The armrest on the bus was stabbing me in my side. The seat on the small van was too small
A Covid Story
How my entire extended family got Covid even when Covid is "over."
Everyone always says, "We were so careful."
It's always a lie.
Our first mistake started the Friday before Thanksgiving. My spouse took our daughter to an outdoor party her outdoor school was having. It was crowded. It was the first time she'd been around dozens of other people, including parents and other siblings, in months. She spends the vast majority of her day outdoors with a small pod. Despite all of this, they decided to take their masks off and eat at a table with some of her friends and parents.
They didn't tell me.
Hey, I know.
In a normal world, that should be fine. But we don't live in a normal world. We live in a world where public health institutions have abandoned us. Worse, they gaslight and bullshit us every day, about everything. We live in a world where we have to pay for our own reliable masks, tests, air purifiers, vaccines, and treatments like Paxlovid, if you can get them. We live in a world where one of the most contagious viruses in history also happens to disable your immune system while damaging every system in your body. This virus can transmit if you're in a crowded outdoor space, as we learned firsthand.
We traveled across the country with a 5-year-old who had Covid. None of us knew. She didn't have any symptoms at first.
We didn't know she was sick for four days.
We went inside gas stations. We went inside rest stops, all briefly. We ate every meal outside, alone. Once we got where we were going, we unpacked our air purifier. We put together a Corsi-Rosenthal box.
We went to a museum. We wore N95 masks everywhere. In fact, I wore an Aura 9330+, FFP3 (red straps).
We used nose and throat sprays.
My in-laws came over to visit where we were staying. They thought the Corsi-Rosenthal box was "cute." They talked about sort of still taking Covid seriously. Then they talked about friends they knew who'd had it three or even four times. "They say it's not that bad." They said they only mask around people who are sick. I told them forty percent of infections happen asymptomatically. At the time, we still didn't know our daughter had Covid.
Imagine telling someone Covid spreads asymptomatically while your daughter is literally spreading it with zero symptoms.
My mother-in-law said, "Well, there's something like that with every virus." Then she went off with my daughter to play on the other end of the house. I chased them down and set up an air purifier.
Everyone thought I was overreacting.
The next day, I started feeling sick.
I told my spouse.
He still wanted our in-laws to come over. So I put on my N95 mask. When they showed up, I told them I wasn't feeling great. Then I went to isolate in a back room, with one of the air purifiers.
They gave me that condescending smile, as if they were indulging an eccentric. "Okay," they said.
My in-laws have talked to us a number of times about our "mental health" over the last few years, especially when we were waiting on the FDA to approve vaccines for children under five. They said they wanted us to find a "balance" between taking Covid seriously and living our lives.
Last summer, I cussed out an aunt for sharing food with my daughter. I did it after finding them all lounging in the living room without masks, after we'd spent all weekend asking them to please sit outside.
So you know, that's my balance.
My in-laws are like most people these days. They want credit for taking Covid seriously, but they don't want to take it seriously.
I bought them N95 masks a year ago. They used them up and then went right back to cloth and surgical masks.
I bought them a really nice HEPA air purifier.
They gave it to their church.
Over the last two years in particular, I've gone to great lengths to arrange Covid-safe birthday parties and holiday gatherings. We're always the ones who do all the heavy lifting on the Covid front, and nobody has cared. They act like they're doing us a favor by sort of following our guidelines. My sister-in-law gave us a condescending talk about immunity debt earlier this year, based on her own experience of "catching everything."
This week, we wondered if we were being too careful.
We were wrong.
A few hours after I bailed on Thanksgiving plans, our daughter started coughing and acting tired. We gave her a Covid test, but it came back negative. Then my mother-in-law called. She was feeling sick.
A couple of days later, she tested positive. It's a good thing she tested, because she was about to visit her entire family for Thanksgiving, including at least three seniors with health problems and compromised immune systems. My father-in-law has a history of heart problems.
We tested our daughter's poop.
It came back positive.
So that's it.
