Dayquil, COVID and clam chowder

On Dec. 8, 2021, I observed my weekly ritual of driving to the gymnasium on the NVU-Johnson campus to take a COVID test. I did not have any symptoms; it was just part of my routine. The next day, while in class, my phone began to buzz 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 spun briefly, and after a quick review of the message’s contents, I learned that I had contracted the virus.

The attention-seeker within me was a little pumped to think that the misfortune of my positive COVID result could at least have the silver lining of snagging some undeserved doting by my friends and loving girlfriend, but I would soon learn that catching this virus was no gift from the stay-at-home-and-do-nothing gods.

I am fortunate enough to work from home and have an apartment to myself, so isolating was a simple task. My mom swung buy with 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 happened to be 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 thankful I was fully vaccinated and boosted. My symptoms were mild- just the sniffles for a few days followed by a few more days of moderate fatigue. The fatigue was by far the worst part of the experience, but I guess I can count myself lucky that I had a legitimate reason to take back-to-back naps of 6+ hours. By the time my quarantine was over, I was back to normal other than a diminished sense of taste and smell, which would take another week to recover.

I am also lucky enough to know exactly where I was infected. On Dec. 4, a friend of mine threw a surprise birthday party for her husband. It was arranged 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 a lot of time to brood and decide whom to blame for my situation. Should I blame my friend that threw the party, a medical professional who has been my role model for setting the COVID safety standards by which I live? Or should I blame the person who brought the virus to the party and omicronned directly into my delicate lungs?

Ultimately, I can only blame myself. I have been parroting the advice of Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and my own doctors since the beginning of the pandemic. I insist on masking up, no matter the rules of the building I am in. I was vaccinated as soon as I possibly could be, and even cut the line a bit to get an early booster.
Then I let my guard down for a single evening to shed my mask and have a few beers with my friends. I have been preaching that accepting the personal risk of getting 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 to go to a crowded bar and scream-talk six inches away from some of my best friends.

Looking back on the party, I recognize that it was a bad idea to attend. Some of my friends shared this sentiment while others continued to go out while still waiting for test results.

Only those of us who tested positive seemed to be affected in any noticeable way. My brother and I both took it easy and realized some of the activities we had participated in recently were perhaps more reckless than we had considered.

Thanksgiving with our grandparents was most certainly a needless risk. Cramming a dozen family members around a dinner table and arguing about election integrity is not how anybody wants to spend their day off. My brother made the decision to skip Christmas with the family and we slept well knowing that we were keeping our relatives out of harm’s way.

Looking back, I can now see that there are dozens of examples of my putting myself at risk for exposure: little things that I had never considered, such as opting for indoor dining on a windy day when I had originally planned to dine outside, or playing table tennis in a friend’s basement during the summer of 2021.

Safety is difficult to stay on top of when there are so many little activities that we take for granted, and it can be tough to say no when it is often much easier to say yes. It can also be easy to forget that every week, thousands of people are still dying 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 tired of this. It can be easy to get angry, and I have been known to lash out at those whom I consider to be too cavalier with their lackadaisical approach to pandemic safety. Yet, I am guilty of attending a crowded bar for social purposes and catching COVID. I selfishly let my guard down for a night and can only be thankful that my positive test results got to me before I had the chance to potentially spread the virus.

We have reached a point where people are going to do what they feel is best for themselves. I am going to do my best to focus on what I can do to keep my community safe and hope that others continue to mask up and get the shot.