I’m another one of those people. I got the Covid. I can’t recall how many home tests I may have taken over these many months, but this is the first one that ever came back positive. While the test kit states that the brightness of the line — the one denoting a positive result is immaterial — mine seemed to light up like a fireworks finale.
There have been almost 80 million reported Covid cases in the United States. Over 900,000 Americans have died from this scourge, with almost 35,000 from Michigan alone. Until my positive (unreported) test result, these were just numbers to me. Only now am I feeling their true weight.
Before you feel too sorry for me, you should know that I must have gotten the Omicron variety. It just feels like a nasty, persistent cold. Today (Day 5) is a little better than yesterday and a whole lot better than the first three days.
As it turns out, dealing with the physical symptoms is the easiest part of this entire ordeal.
I’ve become a pariah, Patient Zero for our little supper group. I am the same person I was before the symptoms began, but now I can’t show my face anywhere — not even in my own bed. My wife of 43 years banished me to one of the kid’s old bedrooms. I didn’t put up much of a fight. She’s a doctor. I’m a patient with no bargaining power. I can’t go out in public, not even with a mask. I’m self-quarantining and feeling crumby. Not very good company, even for myself.
My symptoms first appeared on a Saturday morning. We had plans that night with two other couples. Being the responsible person I am, I did a home test: Negative. I didn’t cancel the plans. In retrospect, not my finest moment. I blame the Covid.
For almost two full years now, I have been consumed with avoiding the physical consequences of the Coronavirus. I didn’t think about the psychological effects. It was agonizing to tell those two other couples that they have been exposed to the virus and that I was to blame. No one mentions guilt in the list of Covid symptoms.
It got worse. While my wife has remained disease free, two of the four friends have come down with the virus. Even more cruelly, one of the couples had to cancel a planned trip to Florida, their first vacation after a long, dark winter. Now, I feel truly awful and it has nothing to do with my runny nose, headache or fatigue.
As a society, we need to get Covid from “pandemic” to “endemic.” We could have gotten there with vaccinations, but what should have been a purely scientific became political. As a result, the only way this nightmare is going to end is basically when everyone has been infected.
There was a part of me that wanted to contract the virus, to ease the anxiety, to get it behind me. In the words of Forrest Gump, I wanted “one less thing” to worry about. I was wrong. Even though, for the vast majority of people, the Omicron variant results in mild cases, the sheer number of cases we are experiencing means that notwithstanding a low lethality rate, roughly 2,000 people in this country continue to die every day. And what of the truly immune-compromised people who can’t be protected by vaccination?
We must remain vigilant. We must continue to do the things we know will help. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Respect the virus. We are all in this together. When, exactly, did "personal freedom" trump our civic duty?
Personally, I will strive to ensure that my personal choices never put others at risk. This should not be controversial. It’s social responsibility. It’s basic citizenship. If American Exceptionalism meant anything, it was embodied in principles of self-sacrifice and volunteerism. Somewhere along the way, we lost these values. We need to find them again. But first, we just need to put this national nightmare behind us — one mask, one vaccine, one self-quarantine at a time.
Three days later, my wife tested positive and is symptomatic. So are the other spouses. Now, because of me, everyone exposed to me that night has Covid-19. That’s an accomplishment only Typhoid Mary might envy. Every single one of us has been triple vaccinated and at least one of us was diagnosed with Covid previously. This is not an argument to sit and do nothing. It is merely six more tiny steps on the road from pandemic to endemic — to the point when each year we will be offered a Covid booster along with a flu shot. Only then will we be able to reclaim our lives.