When the word coronavirus became part of our everyday vocabulary, back in February 2020, I stumbled over its pronunciation. The idea, that something invisible could travel so quickly and infect millions and cause death was scary. For many of Americans it was an easy decision to retreat, shut our doors and wait it out until doctors discovered cures and/or invented a weapon to protect us.
One year later we had vaccines and a better knowledge of how the disease was transmitted. In the Spring of 2020 a trip to the grocery story required plastic gloves, an N-95 mask that crushed my prominent nose, and an immediate hand washing with hand sanitizer upon returning to the car. Spring 2021, once fully vaccinated I felt confident to shop with a double cloth mask and abandoned the gloves. Yes, I still cleaned my hands and tried to adhere to regular hand washing, but as more and more of the population became vaccinated and the numbers started going down, I relaxed. We had vaccinated friends and family to dinner, trying to spend plenty of time out-of-doors, and gradually we started to let down our guard. Life was returning back to normal, we told ourselves. We could travel, shop, eat at outside venues, judiciously mingle.
And then it happened—I got Covid anyway. A breakthrough infection. Probably the Delta version of the virus, because that was the predominant strain of the time and I was angry because I’d been so careful. It was a “mild case”, no need for hospitalization, but my symptoms didn’t feel so mild. My illness felt like a strep throat, paired with a head cold accompanied by a persistent cough. Fortunately my loss of smell and taste was brief and quickly restored.
Now with the arrival of Omicron, the numbers are up and the state of Maryland where I reside is in a state of emergency. Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients. Once again, non- urgent medical care is being delayed.
It seems as if every time I turn around I’m hearing about someone who has just contracted or has just recovered from the Omicron variant of the virus. What I am hearing are people saying, Maybe if I get this version, which is not as virulent, I’ll be protected. Maybe if everyone gets the coronavirus it will go away.
Wishful thinking, is my response. If you get the flu once, does that mean you’ll never get the flu again?
The coronavirus keeps evolving. Eight hundred and thirty-six thousand people have died in the United States from Covid-19, far exceeding the 675,000 American who are estimated to have died during the 1918 flu pandemic, and each day the number keeps growing. Five and a half million people in the world have died from Covid-19, making it by some global estimates the fourth leading cause of death in the world.
While Omicron may be a “milder” version, it spreads quickly. Statistically the more who are infected, the greater the likelihood that some individuals will become very sick. I repeat, people are still dying. For the common good, to protect the vulnerable, all of us should try to practice some safety protocol.
I went into the local coffee shop this morning and two women had forgotten to bring masks. One stood in the small space waiting for the other to place an order. They were not aware of the emergency public health bulletin requiring masks to be worn inside public spaces. The one ordering, lightly placed her scarf in front of her mouth and nervously giggled. I felt sorry for the baristas.
My impression is that so many Americans are exhausted by all the information being delivered by our government leaders, they’ve stopped listening. It’s a tragedy I’m watching unfold before my eyes and I’m powerless to do anything about it except write down what I’ve witnessed.
I don’t want to get another version of the coronavirus, mild or not. I don’t want to get anyone else sick. Each of us has to make our own choices, but oh it would be a better world if we thought a little less about our own comfort and more about the welfare of others. Oh how I long for that better world.
Follow Nadja Maril on twitter at SN Maril. Read her latest creative prose “Menudo” posted by Full House Literary here.