In This Episode
- Today marks one year since the World Health Organization officially called the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The US vaccination effort offers a glimpse of hope, though, with the total number of fully vaccinated Americans now exceeding the number of reported cases we’ve had nationwide.
- We spoke with Sana Khan, a PhD student at the University of Arizona who is also a vaccination site volunteer, to get a better sense of what things look like on the ground, and what the 1-year mark means to her.
- And in headlines: Arkansas outlaws abortion in all cases except when the pregnant person’s life is at risk, Russia slows down Twitter domestically, and celebs are living the good unmasked life in Oz.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, March 11th. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick. And this is What A Day, where we are finally ready to admit that it was us, and not Major Biden that bit that Secret Service agent.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, honestly, we were hungry. We didn’t know. We’re sorry.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I want to deeply apologize for my behavior, and for the fact that I am an Animorph. I’m admitting that now. On today’s show a conversation with someone who’s been working at a vaccine site in Tucson, Arizona. Then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, it’s been one year since this all started:
[clip of WHO speaker] We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.
[clip of President Trump] To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.
[clip at a sports game] And fans, due to unforeseen circumstances, the game tonight has been postponed. You’re all safe, and take your time in leaving the arena tonight and do so in an orderly fashion.
[news clip] We don’t know how much of a cost it’s going to have on businesses, everything from retail to restaurants to airlines. You name it. We just don’t know the cost.
[clip of interviewer] Is the worst yet to come, Dr. Fauci?
[clip of Dr. Fauci] Yes, it is.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, wow.
Gideon Resnick: Woooooah.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, seriously. I mean. Huh.
Gideon Resnick: If we only knew.
Akilah Hughes: If only we knew. All right. Well, that was a glimpse at the chaos of March 11th, 2020, when the World Health Organization first officially called the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, which, yeah, it definitely ended up being. Globally, over 117 million cases have been identified with over 2.6 million deaths. And in the U.S. alone, over 527,000 people have died. But there is also some reason to feel like we’re starting to round the corner, hopefully. And here’s a big one: over 32 million Americans are now fully-vaccinated, according to the CDC, which is more than the number of reported cases that we’ve had in the U.S. Even still, there is a long way to go.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. And public health officials are still keeping their eyes on variants, millions of Americans are still out of work, and there are deep scars, to say the least, from this past year. But looking forward, tonight President Biden is going to deliver his first primetime address, focusing in part on the 1.9 trillion dollar economic relief bill he is set to sign tomorrow. It’s part of a messaging campaign, which is going to include travel across the country, to actually sell the plan to voters and explain how it can improve lives and improve the effort to get the country vaccinated. On that note, we wanted to check in with someone who is working in that effort. Sana Khan is a PhD student in epidemiology at the University of Arizona, and she’s also a volunteer at a vaccination site on campus. We spoke to her yesterday about how it is all going.
Akilah Hughes: Here’s that conversation.
Gideon Resnick: Sana, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Sana Khan: Thanks for having me. Like I said, I’m a huge fan. I’m excited to be here and spread all the joy that I’m getting from being the pod.
Gideon Resnick: We appreciate it so much. Joy is is a good thing to have, especially after all this time. So you’ve been working at this drive-through vaccination site on the University of Arizona campus that does around 800 shots a day. Can you just describe your role and tell us what a typical day is like for you?
Sana Khan: Yeah, we’ve actually ramped up to around a 1,000 trucks today, and yesterday was awesome because we passed our 50,000th vaccination—
Akilah Hughes: Wow.
Sana Khan: Yeah, that was exciting. We’ve had this whole time, we’ve had like these temperature like things where we add like, we like color it in. And we actually started all over again yesterday. My role at the pod is to be a scribe at the pod, and there’s a bunch of different, there’s a bunch of different roles but what I do is I stand next to the vaccinator, take their ID cards, check their date of birth, make sure that they’re in the medical charting system, give them the go ahead, and give them like the little vaccination cards that you’re seeing all over social media. So that’s my role. A typical day, our pod runs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. right now. So right now, all of the volunteers and the incident command system, we all gather at 9 a.m. every morning for our morning briefing. Then at the morning briefing, all the volunteers get their assignments for the day. There’s several different places you can go. So we have people in traffic, directing people where to go. We have people in observation, which is the area after you get vaccinated you have to wait 15 or 30 minutes, and so we have folks in observation watching people. We have people in greeting. We have runners. We have people that give out snacks. So it’s just, that’s where you get your morning briefing and then you go to your assigned station from there.
