One in three people in Los Angeles County have probably had COVID-19.
That doesn’t surprise me at all, since I live here and I was one of the early cases. Everything I have seen around me since the very beginning has indicated that we would not do well in the pandemic.
This is what it’s like for me and my household these days.
I took a Mucinex about an hour ago. Ten months after being exposed, I’m still having shortness of breath. Worse, every month or so, I start feeling heavy lung congestion to the point that it makes my back hurt.
I just learned that apparently COVID-19 scars the lungs worse than years of heavy smoking. The way my chest feels right now, I believe it. My last chest x-ray did show peribronchial thickening, and I have no idea how long that will last. I’ve never had a cigarette, vape, or pipe anywhere near my mouth, so it seems a little sad and unfair.
I’m not getting around much. The weather has been getting nicer, but I almost never leave our apartment. There are still maskless people flaunting their nostrils inside our building and all around our neighborhood.
We see nobody. I mean zero. No family, no friends, no acquaintances. Nobody comes over and we don’t go anywhere else.
We even quit hanging out with our quaranteam buddy a few months ago. She went to Hawaii for a couple months, and when she came back, we just all decided that the infection rate was too high. It was one thing when we came through coronavirus together and got tested together and celebrated our negative results together. It was another thing entirely after a couple of plane trips.
We’ve quit taking rideshares. This has already complicated things, as we had to borrow a friend’s car in order to go to an appointment.
I’m second-guessing that appointment, a visit to the periodontist, because my current chest congestion started a few days later. It was really scary to be in that office with my mask off, knowing that everyone who goes there throughout the day is also sitting there with no mask for an hour at a time.
When I got to my appointment, they checked my temperature with one of those forehead thermometers that doesn’t touch the skin. It registered as 102.
We figured it out, that I had just gotten overheated in my sweater and three masks out in the car. By the time I had gone to the restroom to brush my teeth and come back, the reading had dropped to 99.
However, the few minutes while I was standing in the waiting room were enough. If I had been infectious, after riding in the elevator, walking in the hallway, and touching a few doorknobs, then it would have been too late for everyone who walked through after me.
Two people, both wearing masks, are far safer than if there are no masks. But it’s not 100% effective. It isn’t magic.
It seems like the worse things get here, the more people shrug it off. The young men especially.
I got into the elevator of our building with some packages. There was a guy already in there. It wasn’t until I had adjusted my stack of boxes that I realized my mistake. At a glance, I thought he was wearing a mask. It turned out that he really just has a very thick, very dark beard. He started talking to me, offering to help me with my boxes.
He probably thinks of himself as a courteous and kind person. He doesn’t realize - how could he? - that the sight of his uncovered mouth frightened me more than he would have if he had started talking about kidnapping me or cutting me up.
We rode together for two floors, probably not even two minutes. I had two masks on, a cloth mask and a plastic face shield. I beat myself up for an hour afterward, thinking how lazy I was not to take the stairs, how dumb I was not to look more closely.
My husband had no sympathy for me. He said if he sees someone in the elevator, he doesn’t get in. If he’s in the elevator and someone else wants to get in, he just blocks the door and refuses to let them in until the door closes right in their face.
He means it, too. When either of us gets exposed, we expose the other.
It’s entirely possible he hasn’t had it yet. There have been other couples who have emerged from the illness of one, only to discover that the other has no antibodies. Thus it’s harder to guess who is more at risk if coronavirus re-enters our home - him, because he’s over 50, or me, because my system is still run down. I can’t imagine how I’d live through it a second time.
The virus is starting to take down more and more people that we know. I’ve been texting back and forth for the last couple of weeks with a friend who wound up in the hospital with COVID pneumonia. I have relatives as well as colleagues who’ve gotten sick now. My closest friends keep reporting back to me how many of *their* family, friends, and colleagues are getting sick, going to the hospital, dying.
If I tried to make a list of how many first- and second-degree contacts of mine have been exposed, I’d actually have to get out a sheet of paper and concentrate, because it’s getting pretty complicated.
A friend of mine just described trying to get COVID tests for himself and his family. We work in critical infrastructure. He wasn’t able to get a test at the first two locations he tried because all their supplies had run out.
We’ve been getting alerts on our phone about the coronavirus surge in our region, urging us to stay home.
We’ve been getting texts from Kaiser alerting us that the hospitals are full and to please be careful.
Local news has been reporting that ambulances are no longer transporting people who can’t be resuscitated at the scene. The ones who are transported may be in the ambulance for as long as 17 hours before they can even get inside a hospital. Patients are left unattended in the hallways.
We live on a busy road, and we hear emergency vehicles going by with sirens blaring every single day. We’ve quit even mentioning it when it disrupts our work calls.
We’ve been getting email alerts every day at work, notifying everyone of areas of our building that have had COVID exposures. (Only people with written permission can even enter campus). They have to be closed off for “natural decay” for several days, meaning that nobody can physically go in there. Again, we’re critical infrastructure.
This is what it’s like after 1 in 3 people in our county has been exposed.
The vaccine is slowly being distributed. I don’t know anyone personally who has had the opportunity yet. I don’t even know anyone who has been offered an appointment. I do know one person who is about 99% likely to refuse the vaccine, but otherwise, everyone who has mentioned it to me is eager, ready, and waiting.
There is another finding that affects 1 in 3 people. Out of people who contract COVID-19, one in three have persistent symptoms, just like me. I wish people would take that risk more seriously. If they understood what was at stake, maybe they’d be more careful.
If everyone would actually wear masks and avoid socializing with bare faces, we could beat this thing in just a few weeks. My area is a striking example of what happens when people simply refuse to believe it or change their behavior.
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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