Frustratingly for me, and for everyone in my house, I got COVID this week.
Monday evening I started to have a scratchy throat. Tuesday I had a runny nose, sneezing, sinus pressure, and headache. Wednesday the headache was worse, I was moderately fatigued, I felt some chest congestion, and I coughed a little here and there. I thought surely it must be a cold.
Thursday morning it struck me that in these pandemic times one can’t ever assume a cold is a cold. We had a couple COVID tests in the closet, so I took one. Both lines lit up immediately — positive.
I’m staying separated from my family until this passes. Because I was symptomatic for a few days before I sequestered myself, Margaret tested last night. Negative, thank goodness. She had COVID in January, and it lasted upwards of two weeks and laid her out good.
By Friday evening I had only a little lingering sinus and chest congestion. Today, Saturday, I feel 95% normal.
I worked every day through this, from home. I just didn’t feel that sick. I’m incredulous that this is COVID. It has felt for all the world like a mild cold, quickly forgotten after it passed.
Since the pandemic started, I’ve written occasional bonus posts about my experience. This is the 61st. At first, I wrote frequently, at least twice a month. But since last fall the pace has slowed considerably. There just hasn’t been much new to say.
Recent mask guidance from the CDC suggest that 70 percent of Americans can now stop wearing masks, and no longer need to social distance or avoid crowded indoor spaces. In red-state Indiana, that took down the final barrier. Almost nobody wears masks anymore, anywhere. I’m relieved, but I hope the CDC has its guidance right.
The Omicron surge has passed here in Indiana, and I suspect in most of the United States. The thought seems to be that because Omicron didn’t make people as ill as previous variants, that we are past the worst of the pandemic, and that COVID-19 is now becoming endemic. I’m not so sure the emergence of one less-impactful variant proves that. But I think people are ready for this to be over, and that will surely convert pandemic to endemic. I just hope that we don’t have another variant that has high risk of serious illness and long-term effects.
Like most, I’ve all but given up wearing a mask. I carry one in case I walk into a place that still requires it.
I’m still working from home most days, and I still go back and forth about whether I prefer it to being in the office. I miss what the office was, when everyone was there. When I go now, only a handful of others are ever there. It’s hardly worth the hour-plus commute — especially since the people there aren’t ones I need to meet with. I spend my whole day on Zoom, whether or not I spend the hour plus round trip in the car. So most days I just stay home. But I’m frankly sick of being in this house all the time.
If that’s my biggest pandemic-related problem now, I must have it pretty good.
Since the pandemic began I’ve worked from home the vast majority of the time. I normally drive about 20,000 miles a year, but in the last two years I’ve put only about 3,000 miles on my car.
I’m a car singer. When I’m driving, I’ve got my music on and I sing along. I can carry a tune, and I can really project my voice.
Or at least I used to be able to project my voice. I didn’t realize how much my ability to do that depended on the daily practice I got while commuting.
I am working at my company’s headquarters today, for the first time since before Christmas. I asked Siri to play my “singalong” playlist. I quickly found that I could barely raise my voice above normal speech volume without it hurting my throat.
I’m not a terribly physical guy. I don’t play sports. I don’t enjoy working out, so you will be hard pressed to find me in the gym. The things a fellow normally does to wring out tough emotions, I don’t do.
Singing does that for me. It’s a very physical activity and when I’m feeling rough, belting out a bunch of songs I know well very often vents the emotional pressure.
Wow, has there ever been a lot of emotional pressure during this pandemic. And I haven’t had my primary way of physically working through my feelings.
I wonder if I should go for a thirty minute drive every day after work, just to have that time to sing.
I was sad that more people didn’t come to Rana’s memorial service, which was last Saturday. I know she touched far more lives than those who attended. I was pleased that my brother came, and my old friend Michael and his wife. I was blown away that the woman who runs HR at my company came.
This is the most time I’ve spent in the same room with my ex-wife since she divorced me. On the one hand, that wasn’t comfortable, as we had a terrible marriage and ugly divorce. On the other, I think both of us were comforted by the other, as during our marriage we shared in the bulk of the time Rana/Ross was a child.
Rana’s mom had pre-arranged for a number of people to speak during the service, to share memories. I had declined to speak, but at the service she implored me to, so I did. I told a couple of stories of Rana, who was still Ross then, while I was married to his mom. They were stories I’d told before, and all I had to do was tell them again, so it wasn’t too hard to do. People seemed to like the stories.
I went to the service alone. That wasn’t the plan, but in the week before the service Margaret came down with COVID. We knew this was a possibility as she had cared for her son while he had it, after her other son’s girlfriend exposed us all the day after Christmas. Margaret and I have been isolating from each other since then to lower the risk that I’d get it. I bought a stack of in-home COVID tests and tested every couple days leading up to the memorial service. It came back negative every time, thank heavens. It would have killed me to miss the service. But I wore a surgical mask at the service anyway.
For months, Margaret and I had planned to spend last weekend together in Chicago. We had tickets to a play and reservations at a very nice hotel overlooking the Chicago River. The hotel was not refundable — I won’t ever book a room that way again just to save 30 bucks on a weekend. I would have rescheduled our weekend away for a time when we were well past our COVID experience.
Margaret urged me to go alone, to get out of my box and out of my head for a couple days. The room was paid for either way. It felt weird to go alone, but I did it, and it was overall a good thing. I went to the play, and I drank scotch at a bar I like, and I shot 3½ rolls of film just walking around the Loop and the adjacent River North areas. I’m sending all of that film to a lab for processing and scanning so it will be a few weeks before I can share photos.
