Well, my luck finally ran out. Two years after the emergence of the novel coronavirus in China and one year after the politics of our moment came to a head in Washington DC, one of the little buggers slipped past my defenses and did what it’s designed to do – replicated in my tissues and provoking an immune response in my body that has made me feel less than well. I had noticed itchy eyes on Tuesday evening and, when I woke up on Wednesday morning, I had a runny nose and a chest cough that had not been there the night before. Being a responsible citizen, I did not go in to work but rather figured out how to see my patients via video while I ran around and got my Covid testing done. I figured it might be Covid or it might be the usual cold virus I get in January. It was a standard joke for years – Andy has bronchitis – must be time for the January opera… I started feeling worse and worse as the afternoon went on and by 4 PM I knew this was no ordinary cold so I was not surprised when my test came back positive. By 7 PM it hurt to move, the cough was worse and there was a bit of a temp. I put on bad TV, bundled up and went to bed.
By 9 AM this morning, I could tell I was on the mend. I still feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, but it’s nowhere near as bad as yesterday. I’m on quarantine until Monday so I’m more or less just sitting around and slowly working my way through some long neglected projects – ten minutes work, thirty minutes rest. That’s what I can muster at the moment. I don’t need anything. I had Uber Eats deliver a quantity of soup and Thai curries from Surin yesterday so I have plenty of food in the house (it doesn’t taste right but I can taste it) and I am quite capable of taking care of myself so everyone can relax. I do understand how people, not as adept at reading body signals and what they mean, are pouring into the ED with this one. I’m assuming I have omicron and even a mild case feels dreadful in those initial stages. Tylenol and Dayquil/Nyquil are keeping the worst at bay.
So how did I get it, I’m assuming I ran across it in New Orleans this past week. The interesting thing being that David has not gotten sick and our potential exposures were essentially identical. I’m guessing that my nearly 60 year old immune system is just not quite as up to the task as his much younger one. There’s a part of me that, of course, it kicking myself. Years ago Domino’s Pizza ran an add campaign with the character Bad Andy and he always comes to mind when I try to second guess myself and my decisions. Was I bad for taking a vacation during a pandemic? I don’t think so. I needed it for mental health reasons. Did I do everything I could do to protect myself? Pretty much and the fact that David isn’t sick suggests we did a dang good job. Omicron is so widespread and so transmissible that I’m just one of about 550,000 new diagnoses yesterday in the US and, given the nature of my job, I could just as easily have picked it up staying here at home so I refuse to believe it’s some sort of karmic punishment.
In some ways, the timing isn’t horrible. I didn’t get sick in some hotel room in some strange city. (I’ve done that before – it’s really unpleasant). Because I was supposed to have been in Europe, this week at work was planned around jet lag and is very light so I won’t have too much trouble keeping things running from home. Major rehearsals for 9 to 5 don’t begin for me until next week when I’ll be through quarantine. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether I will have any long covid type symptoms but, given the fact that I am rallying fairly rapidly over the last twenty-four hours, I think that’s unlikely. All hail vaccinations and boosters. I read a column by some pundit recently where the major thesis was we can’t live in a world where we all need to get another booster every six months. Oh yes we can. If we can get to the moon and create a device in our pocket that is phone/camera/library we can certainly create programs and policies that can get every person on the planet vaccinated and vaccinated repeatedly. What stops us is economics and politics. Rich countries don’t want to help poor countries and rich people don’t want to help poor people. The problem is that we now live in a global society and viruses, because of their very nature, will continue to be a global problem as long as there are populations in which they can continue to circulate and mutate.
The recent Covid numbers are fascinating. The number of cases has skyrocketed in recent weeks thanks to omicron’s extreme infectiousness. Everyday, records for numbers of cases are shattered. Hospitalizations are up because of the rapidity of spread but the proportion of cases requiring hospitalization is way down. If it weren’t spreading so fast, the health system could handle things but the combination of exponential case growth plus short staffing due to health care workers being out on quarantine is putting a huge strain on everything and everyone. The death rate hasn’t increased that much. It’s been running steady between about 1000 and 1300 a day nationwide since the beginning of the Delta wave and it has stayed there, even as omicron has snowballed. If omicron were to cause severe mortality, we should be starting to see that in the numbers about now but it’s just not there. I think the moral of the story is that vaccinations and boosters are working.
I’ve been wondering what to do regarding these writings going forward. Those who have read ‘The Accidental Plague Diaries’ keep asking me if there is going to be a volume two covering 2021. I have demurred. I don’t like repeating myself when it comes to creative work but there has been enough interesting stuff going on to keep my brain and typing fingers busy over the last year so I suppose it’s time to pull out everything I’ve written and look at it. And perhaps my personal experience of infection is the inflection point which makes a natural cut point for a new volume. Must think about this over the next few days. I’ll have time in quarantine with my Thai food, my Nyquil, my yowling cat at my side, and my lines to be learned for 9 to 5.
The litany remains the same: wash your hands. Get your vaccinations and your booster. Wear your mask indoors with others. Keep your distance.