On Having COVID. Again.


We caught COVID — again.

There’s no way to tell if the horrible flu I picked up in March of 2020 was COVID. There was a particularly nasty H3N2 going around at the time, and the list of symptoms is nearly identical, including loss of taste. But we do know that my wife and I contracted COVID back in August of ’21, not long after getting our second-dose vaccinations, and it lasted weeks.

It’s noticeably worse this time around. Symptoms are more severe and they’re lasting longer. It’s like the most horrible cold ever, with occasional bouts of fever thrown in for variety.

The world around us has changed too.

Back in early 2020, when everything started shutting down, we were reliably informed that all we had to do to Stop The Spread was stay home for a couple of weeks — and it worked, sort-of. There was still contagion, mainly because society can’t function when everyone stays home. Someone still has to do the shopping.

Jacen, one the many who deliver our groceries, told me he was unemployed in 2019, but since COVID he hasn’t had a single day off. (Jacen says he has never had COVID.) He puts in eighty-hour weeks with Uber, InstaCart, and some parcel delivery app that I’d never heard of and still can’t find online. He’s frantically saving every penny he can, and he told me he fully expects that his jobs will evaporate once things go back to normal because “No boss takes a cut, and bosses don’t like that. No union dues, no manager, save on taxes. Good for me, bad for people with power. They pass a law before long, and then I get my vacation, you bet.”

Forced unionization is a topic of hot dispute here in Maryland. Outsiders believe it’s for the best because niche workers get cheated out of benefits, vacation time, and a decent wage. All but two of the drivers I’ve spoken with agree that, the moment the state passes the law that makes them unionize, they’ll be out of a job and all the perks go away. (Apparently, the tax advantages of deducting auto mileage on a clunker are amazing.)

We were told to Stop The Spread; we were also told to expect a New Normal. I’m still trying to work out what that is.

Early in 2020, my wife started working from home. She goes to meetings for a living, five days a week, about three feet from my right ear. Apart from some noticeable hearing loss on that side, for the most part I’ve been able to cope by the simple expedient of going to bed at 9 A.M. and working through the night instead. I don’t mind; it’s quiet at night.

Her employer introduced low-contact policies and installed air filters in order to protect people who had to go in to the office. Last month, after several starts and stops, they finally reopened and she went back in person. She drives ninety minutes each way, and once she arrives has ten hours of work to do. Her productivity is much higher at home, when she works thirteen hours straight.

She commuted for one week before someone reported a COVID contact and she stayed home to minimize risk. Week three, she went back in and promptly caught COVID from a co-worker. And I caught it from her.

If this is the New Normal, I’m compelled to predict a few changes still ahead of us.

Both times (or is it all three?) that I’ve had this, I’ve lost some of my sense of taste. My wife lost everything; I mainly just get an overwhelming flavor of tin. Cookies and tea are the same as ever, but orange juice tastes unspeakable. I made chili and had no idea I’d overspiced it until I accidentally rubbed my eyes. Plus side? My sinuses cleared completely for the first time in a week.

Recovery is a process. A glacially slow, frustrating process.

I’m learning that our New Normal will become a continual cycle of COVID-and-recovery that takes a month-long bite out of my life for every six that pass. Every time I catch this, it gets marginally worse; every recovery takes longer. I’ve been following developments in vaccines; there are almost none on the horizon. We’ve passed the million-dead milestone with little fanfare, and it seems we’re now reduced to acceptance and surrender.

Back when the post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76 came out, I remember having some doubts about the scenario. I found it hard to accept the willingness of the population to march blindly toward the end of civilization while doing nothing to prevent it except build a massive bunker system and stockpile canned water.

It’s far more plausible today.

NOTE: For those who have expressed concern: We’re both mostly better now. I’m still feeling the long-term effects, though.

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