Akilah Hughes: And for everybody listening, pod stands for Point Of Dispensing, not podcast. [laughs] But OK, So Sana, what is the conversation sort of like when people roll up? You know, are there any good stories from interactions—are people like nervous, are they pumped, are they putting on a show? Have you seen anybody dressed like an old woman, trying to scam a vaccine?
Sana Khan: No, I have not seen anyone dressed as an old woman or anything like that yet. So I describe the scene, it’s like we’re on a drive-through vaccination on the mall. And so people pull up and we have kind of perfected our process. So it’s a minute 30 for the whole for the whole interaction: for them to give us their license, appointment confirmation, for us to look them up, for us to actually give them the vaccine and have them, like, go to observation—that whole process is down to a minute 30. Which is great that we’re so fast, but tough because we—like everyone, wants to be really, like chatty and tell you, like their plans [laughs] which is great. [laughs] I love when people come through with signs that are like “thank you, health care workers,” which is great. I love asking people what they’re post-vaccination plans are. And when we were doing K-12 teachers, they like unanimously, we’re like: we cannot wait to be back in the classroom and I can’t wait to see you like this one specific student. So that was really, it’s just so meaningful, like it never gets old. Like my first person I did, and like the 1,000th person that I did like, it’s the same level of joy for each interaction.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so, like, since you’ve been working there for the past few months or so, how have things changed like since the site got up and running? What was it like when you started, versus now—you’re mentioning like upping the amount per day, but like are there any other noticeable changes?
Sana Khan: Yeah. So when we started here at the University of Arizona, we were a pod for a Pima County. We were doing such a great and efficient job that the state of Arizona actually took our site over as a state pod. So what that meant is we were able to expand our hours to—we were only doing 10-5 before. We’ve now moved it to 10-10.
Akilah Hughes: Wow.
Sana Khan: Which is great. Yeah, it gives us a lot more time. And we’ve upped our vaccinations per day to almost a 1,000, I think we have reached a 1,000 per day now, which is also wonderful. We’ve just been able to offer so many more appointment times because, yeah, we have those extra hours. So that’s great.
Akilah Hughes: And more people can come. That’s the beauty of it. Is like, you know, some people do work nights, like it might be easier to come earlier or later. And that’s, that’s really great.
Sana Khan: Yeah, my yeah, my team is really involved and interested in vaccine equity, too, especially within Tucson. And that opening up of the hours has really made a difference in who’s able to come.
Gideon Resnick: You’re kind of getting it this, but I’m curious, like, how do you think things are going to change when states get even more doses soon—or for that matter, like money that’s in this relief bill? Have people started talking about that at all? Like what what that impact is going to be?
Sana Khan: Yeah, I think we’re just really excited and ready for the next group to be eligible. We’re mostly still doing people over 65 and teachers, educators at the moment. I’m so excited for when we can see restaurant workers, bar workers, farm workers, grocery store workers—like that’s a massive group of people and once they become eligible, I cannot wait to see those people at the pod. Because, I mean, I guess I shouldn’t say this, but like, Arizona has not been the best at enforcing any sort of mitigating behaviors.
Gideon Resnick: No, sure.
Sana Khan: I know a lot of states have relaxed at this point, but when we were surging, like we were the worst in the world for a very long time.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah.
Sana Khan: And our governor was not thrilled about doing any sort of mitigating behaviors. And so those folks that I just mentioned in that 1-C group still has to go to work. They didn’t really get a break or any sort of relief. And so hopefully with this new relief bill, when we get more vaccine, we can open it up to that 1-cgroup. And I’m really excited about that.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, totally.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, for sure.
Akilah Hughes: I mean, do you encounter people who are hesitant, you know, once they’re there, or do you encounter it in your life more generally? Like have you had people say, like: I’m not getting it, I’m scared?
Sana Khan: Yeah, the vaccine hesitancy is so interesting to me. And again, like this is like my area of research, too, so I’m really interested in it. But for the most part, people are so excited to get the vaccine. For people that are hesitant, it’s not for like most of the reasons you would think. Like no one who is hesitant is like: I hate all vaccine, I think there’s a microchip in it. Like that’s not really what’s driving hesitancy at the moment. What’s driving hesitancy, I think, is more like a lack of information about it and people just want to have a conversation with somebody they trust about it. And usually, like, once you have that one-on-one conversation with somebody like, they are usually going to decide to get a vaccine, I think.
