First-Hand Fatigue

Staffer describes personal experience of having COVID-19, urges social responsibility amidst vaccine rollout

On Saturday, I got back home after driving one and a half hours to my SAT Subject Test center. I was more tired than usual, but brushed that off to taking the exams. 

Sunday morning, I woke up with a pounding headache. Sunday afternoon, it had gotten worse. Too in pain to get out of bed, I called my mom crying on my phone, told her that my head felt like it was going to explode and tried to go back to sleep. Sunday evening, I had a 100 degree fever, a runny nose and of course, a persistent headache like nothing I had ever felt before. 

Monday, I noticed my sense of smell was a little off but decided that it was simply a symptom of my cold. I sent my teachers an email that I was out sick and went back to sleep. 

On Tuesday, I went to the doctor’s office. I told the doctor I thought I had either bronchitis or an ear infection, but, as a precaution, the doctor had a COVID-19 test result done as well. 

On Thursday, my test result came back. I had tested positive for COVID-19. 

I had spent the last few months doing everything right. I didn’t defy social distancing and public health guidelines; in the past two weeks, I had only left my house to take a SAT Subject Test, go through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru and pick up sushi from my family’s favorite restaurant – all of course, while wearing a mask. But I still ended up getting the virus. 

I spent November 12 to November 26 in isolation. I got flowers from a neighbor but couldn’t smell them. I had college applications to finish, but my headache meant I couldn’t write them without pain. I wanted to go back to school – I couldn’t. My doctor was worried about my recovery and believed that the stress of school would only prolong it. She was right to be worried: I developed pneumonia as a complication and had to take antibiotics. After two long weeks in isolation, I was finally cleared to leave my room, but my headache persisted. I was told that my cough could last for up to four months. No one had an answer for how long I wouldn’t be able to smell.

But the most infuriating thing was seeing others defy public health guidance, all while virtue signalling through Instagram story posts that advertise those very same guidelines – to stay at home, and if that wasn’t possible, then social distance and wear a mask. The thing about virtue signalling is that no amount of it will ever be able to stop a pandemic. 

To my fellow seniors: I get it. It’s your senior year. But here’s the thing: it’s not just your senior year. Your refusal to follow public health guidelines because of a desire for normalcy actively jeopardizes other seniors. I’m not saying that I got the virus because of a fellow senior. But I am saying that the reckless behavior that I’ve seen too many students, including my own friends, engage in could only have contributed to the astronomical rates of community transmission we are currently seeing. I honestly can not comprehend how anyone can argue that in the face of a global pandemic, excuses like “it’s my senior year! I should be able to hang out with friends without a mask on” hold any weight at all. There’s a certain kind of irony in writing college essays explaining your desire to be a doctor, and then defying actual doctors’ public health recommendations during a pandemic. Please, have some empathy for not just “your” senior year, but also the senior years of the other 1100 students in our class. 

To all of the students I see posing maskless and without practicing social distancing on Instagram, Snapchat and other forms of social media: you know what you were doing was wrong and a public health risk. But you did it anyway. And for the most part, you continue to do it by not wearing a mask or social distancing while hanging out with friends. Yes, if you, a healthy 17-year-old gets the virus, chances are, you won’t suffer severe health consequences. But as an asymptomatic carrier, you will pass the virus onto others who don’t have that same immunity. I can only think of one possible reason as to why you’re willing to risk that consequence: blatant selfishness. Please, consider the impact of your actions on others, not just yourself. 

To everyone who’s reading this that believes they fall under the ‘other’ category – those who think that they follow the guidelines and maintain best public health practices: my first question to you is to think about if you really do. Have you met your friends and neglected social distancing or masks even for a moment? The vast majority of people I know fall into that category. It is easy to castigate blame onto others while refusing to accept your own lack of responsibility. Please, take an honest look at how you have handled the pandemic, and reflect on whether or not you need to do better. And after? Make sure to follow through.

The pandemic is far from over. But with vaccine rollout happening across the nation, the end is in sight. We can’t drop the ball now.

Over the past year, the US has seen over 30 million COVID-19 cases and 553,000 deaths because of the virus. We currently have more cases than we did when the entire world screeched to a standstill in March but don’t seem to be nearly as vigilant. Even my mild case was not an experience I would wish upon anyone, but more people will continue contracting the virus until we all do our part to mitigate the increase of cases by wearing masks (over both your nose and mouth) and practicing social distancing. 

In the midst of a pandemic, the least we can do is practice some social responsibility.