I was reading a news article today about the pandemic. Specifically, it was discussing the need to deploy vaccinations to as much of the global population as possible. What caught me off guard from the article, though, was simply a statement that started, “As we are about to enter the third year of the pandemic.” The third year.
I find this so curious. On the one hand, entering the third year of the pandemic makes sense to me. When it started, most of the experts said they expected we would be dealing with this virus for at least three to five years. So I am not shocked that we are still in the clutches of Covid-19. What is crazy to me is that it seems like we’ve been living with this virus much longer than that. Traveling back in my mind to a time before masks, before the debate over vaccines, it seems like forever and a day ago. But it’s not. It’s less than three years. I think the stress of living with Covid, all its uncertainties and all the changes it’s brought, have made the past two years a blur.
My husband said today that he feels he lost a year. All of 2020 was a loss. This year was better than last. At least this year we’re able to move around more. But the pandemic, with its death toll and loss, has been exhausting. It’s no wonder that the past two years feel longer. So, year three will be more of the same. Hopefully, sometime soon, we will adjust to life with this virus and maybe time will seem to normalize.
I think this is possible. But we definitely need to get more people vaccinated or we’ll continue living this Groundhog Day for the rest of the foreseeable future. That is, if we’re lucky and don’t end up with a deadlier mutation that causes what we’ve been going through look tame. Mother Nature is amazing. Science is amazing. Now if we could just use science to get Mother Nature under control in this instance, we’d be getting somewhere.
Thirteen days. That’s how long it took for us to get a message from Luke’s school that he has been exposed to someone who tested positive for Covid-19. We have very little concern that he actually contracted Covid-19. First, he had it last fall. Second, he’s been vaccinated. Third, his high school has a high rate of vaccinations among students. Fourth, the students wear masks inside classrooms. Fifth, Luke has a suspicion about which classmate might be Patient 0, and he knows he had no direct contact with them. So, we’re probably safe, but Luke will get tested tomorrow just in case.
I knew that Covid-19 would affect this school year, but I had hoped it wouldn’t be as impactful as it was last year. In April and May when the US was vaccinating millions of people per day, I got my hopes up that maybe this fall at least could be somewhat more normal for students. Maybe they could be back in classrooms. Maybe they wouldn’t need to be masked. But then the vaccinations slowed to a trickle, and I knew we might end up right back in the same boat. It’s not the same boat, though. Last year, there was no vaccine available, so our boat was lost on tempest tossed seas and we were all in it together, not knowing when we might be able to get back to normal. This year, we got vaccines to help get us on the right track, but they only work if the vast majority of the population gets them. Since so many people decided to opt out, our boat has leaks. So here we are again. As the more transmissible Delta variant rages through the population, sending many of the unvaccinated to hospitals, we’re now fighting about mask mandates and vaccine mandates, public health versus personal freedom. It’s crazy. We’re our own worst enemies because we’re anything but united right now.
I’ve been noticing this week how much we’ve become a nation of people out for themselves. I see it when I am driving. I see it in stores. I see it everywhere I go. We’ve become a nation of people more concerned with personal freedom than the freedom of the country as a whole. Covid-19 is our mutual enemy, but some people don’t see it that way. They think the government and their fellow citizens are the enemy. Until we get ourselves collected and facing the same direction, I will probably be getting more notices from my son’s school.
As I recall the events of 9/11 and our unity on that day, I am heartbroken looking at our country now. How far we have fallen in twenty years. If an attack like the one that happened then occurred now, I’m not certain we would see the same cooperation and personal sacrifice that we saw that day and in the days and weeks following. Twenty years from now, we may still be a nation, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to say we are a great one. Once we’ve lost the ability to selflessly do for others in our communities, to step up when our government is asking us, to get a vaccine or wear a mask because it might save someone else, we can’t really call ourselves the United States of America.
My family and I got Covid-19 last November. We had been careful, wearing masks everywhere, not eating out or going to movies or malls, even having all our groceries delivered and left on our front doorstep. In the end, despite our diligence, we likely contracted Covid-19 when our masked son, who was working as a volunteer, came in contact with an out-of-state visitor who refused to wear a mask while visiting Dinosaur Ridge. Joe argued that asking others, who had blatantly disregarded signage about state mask mandates, to don masks was above his volunteer pay grade. We agreed. So, he got sick first and then we all did. We had mild cases, for which we were deeply grateful. After our two week quarantine period was up, however, we noticed we weren’t bouncing back to our usual healthy selves. Weeks after we had resumed our now normal distanced and masked lives, we noticed we were struggling through exercise and having greater difficulty catching our breath. We were constantly tired, and our senses of taste and smell had not fully returned to normal. Nine months later, three out of the four of us still don’t have our taste and smell back to our pre-Covid experience. Covid can leave a mark.
Despite being a Covid-19 survivor and having had a positive test for antibodies in mid March, I got the vaccine. I had no concerns about its efficacy or safety. I am not a scientist, but I understand how science works. If physicians and researchers who dedicated their lives to eradicating viruses were lining up to get the vaccine, it was safe. I didn’t give it a second thought. I wanted normal life back. I too wanted to get rid of my mask. So, by mid April my husband and I were fully vaccinated, and our teenage sons followed suit by early May. When the CDC decided that vaccinated people could take off their masks, we were thrilled and nervous. We resumed our mask-free lives, relatively hopeful that others would step up for vaccines and we would all be safe from Covid soon.
But that didn’t happen. That didn’t happen because half the nation decided to think about getting vaccinated while the more virulent Delta strain ravaged India. All the warning signs were there. We knew Delta was beginning to increase infections in the US, but the unvaccinated weren’t concerned. And Fox News and Republican politicians like you raised no alarms. You instead bolstered doubt by politicizing the push for vaccines as something dubious that the Democrats had up their sleeves. You pushed the notion that freedom means not having to get a life-saving vaccine or wear a stupid, goddamn cloth mask (which, by the way, most four year olds I’ve seen can manage better than right-wing conservatives). As Delta started turning your state into a Covid nightmare for your hospitals, the CDC had to reverse course on the mask mandate. Masks were needed again because Delta, with its higher rate of transmission, was burning through the population and creating an unnecessary burden on our hospitals and health care professionals.
So, let’s get something straight. The mask wearing the CDC is recommending is about politics. We have to go back to wearing masks because conservatives refused to get vaccinated before Delta took hold. You all had months to do this. Months. Vaccines were being tossed in the garbage because you would not get the shots. People around the world were desperately clamoring for vaccinations, but spoiled, selfish, and self-righteous Americans were turning up their noses at them. And, thus, Delta came calling, you all kept spreading, and now masks are back. This is not a flip flop by the CDC. This is a revision in advice because of a precipitous increase in Covid-19 cases due to a more virulent strain. And that, my friend, rests mostly on you and your unvaccinated acolytes.
As to your hyperbolic complaint that we will be forced to wear masks indefinitely, no one knows if that will come to fruition. But viruses do have time to mutate and become more deadly while their hosts are busy hemming and hawing about vaccine safety and using politics to cast doubt on science. So, if there does come a day when we all have to wear masks indefinitely to stave off deadly, airborne viruses, I will be looking at you, Senator. Well, the part of you I can see under your mask, anyway.