It seems like covid is finally catching up to us all.
Even those of us who have exercised caution – triple or quadruple vaxxed, continuing to mask as mandates fall by the wayside, avoiding large crowds and enclosed spaces as much as possible. The virus is now so prevalent, here in Tasmania at least, that it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid.
The UK and US seem to be in a similar position. Our close friends and family members are sharing news of positive results almost daily.
We fell like dominoes in this house.
DorkySon was the first to go – his second bout in less than four months and it hit him much harder this time round, with a deep chill that could not be chased away. Not by scalding hot baths, nor warm drinks and paracetamol, nor layers of blankets and duvets piled on the bed.
Dorky Dad was toppled a full week after DorkySon, and then – just when I was thinking I‘d pulled off a miraculous escape – it eventually, inevitably, caught me too.
As a close contact, I had tested myself every morning for almost a fortnight. Negative. Negative. Negative. Other than a tender nose from so many swabs, I was fine. Healthy. Able to keep working, shopping, running errands.
One day last week, I took our little DorkyDog to the vet for her eight-weeks-post-surgery X-rays. She spent the day there, and I went to collect her in the afternoon.
On the drive home: a sudden scratch in the throat, an overwhelming wave of nausea, an instinct that I might have succumbed. I tested again that evening and it was positive – not a faint line either, but a solid, immediate black that left no room for doubt.
Thank goodness I had masked at the shops that day, and at the vet, and hopefully kept it to myself.
It is a doozy, this virus. Two days and two nights in and new symptoms were still showing up. Shivers. Stomach cramps. Headache. Sore throat. Muscle aches. Stuffy nose. Coughing. Neuralgia.
The following day brought another one still: sore eyes. Not the pound or throb of a migraine, but a sharp stinging pain close to the surface, accompanied by endless, itchy tears. So strange. Novel coronavirus indeed.
(Day three also brought a craving for apples. Their sweet, sharp crunch was the only thing I was tempted by. It has been fascinating to hear what foods people have needed in the depths of this – Jay Rayner wrote an entire article about it for the Observer recently, and his comfort food was cauliflower cheese, which I tend to avoid even at the best of times – but in my circle of friends the requirements have included nachos, broth, vegetable juice and ice cream.)
The single piece of advice I have had from everyone who has already done this is to rest. Even as a work-from-homer, don’t push to try and achieve anything or get back to normal too soon.
It is good advice, because the lethargy – the so-called brain fog – goodness me. I tried to reply to a fairly basic work email, got half way through my response and realised it was seven shades of gibberish. I have trashed the draft, turned on my out-of-office, and will try again later.
So resting is what I’ve been doing. Not so much sleeping, but plenty of lying down, staying warm and quiet, trying to find the right combination of pillows to lessen the weight on my chest. When sleep does come, it’s with a side order of those disconcerting dreams that only happen when you’re sick. People and places you thought were long gone from your memory bank.
Without the energy to focus properly on a novel, I have been flicking between a graphic novel and my phone, falling down endless internet rabbit holes of journal articles about what this virus can do to your body in the long term. Not a good idea. Do not recommend.
Let’s be clear. I am so grateful that I have avoided covid until now – until I am three-times vaccinated, and reasonably confident that if I got horribly sick the medical professionals would be able to help me. Grateful that all three of us have recovered with ease and are now feeling fine.
But I am frustrated too. Frustrated by global vaccine inequality, by the unnecessary delay to first doses for under fives in Australia, by the lack of focus on Long Covid as a real and serious thing, and by the ongoing idiocy of the ‘pandemic is over’ crew who seem to think that vulnerable people in our society should just stay inside forever.
The Tasmanian Government announced last week that mask mandates are being dropped in schools and on public transport. Masks will still be required on aeroplanes but not in airports because… because we have given up any pretence of public health policies being driven by science, I guess.
With no boosters in sight for high school kids, and mask mandates gone by the end of this week, it feels inevitable that DorkySon and his cohort will continue to catch this every few months, and will continue to bring it home to their families. No matter how cautious we are as individuals, our everyday actions feel fairly worthless in the face of all that is to come.
So I’d better stock up on apples. And on tests. And on paracetamol.
But more than that I’d better hope that those wonderful medical miracle-workers in laboratories across the world can come up with vaccines that offer better protection against new variants, because at the moment it feels like we’re playing catch-up, and the virus is several laps ahead.