My mother-in-law's doctor started her on Paxlovid immediately, and she had no trouble getting it. She's lucky, for now.
My father-in-law doesn't show any symptoms. That worries me. A 70-year-old man with a history of hospitalizations and health problems should be showing some symptoms of Covid. If he's not, that tells me his immune system isn't putting up any fight whatsoever. And of course, he hasn't even asked for any treatments because he feels fine. I could be wrong.
I hope so.
Our daughter got Covid from an outdoor party. She gave it to us, and her grandparents. It almost spread through our entire family, including several people who could've wound up in the hospital or worse.
Where they live, my in-laws are considered the Covid cautious ones because they avoid crowded indoor spaces, except restaurants and churches. They still talk about Covid, and their friends say things like, "That thing that was going around two or three years ago?" They've been brainwashed into thinking Covid is a distant memory, when in fact it's everywhere.
Now we're debriefing on what we learned.
First, we've got to get better Covid tests.
They exist, but they're expensive.
Second, you can't assume crowded outdoor spaces are safe. I already knew this, but apparently I didn't convey that with enough emphasis to my spouse, who made a bad judgment call.
Third, we should've definitely tested before meeting family for the holidays. When experts tell you 40 percent of Covid spread happens with no symptoms, they're not making that up to scare you.
It's a reality.
Fourth, you're never taking too many precautions. It's because of the N95 masks, the air purifiers, boosters, and sprays that I'm sitting here writing instead of lying in bed like I was the first time I got Covid.
Meanwhile, everyone else I know is getting sick as hell. My friends try to joke around. They say things like, "It sounds like we all have TB." You should hear them when they learn it could actually be TB. Their body's ability to actually fight off infections could be compromised now after two, three, four Covid infections. They shouldn't be joking around.
I've had more sick students and colleagues this semester than the last two years combined. Everyone's got Covid or some serious infection in the wake of Covid, thanks to a weakened immune system. Everyone's getting much sicker this time. They're winding up in the hospital. They're spending a solid week in bed, falling behind on work, and begging for deadline extensions.
They didn't update their boosters.
Depending on how you define mainstream media, even they have reported on the permanent damage Covid does to your heart, brain, blood vessels, lungs, and immune system. It doesn't matter how mild the infection feels. Of course, many of these outlets turn right around and encourage everyone to go out and get infected, because to them living a full life means sacrificing your health and condemning yourself to chronic illness and fatigue in order to shop, eat out, watch movies, go to concerts, go on vacations even if you're sick, and engage in other mindless forms of consumption that everyone pretends makes them happy.
But does it?
I'm sitting here now, and the only choices I regret are the times when I didn't take Covid seriously enough. There's no concert or vacation in the wold that's worth giving up ten years of my life, or spending the rest of it so tired and sensitive that I can't even get out of bed.
And that's life for many, many Covid survivors.
It's not hard to find this information. You don't have to dig around in the back channels of Reddit to find out how dangerous it is to get infected with Covid every year for years on end. You don't have to do what the conspiracy theorists do, reading memes for secret clues.
It's all out there.
You just have to google "Covid heart damage" or "Covid brain damage," and you'll find dozens of sources from doctors and researchers at top universities and medical centers. You don't have to go to medical school to understand these articles. Half the time, you can find summaries of them on Reuters. You can find YouTube and TikTok videos with widely renowned scientists and researchers talking about the very real dangers Covid presents to all of us, everywhere. It's unreal how many people don't pay attention, simply because a tiny handful of doctors go on CNN and say, "Don't worry."
Again, it's weird.
There have been times late at night when part of me wondered if I was taking precautions for nothing now, that maybe the pandemic was ancient history, and that it was finally time to move on. Now Covid is in my house. It's in my daughter. It's in my in-laws. It's in my spouse.
It's in me.
If I hadn't been taking so many precautions, we would've wound up spreading it to dozens of people. We almost certainly would've been responsible for someone's death or permanent disability. Depending on what happens over the next few months, we still might be, despite everything.
Are we the sheep?
I don't think so.
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