I just found out that yet another person on my PLEASE GOD NO list has been exposed to COVID-19. That list is either 7 billion people long, or it’s about 20 people long. It would be nice if we could all go back to pretending that this killer of a disease does not exist, and I’d like to be able to do that for, say, one week.
But it’s still out there and this is still happening.
My person got exposed at work. I feel very fortunate that most people in my circle have taken notes off my experience, and they are being careful and obedient about distancing and wearing masks. This is another example, though, of how even following all the rules can still include a certain amount of risk.
For instance? I got it in a large, airy restaurant with a high ceiling, while sitting next to an open floor-to-ceiling window, from a person sitting 10 feet away. We all mixed vitamin C packets into our water, put on hand sanitizer, and avoided hugging or shaking hands.
We followed what rules there were at the time. Then five of us got sick and spread it around.
I think the reason that coronavirus is still spreading and that cases are still climbing is that we don’t have a full understanding of how this illness works. I mean, we understand how food-borne illness works, and people still get food poisoning. We understand that drunk driving kills people, and yet we still have drunk driving. Even when we do have a pretty clear picture of something, it is not enough to motivate compliance, because humans generally hate rules.
Except for my person, who is an Upholder through and through. As is the other person who infected me.
We do what we can to understand what’s happening and adjust our behavior. We do what we can to get through.
What I do is to read compulsively. Everything I can find about coronavirus goes in one eyeball and right out the other.
I’m starting to see more indications that reinfection is possible and that if there is any immunity, it’s short-term. It’s looking like right about 88 days of coverage.
Eighty-eight days?? But isn’t that only like... less than three months??
That’s right, and let’s game this out.
If the figures from back in Spring of 2020 were accurate, I was among the first 400 people to be exposed in California. My immunity, if I had any, would have worn off in mid-July, right around the time that... I came down with a case of bacterial pneumonia.
I totally thought I had COVID again. I had some very sketchy, unprecedented, and alarming neurological symptoms. I had many of the feelings I had only ever experienced during COVID before. I felt too ill to sit up in a chair and I went to bed. The major difference turned out to be that my chest and upper back hurt constantly.
I emailed my doctor right away, and he authorized a COVID test, and it came back negative.
I’m thrilled that I didn’t get reinfected, but I have no clue where I would have gotten anything else contagious. I virtually never step outside our front door, and when I do I wear a double-layer mask with a plastic face shield. I am so paranoid about being near other people that I cross the street to distance when I can.
I had a hypothesis about where I got pneumonia, and I asked my doctor. “Is it possible that it could be me infecting me?” He laughed and heard me out, and agreed. Everyone carries a certain amount of strep and staph bacteria all the time, and normally it’s fine. They can get out of balance sometimes, though, and lead to infections.
This is a testable hypothesis; however, neither my doctor nor I felt the need to get a sample out of my lungs. He gave me antibiotics and an inhaler and a non-drowsy cough medicine, and a few weeks later I was fine, and the mystery of How I Got Pneumonia will never be completely solved.
All of this is to say that if you get COVID-19, it is no longer your only problem.
Lots of people are not afraid of coronavirus, why I am not sure, and good for them. Let’s check back in 2023 and see how it worked out. I do have to ask, though - are they afraid of anything at all? Pneumonia? Food poisoning? Tetanus? Venomous snakes? Rabies?
If someone claims to be afraid of nothing, then my rejoinder is: How about wearing a mask then??
I have some thoughts about this short-term immunity issue, and they are not great.
Look at any line chart of COVID cases, from any source, region, or time period that you choose. Notice how it goes up from the beginning of the year.
I mentioned earlier that I was one of the early cases, and that anyone who got exposed when I did would apparently have lost immunity before August.
Far more people have been exposed or gotten sick since then.
I’m guessing that a lot of people who had mild-to-moderate cases like mine have been working hard to avoid getting it again. (Not the person who infected me; she decided she was immune and started going to the secret gym and socializing in groups right away). Many of us may have reduced our exposure enough that our risks are much lower.
This may be why there are relatively few documented cases of reinfection so far.
One reason is that it’s only possible to document a case of reinfection by sequencing both strains, and almost nobody on Earth is going to have access to that kind of laboratory support. In a lot of areas, people still can’t get a basic test. We won’t have proof of what’s going on even if it’s going on by the tens of thousands of cases.
The most worrisome reason is that we’re still early into this modern plague, and not enough people have been exposed and had their antibodies wear off to be at risk for reinfection yet.
If there is immunity to COVID-19, and it only lasts for about 88 days, then unfortunately, we wouldn’t really have seen a peak in reinfection until... what comes after the first week of August? ... The first week of November.
In other words, we’re not there yet.
Americans are totally tired of hearing about COVID-19, and I don’t blame them. I’m tired of it, too. I want my health back, and I want to be able to ignore it, and I want it to leave my friends and family alone. I also want maskless people to quit getting in the elevator with me in my apartment building. Further, I want the coronavirus eradicated. We can only do that with good information and sensible behavior.
The risk of avoiding reinfection is maybe being a little more cautious and clean than necessary. The risk of ignoring that risk is a pandemic that lasts longer and sickens and kills a lot more people. I’d rather be a little more cautious for a little longer.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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