On December 8, 2021, I observed my weekly driving ritual at the NVU-Johnson campus gym to take a COVID test. I had no symptoms; it was part of my routine. The next day, while I was in class, my phone started ringing frequently. When I pulled it out at the end of class, I could see that I had an email titled “COVID Test Results”. My stomach churned briefly, and after a quick review of the contents of the message, I learned that I had contracted the virus.
The attention seeker in me was a little pumped that the misfortune of my positive COVID result might at least have the silver lining of snagging undeserved loves from my friends and loving girlfriend, but I I would soon learn that catching this virus was not a gift from the gods who sit at home and do nothing.
I’m lucky enough to work from home and have an apartment all to myself, so isolation was a simple task. My mom bought some Gatorade and a stack of frozen pizzas (thanks mom), and I had more than enough supplies to get through my ten-day quarantine. My girlfriend was a million miles away on a trip to Egypt, so I was looking forward to some much needed rest and relaxation playing my Xbox with the boys.
It didn’t take long before the reality of my situation set in. I am grateful to have been completely vaccinated and boosted. My symptoms were mild – just the sniffles for a few days followed by a few days of moderate fatigue. Fatigue was by far the worst part of the experience, but I guess I can count myself lucky to have had a legitimate reason to take consecutive naps longer than 6 hours. By the end of my quarantine, I was back to normal except for a decrease in taste and smell, which would take another week to recover.
I’m also lucky to know exactly where I got infected. On December 4, a friend of mine threw a surprise birthday party for her husband. It was agreed that a small bar in Milton would be closed to the public and only fully vaccinated friends and family were invited to attend. At least four of us ended up testing positive, my brother included.
While trudging through brain fog accompanied by my daily diet of Dayquil and clam chowder, I had plenty of time to ruminate and decide who to blame for my situation. Should I blame my friend who hosted the party, a medical professional who was my role model in setting the COVID safety standards by which I live? Or should I blame the person who brought the virus to the party and micronated it directly into my delicate lungs?
In the end, I can only blame myself. I repeat the advice of Dr. Fauci, the CDC and my own doctors since the start of the pandemic. I insist on hiding, no matter the rules of the building I’m in. I got vaccinated as soon as possible, and even cut the line a bit to get an early booster.
Then I let my guard down for a single evening to get rid of my mask and have a few beers with my friends. I preached that accepting the personal risk of contracting COVID is not enough; we must also consider the risk to others when we allow the virus to spread. Nonetheless, I decided to take a night out to go to a crowded bar and shout six inches away from some of my best friends.
Looking back on the party, I agree that it was a bad idea to attend. Some of my friends shared this sentiment while others kept going out still waiting for test results.
Only those of us who tested positive seemed to be noticeably affected. My brother and I took it easy and realized that some of the activities we’ve been involved in lately may have been more reckless than we had imagined.
Thanksgiving with our grandparents was definitely an unnecessary risk. Cramming a dozen family members around a dinner table and arguing over the integrity of the election is not how anyone wants to spend their day off. My brother made the decision to skip Christmas with the family and we slept well knowing we were keeping our loved ones out of harm’s way.
Looking back, I can now see that there are dozens of examples where I put myself at risk of exposure: little things I never thought about, like opting for an indoor meal one day windy as I had originally planned to dine out, or play table tennis in a friend’s basement in the summer of 2021.
Safety is hard to master when there are so many little things we take for granted, and it can be hard to say no when it’s often much easier to say yes. It can also be easy to forget that every week thousands of people still die in the United States from this terrible virus, but we must continue to be diligent even as living with COVID becomes the new normal.
We are all fed up. It can be easy to get angry, and I’ve been known to lash out at those I consider too cavalier with their nonchalant approach to pandemic safety. Still, I’m guilty of frequenting a crowded bar for social purposes and catching COVID. I selfishly let my guard down for one night and can only be grateful that my positive test results got to me before I had a chance to potentially spread the virus.
We’ve reached a point where people are going to do what they think is best for themselves. I will do my best to focus on what I can do to keep my community safe and hope others continue to mask up and get vaccinated.