Gideon Resnick: And maybe this is an obvious question, but what made you want to volunteer for this specific role?
Sana Khan: Yeah, this is totally my jam. Like, this is public health in action. This is why I got in public health. It’s incredible to be able to see like this, like large of a public health effort take place. They’ve been working on contact tracing and case investigations like for a whole year now. And those conversations are so difficult to have with people who have COVID. And when you’re trying to contact trace them, they’re so sick and, you know, they’ve lost a loved one to COVID, or their whole family is sick. Like those conversations are so hard to have and they’re so draining on our whole team. Like we just always talk about, like: man, I have like ten really rough phone calls today. So to be able to like after a full year of that every day, to be able to go out onto the mall and help people get vaccinated, it’s amazing.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, wow. It’s warm in my heart. Well, you did allude to this, but so it is—when this airs tomorrow, it will have been a year since the pandemic started, or at least since the World Health Organization designated it a full-blown pandemic. It’s obviously a pretty unbelievable time to be a public health student. But, you know, what has this year meant to you, even in a broader sense, I guess?
Sana Khan: Yeah, I cannot believe it’s the one year anniversary. I’ve seen everyone posting like: oh, this is like a tweet from a year ago and we had no idea. It’s wild to see. Yeah, I think this year has just taught me so much about, like what public health can do and how compassionate people can be. I feel very fortunate. I’m privileged to be able to be in this university setting and be involved in so many different outreach projects, the pod contact tracing. I feel like I’ve been in a really great position to be able to help and make meaningful change for people that have been affected by COVID. And like the best part is like when I started my Ph.D. two years ago, no one knew what epidemiology was.
Akilah Hughes: Wow. Now, it’s like, again, the hottest ticket in town.
Sana Khan: And now I can tell people like, oh yeah, I’m an Epi and they they know what it is, which is exciting.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: It’s you and Dr. Fauci. Those are those are the two reference points for people. Yeah. Well, Sana, thank you so much again for taking the time to talk to us. And more importantly, thank you for volunteering. You’re doing great work.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. We really appreciate it. Thank you.
Sana Khan: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to see more people get vaccinated. It’s like every time someone tells me they get vaccinated, like my heart grows.
Akilah Hughes: And that’s the latest.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Thursday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re marking the official one year corona-versary by taking some time to reflect. So Giddy, none of us could have ever anticipated these last 12 months. [laughs] But how are you feeling about where we are now in the pandemic?
Gideon Resnick: Well, significantly better than how I felt when I first heard all those clips that we intro’ed the show with.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: That was a level of chaos, panic and fear that I do not want to go back to. I am hopeful that we are on a very good trajectory. I do love the fact that people are getting vaccinated, that that is actually a thing that is happening actively every single day. And that’s like a yardstick that we can measure this by. So I feel, I feel a lot better today than last March 11th. That might not be saying much, but it feels it feels like something.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I mean, those are all valid points. Also that sound as Fauci drinking water. [laughs] Yeah. He wasn’t alive then, so you’re really helping fill in some gaps for him. But yeah, lots of emotions.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So how are you—I mean my view also is: I think once it’s all over, there’s going to be a long sort of tailwind of, you know, sorting through how we all felt and all the complicated emotions of being like excited and going back to things—
Akilah Hughes: Totally.
Gideon Resnick: and the trauma and all that stuff. But, you know, that’s for a later date. So for now, how are you feeling?
Akilah Hughes: Oh, man. You know, I contain multitudes. I uh—[dog bark] thank you, Fauci. I am very disappointed, I think, in just how, how bad it got, how bad it still is. You know, it didn’t have to be this way. So it bears repeating: did not have to be this bad. Jeez, Fauci’s really upset. [laughs] But I think I’m also, you know, to your point, very hopeful now that I know people are getting vaccinated. I’ve also encountered a lot less weird misinformation since Trump’s no longer in office about it. So it’s like I like to think that more people are just like, you know, accepting the fact that, like, vaccines are the way that we can beat this, instead of kind of, you know, talking among themselves in unscientific terms. I miss so many people. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss leaving my house. So, you know, there’s a lot, a lot that we lost, I think, in the past year and I’m still sort of dealing with all that. But, you know, I got some stuff too, together. Fauci, his namesake came into my life time last year and the dog got here, you know, a month, a few more days than a month ago. But yeah. So I think that, like, there have been things that came from the pandemic, like I honestly don’t think I would have gotten a dog had it not been for, you know, being at home and feeling like I needed something to take care of.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I relate to any emotion anyone’s feeling because I’ve had all of them in this pandemic. I’m just like: wow, we have had the full human experience and I am ready to not have that much experience in the future. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Yes, I think it’s good to not compress all of the emotions you might feel into your life into one year and have them wildly swing on a day-to-day basis. That could be a good feeling. Yeah, I think it’s good to, to know and feel that that aspect of it is communal at least. And also to feel like it is sort of on us to get out of it, and people are sort of doing their part with these vaccinations and everything. So that, that feels good. And that Fauci is there to encourage all of them with his barks.
