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The phase of COVID close-calls

In the middle of the workday on Wednesday, I came down with the creeping crud rather suddenly. Coughing, sneezing, headache, congestion, fatigue … the works. I scheduled a PCR test for the next morning and drove home on a jarring mixture of fatigue and nervousness, certain I had finally succumbed to the plague.

It took a day and a half to get the result, but it was negative. Still, days later, I don’t feel significantly better, and I’m wondering if I should schedule another PCR test or just ride it out.

Since Wednesday, I have second-guessed all of the decisions I’m making, the few risks I am taking, and how many others are impacted by everything I do right now. Frustration rises in me because I know it was too early for federal, state, and local governments to drop safety requirements; I’m seeing it in the rise in case counts all around me. And yet we’re supposed to feel better about all of this because it’s “less fatal.”

Resentment does not come naturally to me, but I feel it rise inside every time I think about the past two years and all the ways we could have cared for one another better, all the ways we could have seen past our own inconvenience to keep each other safer. I’m including myself as an object of resentment here. I have taken risks like eating indoors in a restaurant that claimed to check vaccination status upon reservation but didn’t when we arrived, and we went ahead with the meal anyway, instead of turning around and leaving. I could fool myself into thinking that that decision was about not ruining a celebratory evening, or even that I wanted to make sure that a favorite restaurant got my business during an uncertain time, but really it was because I wanted to enjoy a nice meal out while pretending not to live in the shadow of COVID.

I wanted a night off of constant anxiety, and I was willing to take a risk to do it.

And this is what it is now, that constant calculation, that ever-present worrying: How effective is my booster anymore? What about my KN95 masks? Will it happen today, the thing I’ve been willing not to happen for years?

Even when someone declares it over, it won’t be over. Our brains have been rewired. I don’t know how not to think about it anymore. But maybe someday I won’t think about it constantly. Maybe that. I could look forward to that.

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