No, the COVID-19 Pandemic Isn’t Over Yet
Daily life still involves self-isolation and health precautions for this columnist
On the most recent episode of CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” President Joe Biden declared the pandemic over.
I wish I could be writing with champagne in hand and firecrackers crackling at a party that, yes, an endless future of indoor gatherings is in sight. But that image of celebration simply isn’t true.
Here’s the truth: We are still living in a pandemic.
I could spend the remainder of this column proving that statement by referencing both current and historical definitions and examples of pandemics. No single country can call an end to what is an inherently global crisis.
Yet President Biden’s words keep rattling around in my head: “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one is wearing masks, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.”
If we’re determining the pandemic’s finality based on what the world around us looks like, I’d like to offer a disabled and medically vulnerable person’s perspective and explain what my world looks like this week.
In my apartment, air conditioning rattles through metal tunnels and the water runs if the handle on the toilet sets wrong after flushing.
The walls in my apartment are made of cinder block and brick, so the place retains a chilly hardness to it year-round. It’s nearly impossible to hang art on the walls. Driving a nail into the old cinder makes it crumble unless you bring the hammer down just right, to say nothing of the risk my clumsiness poses to my thumb.
When I take my dog out first thing in the morning, there’s a chill in the air that tickles my lungs and makes me cough — a result of having cystic fibrosis (CF). I’ve lived in the South long enough to know it’s too early for autumn to have made landfall. This is just a teaser of the crisp, orange-leafed days to come. Still, I’m grateful it’s cool enough that the mosquitoes aren’t biting.
I’m halfway through the fifth week of the semester and haven’t seen any of the members of my master’s degree program or English department in person. I couldn’t even tell you where my office is on campus. This is partly because people keep testing positive for COVID-19, but also because my state has made it illegal to enforce mask mandates, making the campus community unsafe for me.
I only leave the safety of these hardy white walls to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy drive-thru, where I pick up insulin to treat my diabetes and pancreatin and pancrelipase, the pancreatic enzyme substitutes I need due to CF. I stop for takeout if I feel like treating myself, and that’s the riskiest thing I do.
When I go inside places, almost no one is wearing a mask except for me, fitted out in my N99 and ignoring the people who glare at me. Many want to believe the pandemic is over, despite the fact that over 2,500 people died from COVID-19 in the United States during the week of Sept. 8-14.
I put my credit card in the chip reader, thank the bartender managing takeout orders, take my mushroom and tomato pizza to the car, and wipe the box down with a Clorox wipe, just in case. Because that’s not an abnormal safety measure for vulnerable people to have to take and, anyway, it isn’t hard to do.
I drive my groceries and my pizza and my prescriptions home. I hang my mask on the hook with my keys.
Home again, I watch another movie. I read another book. I work on homework. I text friends. I pine for hugs. I attend classes on Zoom. I teach classes on Zoom. I eat. I sleep. I wake up. I wait for a space in the world I can be safe in other than this one I’ve built for myself. I am still alone.
I wait on a real and true end to our shared pandemic.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.