Akilah Hughes: Absolutely. Yeah. And hey, we’ve been doing these temp checks for almost a year now, so everybody’s got to know us better. We’ve got to know them better. I know about your peanut butter thing. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: Peanut butter thing. We won’t talk about it anymore without lawyers present, but that’s OK.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, right. Well, just like that, we’ve checked our temps. You know. Wow, we are, we are still out here. Stay safe, please. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Arkansas passed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. It outlaws abortions in all cases except when the pregnant person’s life is at risk. Performing or attempting an abortion is considered an unclassified felony, and subjects could face fines up to $100,000 or even jail time. My lord. Arkansas joins several other Republican-led states that have passed controversial anti-abortion laws in recent years, with hopes that the issue will be challenged in front of the Supreme Court. If the court takes up that challenge, Republicans are hoping that the conservative majority bench might reexamine or even overturn Roe v. Wade. Even Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said that he passed his state’s abortion ban for this reason, while admitting that he had some objections to it.
Akilah Hughes: Wow, a real stand up guy. Good luck going viral in Russia this week. The Kremlin announced yesterday that they’re slowing down the speed of Twitter, especially for mobile users and in transfers of video and photo content on the site. Officials say the move was a response to the platform’s failure to take down posts about drugs, suicide and other things. But critics of the Kremlin argue that it might actually have something to do with journalists and protesters using the site to share information about the recent pro-Alexei Navalny protests. The lawmaker who helped write the law to slow down Twitter said that the move is a warning to other American Internet companies to obey Russian rules on content, or to lose the possibility of making money in the country. The restrictions on the site will remain until all, quote unquote “prohibited content is removed.”
Gideon Resnick: I thought my bots were not getting a lot of retweets and this could be the reason. After a year when the hottest concerts happened inside video games and featured Travis Scott, but in 3-D, we’re starting to hear about in-person music festivals again. Las Vegas’s Life Is Beautiful announced its 2021 lineup yesterday after making the not very difficult call to skip the event in 2020. Billy Eilish, Green Day and Tame Impala will headline for the three-day event starting September 17th, at a time when hopefully most concert goers will have Pfizer, Moderna or J&J vaccines pumping through their veins—along with other, more good-times oriented pharmaceutical innovations of course. General sales for the festival begin on Friday. Check it out if you want to witness the biggest release of pent up stranger kissing energy in the history of live music.
Akilah Hughes: Well, I don’t go now. Scientists have discovered a new way for people to live their lives as if COVID didn’t exist: it’s called being in Australia and celebrities are obsessed with it. The island continent has basically stamped out coronavirus and that fact, combined with the generous subsidies the government has given to film studios, has made Australia an attractive destination to make movies. More than 20 international productions are either shooting there or are set to shoot there this year, drawing actors like Matt Damon, Idris Elba and Kate McKinnon. Zac Efron has been there since March 2020 and now considers the country to be his home, giving Noah Centineo the window to become the most prominent golden retriever man in America. Of course, maskless pictures of celebs living glamorous COVID-free Australian lives has inspired jealousy online. Australians have also pointed out the double standard at play when some citizens are stranded abroad due to harsh restrictions on who gets through the border. Personally, I’m considering sneaking in by hiding in a roo’s pouch.
Gideon Resnick: Yup, I’m in there right now.
Akilah Hughes: It smells horrible. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: One last thing before we go: this week on Hysteria, Erin Ryan and Alyssa Mastromonaco have two amazing guests that are joining them.
Akilah Hughes: Today they’re talking to Teen Vogue labor writer Kim Kelly about Amazon unionization efforts. Listen to Hysteria and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave to review, remember that life is beautiful like the festival, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just tabloid articles about Zac Efron’s adventures Down Under like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And no disrespect to 3D Travis Scott.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s, it’s—I’m sure it’s great.
Gideon Resnick: You can still go SICKO MODE when you’re animated, you know.
Akilah Hughes: What a day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.