NEW COMIC: Delta Days

Comic was first published on The Stranger on August 17, 2021.

Panel 1 - Comic called "Delta Days" by Meredith Li-Vollmer. Comic is drawn on white paper and each panel has a black border. Text is hand-written. First panel says, "I've been on the frontlines of the COVID response for the health department since the first case came through SeaTac." There is a little calendar drawing that says "DAY 1: JAN 21, 2020." Drawing below is of Meredith, a middle-aged woman with black hair and glasses, at her laptop with a headset on, as she holds the new CDC guidance in one hand, a pandemic plan in another, and her arms are moving all over the place as she tries to do a million things at once. In the background, are drawings of people in red vests running around, looking worried, with phones pressed to their cheeks. At the bottom of the panel it says, "Working 80+ hours / week. No O.T. pay (some worked more). With an arrow pointing to a calendar page that says "DAY 39: FEB 28, 2020."
Panel 2 - Panel starts with a drawing of calendar page that says "DAY 525: JUN 29, 2021." Handwritten text says "The adrenaline is long gone, but the pandemic hasn't ended. At least the vaccine has given me hope." Below is a drawing of Meredith, sitting at her desk looking worried and burnt out with bags under her eyes. On her computer screen, it says, "King County, 70% fully vaccinated ages 16+" with a drawing of a thermometer that is 70% full. She is holding a cup of coffee and says "Thank god I live here."
Panel 3 - Panel starts with a drawing of calendar page that says "DAY 542: JUL 16, 2021." Handwritten text says, "for a moment, it seemed like we could catch our breath. We had fully vaxxed hugs. We met IRL!" IRL is spelled out in yellow block letters with black stripes for emphasis. Below is a drawing of various coworkers cheers-ing, drinking beers, and embracing. Meredith is hugging a woman with curly black hair in a ponytail and there is a speech bubble that says, "So nice to REALLY meet you!" At the bottom of the panel, the handwritten text says, "We'd been working together for months but many of us had only met on screen."
Panel 4 - Panel starts with a drawing of calendar page that says "DAY 556: JUL 28, 2021." Handwritten text says, "But then the Delta variant arrived. It's TWICE as contagious as the version that had been circulating." Same coworkers from the panel before are now looking like deer in headlights, still mid-embrace and mid-cheers, but with surprised faces. Text at the bottom says, "In one week, COVID cases in King County went up by nearly 60%." The sixty percent is big and bold for emphasis.
Panel 5 - Panel starts with handwritten text at the top: "And with Delta, it's possible for vaccinated people to get infected and spread it to unvaccinated people." Possible is written in italics. There is a drawing of a storeowner who is wearing a mask and putting up a sign on the front door of his shop that says "Please mask up! Thanks." Meredith is standing outside the shop next to a father wearing a mask and holding his infant and quickly putting on a mask. Below the drawing, she handwrites, "These 'breakthrough' cases are relatively rare. But a game changer."
Panel 6 - Panel starts with handwritten text, "with this unwelcome development, it's perfectly reasonable to ask:" And below is a drawing of a man wearing glasses with his hands up, saying, "What's up with the vaccine?!! How the #@$* are vaccinated people getting COVID at all?!!"
Panel starts with handwritten text, "Most of the time, the vaccine is very good at keeping people from getting sick. But no vaccine prevents infection 100% of the time." The drawing below is of two woman talking. The woman on the left is a tall woman with curly short hair who is standing next to another woman with a striped tank top and jeans who has her arms crossed and is looking skeptical. The woman with curly short hair is saying in a speech bubble, "It's like birth control. Even if it's not 100% protective, you'd still use it, right?" The other woman says, "Then why get it?"
Panel 8 - Panel starts with "And the vaccine is extremely effective at preventing SERIOUS ILLNESS, HOSPITALIZATION and DEATH." Below, same two woman are still talking to one another. Woman with striped tank top says, "What's illness like if it's NOT serious?" Other woman responds, "Maybe a sore throat, cough, headache. Or maybe no symptoms. I can live with that." The woman responding is holding a cell phone and there is a little bubble that shows she is looking at
Panel 9 - Panel starts with a drawing of calendar page that says "DAY 570: AUG 11, 2021." Handwritten text says "Local ERs and ICUs are filling up with unvaccinated cases of COVID." Below is a doctor with full protective equipment, including a light blue hairnet, gown, goggles, and mask. The ER doctor is wearing blue gloves and crossing their fingers, saying "We're running out of beds. And staff. Crossing my fingers that we don't have other emergencies tonight."
Panel 10 - Starts with text that says, "In my weakest moments, I despair." There is a drawing of Meredith as an old woman, looking very wrinkled and small, and holding a calendar page that says, "DAY 7874: AUG 16, 2041." She is saying in a speech bubble, "Yep. Still working on COVID." Below it says, "But then I pull myself together. HOPE LIVES. More people are getting vaccinated each week. Higher levels of vaccination and lower levels of COVID are KEY." In the bottom left corner, the woman with a striped tank top that had been hesitant to get a vaccine is getting vaccinated by a nurse behind a table that says "Free COVID Vaccine."
Panel 11 - Comic panel says at the top, "If you're vaccinated, THANK YOU. Other ways to drive down cases:" Below is a grid with 4 squares. In top left grid it says, "wearing masks in public and crowds." There are a crowd of people wearing masks at a baseball game. One man is wearing a mask and yelling, "You call yourself an ump?!" In the top right grid, it says, "Know someone on the fence about vax? Help them find answers to their questions." There is an asterisk after questions, which says, "Try or" In this square, one masked friend is showing another mask friend their phone and saying, "I heard that rumor, too, so I did some checking." Bottom left grid says, "Be supportive of venues that require vaccination." There is a drawing of two people in line at a venue, wearing masks and showing their vaccination cards on their phone to the bouncer, who is saying, "Thanks, you're good to go." The final grid says, "Entertain al fresco even if fully vaxxed." There is a drawing of three friends outside, smiling and wearing sunglasses under a tree, as they sip on drinks with iced cubes.
Panel 12 - Final panel of the comic, that shows a calendar page that says, "DAY 574: AUG 16, 2021." Handwritten text says, "Everyone is burned out. We're frustrated by changing guidance. But we can't give up now on all the things that protect us." Below is a drawing of Meredith, with glasses and black hair and a long pale blue shirt. She is holding up a calendar page that says, "DAY ?: Pandemic OVER!" and has a speech bubble where she is saying "Not if we want to see an end soon to these pandemic days." On the side of the comment are Meredith, the author's, initials and the date, 8/16/21.

Originally published August 17, 2021

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I am a risk communications specialist at Public Health - Seattle & King County.