Portage, Michigan Is The Key To Stopping The Pandemic

Matthew Donnellon

Image via nbcnews.com


It’s all too easy to find despair during a global pandemic.

Death is an ever present part of society.

People you know are getting sick.

People are losing loved ones.

It gets even harder when you have to watch people not take the virus seriously. It’s even worse when you hear people casting doubt on whether it exists at all, even as the death toll rises.

It’s far too easy to find despair when help doesn’t seem to be coming. It’s even harder when you might not have a job, or a place to live, and are running out of options.

Your kids are learning on tablets in laptops. You visit your parents through their door. Your hands are raw from being washed for the 300th time that day.

You just want to get through the day without that dreaded phone call that someone has the virus.

It’s far, far too easy to let the dark thoughts linger, to let the black seas rise, to let the voices creep in, to let ever tumultuous times keep you down.

It gets easier and easier each day to want to give up, to throw in the towel.

It is in these times that one must find their lighthouse in the storm.

Should you need a beacon of hope, I suggest you cast your gaze on the nearest hospital. Their days are even darker. They’ve been in the thick of it since March. They’ve lost their coworkers. They’ve gotten sick.

And yet each day they come in to battle the Grim Reaper, to keep him at bay. Their faces are gouged by months of wearing masks. Scarred and bruised, they keep coming back. They are the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. This is their charge of the light brigade. They are going into battle even though they face impossible odds.

And maybe, just maybe,

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

And there’s one town in Michigan lighting the torch.

There’s one city that can be proud as the Pandemic rages on, because they just might be what turns the tide.

Portage, MIchigan is not a very large place, less than 50,000 people live there. To be honest, I’ve lived in MIchigan my whole life and didn’t even know exactly where it was.

But now the eyes of the nation on them. You see, there’s a Pfizer plant there, and they are making vaccines and recently started shipping them. It is from this western Michigan city that we finally start fighting back against the nouvelle coronavirus, the pathogen that killed so many, and forced the rest to shut ourselves inside.

Right now, they are the jewel of the Midwest.

Michigan has a proud history of answering the call when the nation asks.

During World War II car manufacturing plants were turned into war machines. Detroit ramped up production unlike anything the world had ever seen. According to Mlive,

“Michigan companies produced 4 million engines and 200,000 mobile units during the war. Detroit, with 2 percent of the U.S. population, made 10 percent of the material for the war. Ford Motor Co. made 8,500 B-24 Liberator bombers at Willow Run and Chrysler produced 25,000 tanks.”

Those 25,000 tanks? Half of all the tanks produced for the war. There were 17 other places making tanks.

We know how to produce here.

Nearly every person in the state has a grandfather, great-grandfather, someone close to them who worked in those factories. Michiganders are industrial people. Motor oil runs in our veins. Even today many people either work for the car companies, or know someone who does.

During the war, they worked around the clock. The factories were never empty, they ran till the war was over.

America is at war again. This time with an invisible enemy, and it is from the Pfizer plant in Portage where we marshall our forces.

And now the factory is running non stop.

Because that’s what we do here.

It’s a point of local pride there and they deserve it.

Portage Mayor Patricia M. Randall said so:

“We are proud,” Randall said.
The 1,300-acre site is Pfizer’s largest manufacturing facility, named global supply, which is fitting right now. The vaccine is expected to travel from Michigan to countries all over the globe.
Whan Koh has friends working on the vaccine, something that would normally take years.
“Can you imagine? It would normally take years? Now, you’re talking about just a few months,” Koh said. “Yes, people have to work around the clock.”

The vaccines are starting to roll out. It’s a massive effort involving Pfizer, UPS, and the United States Army, General Gus Perna is in charge of the operation.

“Perna said Saturday that shipping companies UPS and FedEx will deliver Pfizer’s vaccine to nearly 150 state locations. Another 450 sites will get the vaccine on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It all starts with Pfizer employees packaging the doses, pulling them from freezing temperatures, placing them in special boxes and then shipping them to the places needed the most.”

And that’s just the first wave. Each week there are expected to have more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

They’ve shown videos of the trucks leaving with the first doses. It is something to see. I half expected the Military Drum Cadence to be playing.

The calvary is here. There's something special going on there. It’s the culmination of months of effort.

Hundreds, thousands probably, of scientists worked on the vaccine. Millions of healthcare workers did everything they could to keep us alive.

And now it’s up to Portage.

Do you know what Portage means?

It means to carry a boat between two bodies of water.

It’s fitting because that’s what the people of Portage are doing. They’re carrying our hopes from pandemic to normal life, from quarantine to hugging our loved ones once again. A small city outside Kalamazoo is the nexus of everything we’ve been hoping for for months, and it’s finally seems to be within reach. They will save countless lives with each box they send out.

Of course, we must be vigilant, but it at least gives a small piece of mind.

They are the beacon in the dark.

The port in the storm.

They’re heroes. All of them.

They have at least this Michgander’s thanks.

And I’m sure many more.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI

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