Every time I've tried to start this update over the last few days, I see the image in my mind of President Bush on the aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" banner in the background while the war in Iraq raged on.
We had COVID in our house ... and now we don't. But it's not over for us.
COVID came into our home — hitting each of the four McKinleys differently — and has now, apparently, moved on. We have all been given our "10-day badge" from AHS saying that if we don't have a fever or significant respiratory issues, we can go back into society. I was the last one in our house to get "set free." But that's not the end. Aside from the nagging 'hangover' from the virus that a couple of us are still experiencing (exhaustion, no sense of smell or taste, brain fog, and did I mention exhaustion?), there could actually be mental and psychological factors waiting to weigh us down.
I say, 'actually,' because I don't do well with those kinds of things. I"m not much of one for getting in touch with my feelings.I try to tackle things as they come and move onto the next. Pragmatic is probably the best way to describe it. So the 'invisible' effects of this pandemic have really taken me by surprise.
I know a lot of it is in my head. It's like when you have a bad breakup and all the songs you hear are sappy and directed right at you.
My family has practically been in lockdown since April 23 as the virus rolled from one member to the next. But after 24 days of not leaving our property, speaking to friends and family only over the phone or the length of our driveway, and receiving a procession of much-appreciated doorway donations, the last few days since everyone's "release" have had some equally isolating moments. Are people actually moving more than six-feet away from me in the Post Office line? Did the staff member in the hardware store furrow her brow and shake her head a little as I walked into the store?
I'm free. I've done my time. I don't have it anymore. Let me come back into society.
I see the news reports lately of the "stigma" attached to those who have gone through a COVID diagnosis. I'm not there yet. I know a lot of it is in my head. It's like when you have a bad breakup and all the songs you hear are sappy and directed right at you. For the most part, I know I'm imagining it. But when friends, family or staff members actually say they are nervous to be around me — despite the clearance from medical professionals — it's pretty real. But even when it's right in front of me, I don't see it as part of some universal snubbing, some stigma. It's just a continuation of the overall ignorance we all have about this virus.
I mean, when you have some who still don't believe it is cause for a global pandemic, others who think its a spiritual culling, still others who fail to see the stress it is putting on the health systems of the world, — no matter if it's a virus, a flu or government and media news-spin — and others, receptionists, business owners, carpenters and retail clerks by day who become online doctors and statisticians by night, spinning their own rhetoric to information-hungry readers ... is it any wonder we're still fighting this thing 14 months later?
I'm the first to admit that there are so many questions I still have about the virus — even after covering it for my job for more than a year, and more recently after contracting it and watching its effects first-hand. I still don't 'really' know, for example, when I'm safely allowed to get a vaccine. I've asked the 811 people, local health officials ... everyone I'm supposed to rely on ... and I've had several different answers. The best one, however, was from an ICU nurse on the other end of an 811 call last Wednesday that I stayed on hold for more than 60 minutes to get answered.
"We really don't know," she said, explaining that everyone is different, and that small lingering symptoms could affect a decision about when to get a needle because of the need to differentiate between those symptoms any side-effects that might occur from the jab. "We really don't have a time. It's when you feel good enough to get one. I wish I could tell you something more specific."
But her answer was refreshing. It was human, and despite the fact it really wasn't an answer to my specific situation ... it made sense. I don't feel the need to fight to find a better answer, or argue about the abilities of our healthcare or government systems ... it's in my court now. While others continue to kick and fuss over even the most simple aspects of reducing the spread, I'm OK that perhaps there are no specific answers yet to all of our questions about this relatively new virus. Wash your hands, wear a mask, avoid crowds and socially distance seem like pretty easy answers to the most basic question about the virus — How can I stop it? And until we can get everyone to do that ... anything more specific is going to be hard to tricky.
From my own, very personal, daily interactions with this virus, I can say that while its ferocious appetite to find human hosts is a massive factor in the continued spread, it is the unquestionable ignorance of those same humans that will keep feeding this pandemic.
Until we all take an active role in preventing the spread — no matter what our thoughts and feelings are — this virus is going to continue. It doesn't care if we don't want to wear a mask. It doesn't care if our businesses are hurting, it doesn't care what we think of Justin Trudeau, the CDC or vaccine rollouts in India. It doesn't care that some people still think I have the virus ... It doesn't even care if we still want to teach a tae-kwon-do class in our basement ... it just spreads.
As long as we ignore the simple answers to controlling that spread, the only player in this war that can rightfully wave the "Mission Accomplished" flag will continue to be the virus itself.