I’ve been receiving that response more and more these days. “Two is about right.” “I’ll stick with two.” These folks are not vaccine skeptics. I work at a public hospital in New York City and my patients come from communities that were pummeled by the coronavirus; most lined up for the shots as soon as they became available in early 2021, undeterred by logistical barriers or social-media rumors. A year later, despite cases rising sharply due to the BA.2 variant, they—like most Americans—seem to have moved on.
We health-care workers have watched with a darting unease as communities fling off public-health measures. We even feel a tinge of envy, wishing that we had the luxury of declaring ourselves “done” with COVID. It may not be the only thing we think about anymore, but COVID is still part of every staff meeting, every communication, every clinical day. Case counts in New York are on the rise again, and COVID is now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Our COVID-testing tent, hurriedly erected in our hospital courtyard in March 2020, is still on active duty. Keeping up with shifting viral trends and treatment protocols remains top of mind. Our meetings remain largely remote, and we’ve never stopped wearing masks.
Oddly enough, I feel safest now in my hospital, where everyone maintains a healthy respect for viral might. This irony is not lost on me. I remember how hospitals were seen as nuclear-meltdown zones at the start of the pandemic and health-care workers who strode into these conflagrations were treated as a cross between conquering hero and Typhoid Mary.