Commentary: We are reaching the finish line, but COVID-19’s terrain remains steep

Veterinary doctor Amy Valentine Alaluf gets the COVID-19 vaccine.
Veterinary doctor Amy Valentine Alaluf gets the COVID-19 vaccine at the Central Net Training Center in Huntington Beach on Jan. 13.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Almost a year ago, I wrote to the community advocating for calm in the face of great fear and misinformation. Hoag had successfully treated the first known COVID-19 patient in the state, and our infection prevention department was working around-the-clock with federal, state and county health leaders to learn more about the novel coronavirus, how it spreads and how best to stop it.

A year later, we know the answers to many of our most pressing questions. We’ve sequenced the virus’ DNA, tracked its mutations, developed vaccines against it and designed protocols for stopping community spread. We’ve learned the importance of mask wearing, of hand washing and social distancing.

We are far wiser and better armed than ever, and we can see that time is not on the virus’ side.


It was clear in January 2020 that this would not be a sprint but a marathon. And though we know we are approaching the finish line, the early difficulties with the vaccine rollout plan reminds us the terrain before us remains difficult and steep.

Still, I am awestruck by the progress we have made. It took nearly 20 years to develop a polio vaccine. Pfizer, Moderna and others turned their vaccines around in a matter of weeks. The cooperation between researchers worldwide has never been more pronounced, and the results will have implications for vaccines against a host of other diseases, including cancer, in the years to come.

We’ve seen neighbors helping neighbors, applauded healthcare workers and teachers as heroes and even turned Disneyland into a vaccine distribution site. These are the kinds of moments that will appear in history books, and I trust that history will judge us well for the actions we’ve taken to protect one another during these trying times.

As difficult as this year has been, it has shown us how powerful we can be when we work together on a shared plane of reality, toward a common goal.

A year ago, I cautioned that fear is just as contagious as any virus, and the mechanism by which it spreads is misinformation. What I said at the outset of this pandemic remains true today: When we come together to stop the spread of fear and misinformation in our community, we will stop — hopefully forever — the scourge of COVID-19.

The writer is an infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach.

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