“Gov. Parson declares end to COVID emergency as Missouri cases soar to record levels” reads the tweet from St. Louis Public Radio. “There are no ICU beds in all of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, or Arkansas ask me how I know” tweets Adrienne Taren MD/PhD.
It’s New Year’s Eve here in New York City, the city that is the bellweather for the rest of the country. The news is bad: 43,985 new cases of COVID yesterday; 884 new hospital admissions; the highest number of pediatric admissions since the pandemic began.
I’m basically a shut-in. By choice. I walk my dog Dev, pop in to the corner store or the liquor store (don’t judge) for a few essentials, have the majority of things delivered. Again. Why? Because even though I am vaxxed, boosted, masked, I fear the consequences of omicron. I need to keep seeing my family for the sake of my mental health. I need to escape illness, doctors, hospitals and especially ERs.
I am still grieving the loss of my husband, still grieving the loss of the life we had before cancer, before COVID, before the imminence of authoritarianism. I am still suffering from PTSD stemming from Dan’s final six months. He was warehoused in the ER or an adjacent hallway for 36 to 48 hours four times waiting for a bed to open up because — COVID. I could not accompany him, could not be there to ask the right questions about procedures, to staunch the fear in his eyes, to tell him that I loved him and that we would manage. COVID made everything so much f*&cking harder. And it still is.
Much of America is just pretending that it’s all over. I’m beginning to take that personally. Unlike the other widows in the bereavement group I attended, I wasn’t angry about Dan’s death. I didn’t see the point. He got the best care that medicine could offer. The virus that caused his cancer– HPV– had been lurking in his body for decades, only turning deadly in 2018. The vaccine to prevent contracting this common sexually transmitted virus, Gardasil, only came on the market in 2006, too late not just for Dan but for my daughters’ generation. Eighty percent of sexually active adults have had contact with this virus. Only a small percentage of those people end up with HPV related cancer, but trust me, you don’t want to be one of them.
Which brings me back to COVID. I am furious. Livid. Not at the virus. What’s the point of bearing umbrage against it? One might as well hold a grudge against dust, or rays of sunshine, or trees for producing pollen. It’s humans I am furious with. Take this virus seriously. Get vaccinated, boosted, masked, social distanced. How many cases of “long COVID” are the consequence of “mild” COVID? How many cancers will – in ten or twenty years be attributed to SARS-CoV-2? I’ve only heard one doctor on television mention this possibility– an oncologist– but all of them know that the more we learn about MS, cancer, CFS and a host of other chronic or fatal diseases, the more we understand how viruses catalyze cell mutation.
But let’s just pretend the virus is over. Magical thinking doth not a solution to a pandemic make. The economic cost of controlling the spread will be far outweighed by the externalities in the years, decades to come. The emotional cost of ongoing trauma on our healthcare workers, children, families, survivors (and I include myself among that number) is becoming untenable.
I’m finding it difficult to hope for a Happy(er) New Year. But I am trying. Let’s all just try to do better, be better. Thank you for coming to my
rant Ted Talk. See you in 2022.