The swearing in of Alexandria’s incoming elected team on Monday night was the perfect metaphor for what it will continue to take to survive this COVID-19 pandemic into 2022 and beyond: resilience.
As the Jan. 3 installation date approached, cases of COVID-19 were soaring to unprecedented levels in Alexandria and the region. Mayor Justin Wilson, the group’s leader both by his role and tenure, tested positive and was stuck in Europe with COVID-19 contracted during a family vacation. One other incoming member of council also reported having COVID-19.
The city’s biggest snowstorm in years struck the very day of the installation, which was initially planned to be in person, then changed to hybrid, then held virtually. But the show went on.
Yes, as Wilson said in the Times’ page one story, “Mayor, council sworn in,” the circumstances leading to the ceremony being held virtually do indeed “suck.”
It’s especially too bad for incoming Councilors Sarah Bagley, Alyia Gaskins and Kirk McPike, all of whom are assuming elected office for the first time. This was a moment to be celebrated and shared with friends, family and supporters who helped them get to this point in their lives, not spent sitting alone staring at a computer for yet another virtual meeting.
What happened Monday night mirrors the experience of students who graduated from high school or college in 2020 and 2021 and missed out on many traditional rites of passage. Or of couples who had to delay, cancel or alter wedding ceremonies during the past two years. As we head into year three of the pandemic, we are all bone weary of these disruptions.
And yet, a ceremony is symbolic, a societal ritual that demarks the end of one thing and the beginning of another, whether that’s going from being single to married, from a student to a graduate or a candidate to a councilor. What matters is the substance of the person’s journey: the hard work, decisions, determination and support that led to the milestone being celebrated.
As we enter year three of the pandemic, it’s reasonable to wonder, “What’s next?”
Some of the COVID-19 numbers that we are currently seeing are difficult to comprehend, such as a positivity rate of almost 30% on the thousands of tests being administered in Alexandria and Virginia, and the knowledge that these tests don’t include rapid at-home tests or people who are sick and untested or asymptomatic but carriers. It means, vaccinated or not, most of us have had, currently have or will soon get COVID-19.
The vaccine remains our literal lifeline, as those with COVID-19 during this Omicron-fueled surge are having much better outcomes if they’ve been vaccinated versus those who are unvaccinated. It’s not too late to get vaccinated or boosted, even if you’ve had COVID-19.
In the meantime, we carry on. As Chumbawamba sang in their anthem “Tubthumping:”
“I get knocked down
But I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down …”
We as a nation, a state and a city have endured far worse than COVID-19 in our long history. Anyone who can remember the 1960s, let alone the 1940s, knows we have endured worse in our own lifetimes.
COVID-19 won’t keep us down because we are resilient.