I Have COVID-19, and I Won't Be Ruled by Fear

AP Photo/Steven Senne, File

On Monday night, I tested positive for COVID-19.

The previous day, I had a sore throat. I was vaccinated, so I didn’t worry too much. By Monday morning, I canceled a radio appearance due to all the symptoms of a sinus infection. I went to get tested at a walk-in clinic. They did… a substandard job on the nose swab. I do not feel I got tickled in the brain as I have on previous swabs. I was prescribed cough syrup and nasal spray.

We got to my hometown on Monday night. My mother-in-law, a nurse, and my wife wanted me to double-check. I got tested again (properly) and it came up positive. I got a shot of cortisone rocephin, and was a dose into a round of azithromcycin. I was on the way down from what I had assumed was a sinus infection.

The worst part, worse than how I physically felt, was calling my family and telling them I had tested positive. Canceling plans. We were supposed to drive to Texas to visit my wife’s family and see our newborn niece and nephew. Because they were born months premature, we couldn’t risk getting them sick. Because we have family members in our hometown that are old and have health problems, we didn’t want to expose anyone. We got my daughters from my in-laws and headed back home.

I think the disappointment in their voices hurt most.

I tell you all this not out of sadness, but with hope. I am thankful the symptoms are not harsh. If the data and the news reports (not the panicking reports, but the straight data reports) are true, it’s likely I have one of the most recent variants. Maybe even Omicron. I am home with my wife and two daughters. We have holiday plans all week. Today, it’s baking and gingerbread house decorating. Tomorrow, my oldest wants to bake a Black Forest pound cake she saw a recipe for. Every night is family movie night. We will cook a massive, probably too big, Christmas feast for ourselves.

And I still have to move the two Elf on the Shelf dolls every night.

If I have it, we’re working under the assumption my wife and kids have it. We are staying quarantined. We will recover from this illness and move on. We’ll see family later and exchange presents then. Share a meal. My mom absolutely knocks it out of the park for holiday meals, so there’s no way we can’t make that up. We’ll see the family we were worried about seeing this week. Time will march on.

I say all this because there are people out there who are being ruled more by fear than by rationality.

I am a teacher. I interact with, literally, hundreds of people daily. We know the virus has a lot of asymptomatic victims. I have no idea who I got the virus from or when. But it doesn’t matter. It was an inevitability, given what I do. It’s an inevitability for a lot of people out there. Knowing how to respond in a rational way, knowing the limits of what you can and should (responsibly) do while you have the virus is key.

I had accepted this reality a long time ago. I understood that the vaccines weren’t perfect, but getting one was the best way to keep symptoms from becoming severe. I hadn’t gotten a booster yet but was considering it. Now, with natural immunity, I won’t need to.

COVID, COVID-19, Vaccine
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

This is why pieces like this from CNN’s Chris Cillizza are so frustrating. They don’t help anyone understand this isn’t some end-of-the-world event. It’s just fear-mongering.

I’m exhausted from the constant not knowing. Each new day feels like it brings a darkening prediction of what the future holds, and I’m tired. I am a creature of habit. I love knowing what the next day will bring. With the pandemic, it feels like the situation is changing by the hour.

And I’m resigned to the fact that none of this is going away anytime soon. The idea that Covid will be in the rear-view mirror by March feels, at this point, quaint. I have watched the goalposts for the end of the pandemic moved so many times that I can’t even remember where they were a month ago.

Let’s be clear: My life isn’t a hardship. I write for a living. I’ve spent most of the past 20 months working from home. My family has enough to eat and access to good medical care.

But, for me, these past few weeks have been some of the hardest of the entire pandemic. It felt like we were nearing an end, only to be pulled back in.

This isn’t the type of reaction you have if you have been preparing yourself for the inevitability of catching COVID-19, or at least preparing for the inevitability that your life will be disrupted by it.

This is the type of reaction you have if you have been living in a bubble, thinking it’s all far away from you and it’s the hicks and rubes in red states who are hesitant to give up living life and focus on being afraid like the folks in the media and political bubbles in and around New York and Washington, D.C., focused on case counts and not the actual reports on the ground from places like South Africa, which have been reporting since Omicron was named that it’s not anywhere close to being as dangerous as other variants or the original virus.

That hasn’t stopped our political leaders from straight-up overhyping and lying about the new variant. They are using fear, and folks in the media like Cillizza are buying in hook, line, and sinker. They focus on case counts and not the fact that severe illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths are far fewer with these new variants, especially where vaccines are involved.

I do not like living in fear. I like taking precautions, I like being prepared, but I don’t like living in fear. There is far too much life to be lived when you do. I genuinely pray for folks like this who are paralyzed by a fear of the virus, unable to come to terms with the fact that, yeah, this is as endemic as the flu and will probably be around forever. It’s not a disease you can eradicate with vaccine mandates. It’s something you can control and prepare for.

I know very few of you reading this are afraid of this virus, but if you are, I hope it helps. Live life.