Now that we are entering the third year of this pandemic it's easy to lose sight of where we started.
A lot of us - myself included - spent lockdown at home huddled around the TV with our families. We somewhat understand this as a shared experience for "most" Kiwis. We show that when we ask one another, "did you enjoy your lockdown?"
But our lockdown reality was worlds apart from the many New Zealanders whose jobs fell outside of the stay-at-home orders as they continued to go to work. In fact, for most of the people interviewed in the Our Frontline Heroes series the demand and scope of their work had increased as the pandemic wore on.
While everyone else was hunkering down, Northland's frontline heroes kept life as we knew it ticking by.
As daily Covid numbers hit record highs for New Zealand there is a separate rise - this is in the demands for Covid restrictions to be dropped and for Kiwis to "return to normal life".
These demands accumulated into a loud, unorganised and destructive protest in Wellington.
This year, I have increasingly seen mandates, masks and vaccinations described as "politics and economics" rather than legitimate protection measures.
"We just need to get on with it" is a statement I've heard from a fair amount of people who aren't trying to burn down Parliament.
This cynicism is easy and reductive, and most disappointingly it forgets about the people who have to pick up everything when it all falls apart.
Northland's frontline and essential workers are also our friends and whānau. They deserve to come home safe after work at the end of the day.
I have a disdain for journalism that frames societal failures as feel-good and uplifting stories. The stories of the frontline workers I spoke to are powerful and they are inspirational people - we call them 'heroes' for a reason.
But they are also heartbreaking stories.
Low pay, staff shortages, long hours, no breaks, non-existent holiday leave, no time with family.
While the series covered a range of roles and industries these themes were consistent. Despite these challenging circumstances, these workers still love their jobs.
The essential workers in the series unanimously told me they felt it was their responsibility to protect and advocate for the Northland community.
But who is advocating for them?
Behind these overwhelmed systems are overwhelmed people, barely keeping afloat.
New Zealand's Covid-19 pandemic response was never just about "being kind". It was about the protection of our incredibly fragile, under-resourced basic infrastructure.
It wasn't just about preventing Covid-related deaths. A "let it rip" approach to Covid would have unravelled the fabric of our daily lives and how we see this country.
We chose to stay home so the systems continue to tick. But as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will tell you, Omicron has changed everything.
Whenever this pandemic begins to end, it's likely that life as we know it won't be the same again but maybe some things could change for the better.
We now call the work these people do essential but why don't we start to treat their health and livelihoods as essential?