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Virus Without Borders: Chapter 91

Still Life With Masks © copyright Carol Bergman 2022

Sixty percent of Americans, including 75 percent of children, had been infected with the coronavirus by February, federal health officials reported on Tuesday — another remarkable milestone in a pandemic that continues to confound expectations.


-Apoorva Mandavilli, The New York Times. 4/27/2022


I just returned from a walk in the beautiful sunshine to the Trailways station in town to buy a ticket for a trip to the city. LOL! I forgot my mask, not that it is required; it is not. It's a dank and dirty station at the best of times, small and fetid, shut down during the height of the pandemic and not cleaned since re-opening from what I can see and smell. There were two people at the counter and because of new protocols—booking an exact time of the trip, absolutely no changes and no refunds—the line was slow. I decided to wait outside. That is when Sally arrived, soon to become a neighbor and friend. She was wearing an N95 and when I explained that I was waiting outside because I'd forgotten my mask and—most probably because, being young and kind, she saw my white hair—she offered me a fresh wrapped mask she had in her pocket. "It's my first trip into the city since Covid and I'm not sure of the protocols," she said. So, I explained and we started chatting. "There will surely be some people on the bus not wearing a mask," I said. And she agreed.


How do we navigate these new challenges? The pandemic is not over, far from, and there is no guarantee that it will not continue to mutate and confound all expectations. Sure, we may not end up in the hospital or dead, but both my husband and I—who had mild cases in January, most probably BA 1 or BA 2—have strange residual symptoms, and we sure as hell don't want to get the bug again. It is clear that as immunity wanes, we could get it again, and that there will be yet another jab in the autumn. So, when two students and two friends in the city tell me they are down with colds, I am skeptical. According to Apoorva Mandavilli today in the NY Times Daily Podcast, the virus has once again slipped under the radar: many people are testing negative with symptoms until about ten days after onset of symptoms. And, like my friends, not feeling terribly sick, they are walking around, getting onto airplanes, going to the theater, etc. etc.  And, of course, the mask mandate has been lifted by a Trump appointed federal judge in Florida. Thank you.


What's the upshot? The lesson? There are still tens of millions of Americans with no immunity to the virus, and they remain vulnerable to both the short- and long-term consequences of infection. Taking individual responsibility for not spreading the virus is as important as the government taking its responsibility to provide protective executive orders, free, easily accessible vaccines, tests, and antivirals. But the government—local, state, federal—is so politicized that it often lets us down, and will continue to let us down at crucial moments, fortunate as we are compared to much of the world. Don't tempt me to say more or I will become less pleasant and more vociferous as the mid-term elections approach.


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