By Evan Quinones. Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Do you remember the smell of alluring buttered popcorn as you walked into the movie theaters? Do you remember going on a date with the love of your life without having to wear a mask, or perhaps going to the jam-packed Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta? What about simply seeing your elderly parents face to face? Or what about exploring new places while traveling the world?

Well, unfortunately, those days are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. The activities we are accustomed to every day have been put on pause for over a year now and counting.

According to the CDC, the United States has had 32 million cases and about 570,000 deaths due to this dreadful disease. The last 14 months have been shattering for the citizens of this great country.

On March 14, 2020, Governor Kemp signed a “Shelter in Place” order, meaning that all residents and visitors in the State of Georgia were required to stay at home and were not able to go anywhere unless it was for essential purposes. Students from all Georgia public and private K-12 schools and universities had to return home. Confusion arose across the state, which resulted in countless Georgians feeling hopeless and frightened.

Georgia has seen over 1.05 million cases of COVID-19 during this pandemic, with 19,000 deaths. Mental health issues have emerged significantly every day, putting most of us in an unwanted void.

In Cherokee County, GA, there have been over 30,000 total cases, along with 309 deaths and counting. Cherokee ranks fifth in the number of cases in the state of GA.

At Reinhardt University in Waleska, GA, a small university in north Cherokee County, I gathered information in March and April 2021 from a variety of students and staff members to get their feelings and input about the COVID-19 outbreak. While at Reinhardt, I asked two simple questions:

  1. Are you planning to get vaccinated?
  2. Are you eager for life to get back to normal?

The respondents had diverse opinions.

Jade, a Reinhardt student, replied to the vaccination question with, “No, thank you.” She felt the vaccinations were developed too quickly. “I have always been a person, before COVID, to question the ingredients of vaccines,” she explained. She made some exceedingly well-supported points, and I’m sure many people share her concerns. It is a terrifying thought to wonder if this vaccine was made too rapidly, without enough time to see its full potential side effects. However, the ingredients of the vaccine are relatively safe, according to the CDCand millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, with no long-term side effects yet detected.

As to whether life should get back to normal, Jade stated, “Life will never go back to normal. It’s about power and not logical.”

Quinones talking to Seth, a Reinhardt student, about the importance of the coronavirus vaccine. Photo credit: Jaxon, a student at Reinhardt University.

When asked about the vaccine, Seth, a Reinhardt student, stated, “Yeah. I don’t really see a problem with it. There haven’t really been any reliable sources since the vaccine started to say no.” Now that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, Seth is ready for life to get back to normal. In order to achieve this, however, everyone must take the current precautions seriously.

Seth said, “I think the essential response would be to say yes, but I think it’s vital that people just take their precautions and don’t go overboard. The sooner everyone does the job, the sooner to a normal lifestyle. It’ll probably be a little while, like a couple of years, until we see how life used to be.”


Jaxon, another student at Reinhardt University, said about whether he would get the vaccine, “Definite. I would have already gotten vaccinated when the school sent out emails about vaccinations, but the school was already full with a list.” Jaxon is ready for this pandemic to move on so he can go back home without any protective measures. He stated, “Oh definitely. I look forward to doing activities back in Texas without precautions.”


Quinones explaining the benefits of the vaccine with Reinhardt student, Jaxon. Photo Credit: Seth, a student at Reinhardt University.

At the Hill Freeman Library, I spoke to Librarian Assistant Drew Childers, who said of the vaccine, “I was able to get the first dose of Moderna last month and look forward to getting my second dose next week.”

Childers says he misses the little things in life and is ready for a fresh start. “I can’t wait to go back to doing what I used to do and go to restaurants without wearing a mask or anything.”


Quinones interviewing Drew Childers, one of Reinhardt’s Librarian Assistants. Photo Credit: Evan Quinones.

Based on my interviews, three out of the four interviewed will get vaccinated and are ready for life to get back to how it used to be. This gives me hope that we’re heading in the right direction with people getting vaccinated.

Army Spc. Angel Laureano holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., Dec. 14, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando).

On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech. One week later, on December 18, 2020, the FDA okayed Moderna’s vaccine to help get this insidious plague-like disease under control. With the Pfizer vaccine, there are two separate shots. Once the first shot is administered, a person will have to go back and get the second shot 21 days later. The Moderna vaccine is similar to Pfizer-BioNTech’s version. Once the shot is complete, one also needs to go back for the second shot in 28 days instead of 21.

All in all, these two vaccines have similar ingredients and both have substantial, efficient rate results, with Moderna at 94.1% and Pfizer-BioNTechs at 95%. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved a third vaccine company, Johnson & Johnson. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot. This vaccine, however, was put on pause due to a rare blood-clotting disorder. Out of eight million people vaccinated with this brand, 15 people developed this clotting disorder, and three people died. However, after an 11- day pause, the FDA determined that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks and so the agency made the vaccine available to the public again.

While the various vaccines have shown few adverse effects, one can understand why someone might not want to be vaccinated. While the side effects list is nothing too concerning, there are people who don’t want to have the risk of potential adverse side effects. In addition to the extremely rare blood clot disorder associated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, another exceptionally rare side effect is anaphylaxis, which can occur in approximately two to five per million vaccinated in the U.S. So while the vaccines are substantially safe, the concerns are real and understandable.

As time goes by, this pandemic has taken a significant number of lives from all of us. Thankfully, hope has arrived. There are now over 300,000 vaccine appointments available across the state of Georgia. Every person aged 16 and older is eligible to receive the vaccine shot. Not only is this important news, but it also brings a sense of relief knowing that these actions are taking place.

Doctors such as Peter Hotez have said that citizens should be able to travel freely in the U.S. by June or July. However, there’s a catch to this. It will take time before the U.S. as a whole reaches 70 to 80 percent herd immunity. We as a country need at least three out of four people vaccinated in order to reach this percentage goal.

It’s up to us to make this goal happen.

The pause button feels like it’s been on for years, and we finally are about to click resume. Soon, all Georgians will go back to living a normal life again without a mask and will wake up from this nightmare. People will soon be able to create more memories again with family members they haven’t seen since before the COVID crisis. We will soon learn how to fully walk again together as a nation.

Covid-19 will live in infamy, and it will definitely be a chapter in multiple history books one day.

All and all, let’s kick COVID to the curb and get back to living the right way. It’s time for the sun to come out and spread pragmatic vibes again. Soon, it’ll be time to go back to the theaters and get a bucket of buttered popcorn. Soon, it’ll be time to see “NIN” live while having a venue sold out due to full capacity. Soon, a grandmother and grandfather will be able to go to the hospital to see their new grandchild.

As Bobby McFerrin said, “Don’t worry, be happy now.”


If you’re looking to get vaccinated and need to find places that are offering the COVID-19 vaccine shot, here’s a list of sites available:

Georgia Department of Public Health


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