“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.” – Jonas Salk
As we lean into the New Year, I find inspiration and strength from these words by Jonas Salk, the acclaimed virologist who developed one of the first successful polio vaccines. At its peak in the 1940s and 50s, polio paralyzed or killed over half a million people worldwide. Public outcry and medical philanthropy spurred unprecedented vaccine research that ultimately led to the deployment of Salk’s vaccine in the spring of 1955. That vaccine and its successors drove a massive public health initiative that led to the eradication of polio in the United States in 1979 – 24 years after Salk’s research bore fruit.
Fast forward over 40 years to the discovery of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic in March of 2020. COVID-19 spread like wildfire across the globe, and to date it has sickened over 95 million people, killed over 2 million, crippled economies, and profoundly disrupted our lives. The response from the medical and scientific community has been swift and robust, and in December of 2020 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency use authorization to not one but two safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines – nine months after the pandemic was declared! As I type this article on January 18, the United States has administered 14.7 million COVID vaccinations – with two days last week reaching nearly 900,000 per day.
Throughout the pandemic, Pathways’ courageous and dedicated staff have continued to fully live our mission, providing hospice, palliative care, and grief support services to more patients, families, and clients than ever before as demand for these services has never been higher. I am grateful that we have been able to give our staff access to the vaccine, and within the next month about two-thirds will receive it. Although some of our staff have tested positive, we have been blessed that none of them became seriously ill or required hospitalization.
Despite the obstacles and challenges, Pathways opened a new office building in Greeley to better serve Weld County, and we are moving steadily forward with plans to build a 12-bed, freestanding inpatient care center by our offices in Fort Collins. It has been a long road with COVID-19, and there are many miles yet to travel, but our spirits are high, and our commitment to caring for our community is strong.
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…” – Alfred Lord Tennyson