and time well spent together.

Of course, having read bits and pieces of news lately about how the Delta variant is very contagious and how Alabama has the lowest number of vaccinations in the country, I couldn’t help but think maybe this will be our last get together again for a while.

I ask myself if I can do another year like 2020, and I don’t know if I can. I guess you can do anything if you have to, but the truth is I don’t want to.

The negative affects it had on little sister were painfully apparent at our party. People wanted to hold her, some having never even seen her in person before, but she was scared and overwhelmed. The boy invited a boy he met at Goodwill last week to his birthday party. He is starved for the friends his age that he would have made last year.

In 2020 my top worry was my parents. The year was bad for us, having to be apart so much. It was much worse for others.

I didn’t worry much about my kids, because COVID-19 didn’t seem to hurt children so much. Now, I hear there are nine children hospitalized in Alabama with Delta. Nine might not seem like a lot, but if one of those nine were mine I wouldn’t care if they were the only one in the world, it would be a lot and nothing else would matter. It would be the same for anyone in that situation.

Not many people wear masks anymore. I do occasionally if I am in a very crowded store, but I know we will begin to wear them again. It doesn’t hurt anything and it gives us extra protection since my kids are not old enough to receive a vaccine.

I am just now fully vaccinated, because through my own ignorance I didn’t realize I could just head right on over to Walmart and get one any time I wanted. I can’t say that I don’t understand why people are hesitant to get a vaccine. I’ve never had a flu shot, but I imagine that if I’d lived through the flu pandemic of 1918, I would have gotten the vaccine.

Luckily I have thus far survived the COVID pandemic, which has also killed millions of people (though not as many as in the flu of 1918).

I got vaccinated because it was the right thing to do. Is there some part of me that worries whether someday I might find out it has done me some type of damage? A little. But the bigger part of me knows it’s my responsibility to my family and fellow men and women to do my part to stop this pandemic.

I feel myself starting to get preachy. The truth is that in 2020 I felt like I hated almost everybody, because I felt like people weren’t making big enough personal sacrifices to put an end to COVID so that we could go back to normal. I felt like Alabamians didn’t take the pandemic as seriously as they should have. Now here we are in what I thought would be the summer of freedom. Half the state is at very high risk for COVID-19 spread.

And I feel like either tromping up and down the streets yelling at people or just locking myself in the bathroom like I’m hiding from a tornado, because COVID is back. But then, I guess it never really went anywhere to begin with.

Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland is a former Sentinel staff writer and correspondent. She can be reached at danielle.w.kirkland@gmail.com.

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