It wasn't the return to work I'd anticipated post-holiday. After self-diagnosing a "gross head cold", I spent the first two days of the week wrapped up in bed willing the germs away. When I did resurface, the announcement of a Covid community case made my head feel even fuzzier. Yikes, I thought. Better get in for a test ASAP.
It meant the next time out of the house was a trip to the doctor's for a swab, on day one of alert level 4. The unusually empty roads, long queue outside the local Pak'nSave and distinctive alarm-tolling sounds signalling Government ads for a community outbreak - it all mashed into a weird sense of deja vu. Didn't think it'd come to this again, I thought glumly while waiting to have my brain prodded.
Now, seven days in, the familiarity of knowing what life will likely look like in the next few weeks seems equal parts unsettling and reassuring. Of course, this is Delta so the stakes are significantly different than at the beginning of the pandemic. Despite that, the realities of life under "go hard, go early" are something we're all too familiar with.
Perhaps, that's what made the shift to level 4 seem almost robotic this time. There were no grand farewells and running through hastily made checklists of everything I thought was needed for home confinement. Even reports of supermarket panic-buying didn't surprise me.
Evidently, 18 months under Covid has pushed out the boundaries of what to expect when in a crisis. For better or worse, stuff I would've gawked at in the past doesn't really get a reaction anymore.
And, as surreal as things felt in the second half of last week, I was pleasantly surprised at the absence of doomsday feelings which loomed large through the first part of last year's level 4.
Still, it's been far from smooth sailing. Yesterday's 1pm conference, headlined with a message from Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson about the record number of vaccines administered on Monday, prefaced a community breakdown of those worst affected by the current outbreak.
The largest subcluster centres on the Sāmoan Assembly of God Church in Māngere, Auckland. Just over 500 people attended a service at the church on August 15 where a positive case or cases also attended. As of yesterday afternoon, 58 cases had been confirmed as part of the subcluster.
"I would like to sincerely acknowledge the Sāmoan community and indeed the wider Pacific community for their response to the request for testing and that is proceeding very well," Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.
He then went on to identify the second-largest subcluster, which at 23 cases yesterday was less than half the size of the AOG church subcluster. It encompasses those related to the very first cases from Auckland's North Shore.
Of all the developments this past week, I'd say this is one of the more difficult to process.
Getting through Covid has certainly been a collective effort, and along the way, criticisms of shortfalls in the Government's response have helped with improvements. For a lot of those involved, that's meant weighing up the ideal situation with what's practical in a health system that doesn't operate well for a lot at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.
However, as we've successfully championed an elimination strategy, health experts and leaders have also made it clear communities most at risk of harm from Covid – specifically Pacific and Māori – must be prioritised. For that reason, they advocated for a targeted vaccine rollout for Pacific and Māori.
That would then mean if and when there's an outbreak, particularly with the highly infectious Delta variant, that layer of protection is ticked off.
As we know, that simply hasn't been the case. Leading into the current outbreak, vaccination rates among Pacific and Māori were the lowest in the country. That's meant many communities, including some at the heart of the current outbreak, are likely in a worse situation than they needed to be.
It also meant yesterday's case details were particularly disheartening in the larger scheme of New Zealand's overall Covid response.
Let's hope lessons from this past week, and the next seven days, are taken to heart as we move forward.