Chicago requires masking indoors in public places, and proof of vaccination to sit in a bar or restaurant. This is a sharp contrast to Indiana. There are no COVID restrictions here anymore. Authorities strongly suggest masking and physical distancing, but that’s all. These differences correlate to these two states’ differing politics: Illinois is blue and Indiana is firmly red.
I had brunch with a couple of colleagues on Sunday in Chicago. It was so good to catch up with them. It was soothing to know that everyone in that restaurant was fully vaccinated.
At the same time I couldn’t shake a feeling that Chicago’s measures were theater. After all, Margaret’s son was double vaxxed, and Margaret was triple vaxxed, and they got COVID anyway. Who knows how many people in that Chicago restaurant had been exposed and were busy unknowingly transmitting the virus?
I know, I know, the vaccines were never guaranteed to prevent transmission. It is thought that they slow transmission, and there is good evidence that they make COVID less severe if you do get it. Margaret and her son were both pretty miserable at the height of their illnesses, but neither required medical attention. Margaret described it as being a very bad cold, with heavy congestion and cough. Perhaps both of them avoided a more severe illness thanks to their vaccinations.
Anyway, it was otherwise very good to be out of my box and in a different head space for a few days. It wasn’t that cold for Chicago in January, with daytime temperatures in the 20s and low 30s (-6 to about 0 C) and, crucially, the wind was only slight. I spent most of my time either watching movies in the hotel, or walking and making photographs outside in the cold. I brought two cameras with me: a Minolta Maxxum 5 that a reader recently donated, and my trusty Olympus OM-2n. I rather enjoyed the Maxxum and ended up using it most.
I drove home Monday afternoon and on Tuesday I returned to work. I wasn’t entirely emotionally ready, but it also felt right somehow to plunge in anyway. Sometimes the way to become emotionally ready for something is to just dive in, do it, and build that readiness as you go. I have felt unusually irritable, and have had to choose my words carefully lest I say something that cuts. But otherwise it feels good to return to normal life — it is a fine distraction from my feelings.
Christmas Day was nice, but then overnight Christmas night our younger daughter had a diabetic emergency and had to be rushed to the hospital, where she spent two days recovering. And then on the day after Christmas our son’s girlfriend came over for a couple hours. Monday our son texted us the bad news: she had tested positive for COVID. Turns out she came over to our house while not feeling well — she left our house that day to keep her appointment for her COVID test.
I’m glad Margaret had the talk with her about how unwise that was and how much risk she exposed us to. I was so angry that if that talk had fallen to me, I couldn’t have held back the unkind words. Margaret was a lot kinder than I would have been in telling our son and his girlfriend that they are not welcome here if they have so much as a sniffle. Be fully well or stay the hell home.
I didn’t spend any real time with the young woman while she was here. Our youngest son did, however, and he got COVID from her. Fortunately, he was double vaccinated — he had a couple bad days with it where all he could do was lie in bed, but he’s been sicker in his life. He’s almost back to normal now.
I bought a bunch of in-home COVID tests while we push through this. I was fortunate to find some still available to be shipped here from Walgreens.com — I must have got the last of them, as they’re now out of stock everywhere. Our son tested positive, of course, but the rest of us keep testing negative. Margaret and I are triple vaccinated; perhaps that’s helping us. Margaret is his direct caregiver and she’s so far avoided catching it. We’re being extra cautious — Margaret and our son are largely isolating upstairs, and I’m largely isolating downstairs, sleeping on the pull-out couch.
Because our son’s positive COVID test was done at home, it doesn’t register on the official count of cases. Have a look at the stunning post-holiday case spike Indiana is having.
News reports are saying that COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic — a new normal, and something we will have to live with forever. I hope that along the way, they find better vaccines and more effective treatments.
At the moment I’m out of grace for people who won’t be vaccinated, like one of our sons. I know the arguments against it. Most of them don’t hold water. The ones that have some validity are not strong enough, in my opinion, to overcome how much better off we’d all be today if more people had done it the minute it became available to them.
I got my booster shot of the Moderna vaccine yesterday. There’s so little demand for the booster here that I was able to schedule it at will at the CVS Pharmacy within walking distance of my house. When I got the initial two doses, demand was so high that in order for me to wait only a couple weeks, rather than a couple months, I had to schedule them at a Walmart 15 miles away.
I feel pretty good today. The area around the vaccination site (my upper left arm) is sore, and I’m a little more fatigued than normal. I’m taking it easy today, but if I had to I could put in a full day and be fine.
As I’ve written before, I’ve returned to more or less a normal life, going to events and restaurants and such. I live in a red state with no government mask requirement. Among the places I’ve gone in Indianapolis and Zionsville, most stores strongly recommending masks and a small number require them. Some event venues require proof of vaccination and some don’t; some require masks and some merely recommend them. Bars and restaurants here neither require nor recommend masks.
I wavered briefly on masking, in large part because of poor mask compliance in the places I go. It felt pointless to mask up when hardly anybody else was doing it. But after rethinking it, I’m back to following recommendations and requirements in the places I go.
COVID-19 isn’t done with Indiana yet. Here’s the latest positive cases graph.
New vaccinations have stalled in Indiana. When I last wrote about it in early September, just over 3 million Hoosiers were fully vaccinated. Now it’s 3.4 million fully vaccinated against a state population of 6.7 million.
I’m still working from home most days. I average about one day a week in the office, usually Tuesday. I thought surely by now I would have added more in-office days to my schedule. But on a normal day in the office, I encounter five or six other people in a company of about 150 employees. As a result, I spend my whole day on Zoom no matter where I work from. Might as well skip the commute!
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