“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”
That quote from Star Trek‘s Captain Jean-Luc Picard came to mind when we learned our son tested positive for COVID. Our family did everything we should. We wore masks. We social distanced. We used hand sanitizer and washed our hands regularly. We got vaccinated as soon as we could. I got my booster. We were about to start my granddaughter’s vaccinations and get boosters for the other adults in our family when my son got his positive test. He self-isolated and masked up when we were at home. When we retested a week later, my granddaughter came up positive. My wife and I came up negative for both tests.
Fortunately, my son had only mild symptoms, and my granddaughter is fine so far. We check her vitals regularly. She’s quarantined. If all goes well, she can return to school after Thanksgiving break.
The lesson here is that COVID is a pernicious, tricky foe. You can do everything right, and it still can sneak in. At least, the precautions we’ve taken have made it less of a danger. I hate to think what would have happened if we were infected last year before vaccines were available.
Oddly enough, I find myself getting less angry at the anti-vax/anti-mask crowd. I still believe people should get vaccinated, and vaccine and mask mandates are the best way to control the pandemic and get us back to normal. But I can understand people’s reactions to COVID. We went through denial at first. It didn’t seem real, or it didn’t seem different from a typical cold or flu. The restrictions chafe after a while, especially when you don’t feel that sick. At the same time, you become more afraid that conditions can suddenly get worse. If you can’t afford health insurance or don’t have access to medical care, you might be tempted to use those quack cures you find on social media.
If you’re wise, you develop empathy in response. You care about those who have also been through the disease, regardless of where they stand politically. You mourn for the over 760,000 who have died from this pandemic in the United States and 5.1 million who have died around the world. You respect service workers and flight attendants who are just doing their jobs by telling you to wear a mask. And you want to do your part by wearing a mask, social distancing, keeping your hands clean, and getting vaccinated as soon as you are able.
In America, we associate disease with shame. If you get sick, it’s your own damn fault. Even for a disease we have no control over, like cancer, we look for something or someone to blame. And if someone dies from cancer, we say they “lost a bravely fought battle.” It’s as if they had fought more bravely, they would have won!
That’s what we’re doing with COVID. At first, we blamed people for dying because they were old. Then, it’s because they have comorbidities. Then, it’s because they didn’t social distance. Now, we’re blaming them for posting conspiracy theories, and we bestow them with the Herman Cain Award. Didn’t we do the same crap with AIDS, which allowed it to spread worldwide?
COVID doesn’t care who you voted for in the last election. It doesn’t care how careful you are. But being careful helps you avoid the worst effects.
But it is possible to commit no mistakes and still catch this disease. Knowing this should make us more compassionate to those who get it. And more determined to work to bring this pandemic to an end.