Saturday, October 2, 2021

COVID Adventures


Welp, both Shelly and I have tested positive for the 'rona. Given the pandemic has spawned so much goofy division among the public, it seems like a fun topic to discuss. There's a whole lotta irrationality and emotion tied to the pandemic. As such, I've gone to great lengths to base my own decisions based on logic and reason coupled with respect for others' choices and simply being a good citizen. And a decent human being.

Back Story

This is probably the second time we've had it. Back in May of 2020, we both got sick for about eight or nine days with almost the exact same symptoms we're having now, which are completely unlike any other illness either of us had. We were both tested at the time (with that "back of the brain" test), and the results were negative. But we have strong reasons to believe the tests were botched. The tester only swabbed our sinus cavity for about two seconds instead of the required fifteen, and the test validity at the time was relatively low. 

Anyway, that sucked. It was the worst illness I've ever had in terms of severity... a solid "8" on a scale of 10. I'm in excellent health, and it seriously kicked my ass. The symptoms came in reliable waves - around 9-11 am, 3-5 pm, and 10-12 pm. Symptoms were extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, low-grade fever, and chills. Occasional sneezing and runny nose. Occasional gastrointestinal distress. In between those waves, I had a cough and slight difficulty breathing. The symptoms were bad for about six days, then gradually subsided. After about eight or nine days, I felt pretty "normal."

I was teaching at the time, and this came at the end of the school year. Our school had been completely closed for about two months at that point. There were still widespread shut-downs, shortages of pretty much everything, and mask-wearing and voluntary social distancing was almost universal. Almost all people in our rural town were fairly cautious and some degree of fear was pretty universal. We re-opened our bjj gym shortly after we recovered, and pretty much went about our lives normally. We masked up in stores, but that was the extent of our personal COVID mitigation efforts.

School resumed in the fall on a heavily modified in-class and at-home hybrid schedule. Shortly after the year began when outbreaks occurred, masks were mandated. We had a fairly aggressive quarantine procedure, which resulted in me being quarantined three separate times. If we were exposed, we'd be quarantined, then tested. Each test came back negative, but I was out of the classroom for several weeks.

As teachers, we also had to deal with the extremes - parents and students who were irrationally paranoid about the virus, and parents and students who were in complete denial that it was a public health concern. I saw a whole lotta responsible citizenship and basic human decency fly out the window. And, of course, us teachers were often blamed for shit completely out of our control. The entire year really sucked; this played a significant role in my decision to leave the profession. 

Anyway, we were offered the vaccine early in the roll-out. Shelly in the first round because of her position in law enforcement, and me in the second round because I was a teacher. I'm a science geek, and had been sort of following the development of mRNA vaccines over the years. I understood the theory, which invalidates most of the dumb rumors people were spreading about the dangers. The school also modified their policy - if we were vaccinated and exposed, we'd only have to quarantine if we tested positive or started developing symptoms. Getting the vaccine would allow me to keep teaching, and it would help keep my jiu jitsu teammates safer. It was an easy decision. 

After the first shot, I had mild fatigue for eight hours. After the second shot, I didn't experience any symptoms. 

After getting vaccinated, we stopped wearing masks in all but healthcare settings (out of concern for the high-risk) or at businesses that absolutely required them (out of respect for fellow business owners.) I have a weird hearing-related issue (auditory processing disorder) that kinda requires me to read lips when there's a lot of background noise, so masks are a HUGE pain in the ass in social situations or noisy environments. We would social distance with people wearing masks out of respect, but otherwise pretty much went back to normal pre-pandemic behaviors.

The Considerations

All three of our kids attend public schools, which didn't have any significant COVID mitigation measures this year (they're now adding a few, like before school temperature checks.) Shelly and I both work with the public. And, of course, we still spend our free time rasslin' around in an enclosed space. We shop at Walmart and another grocery store weekly, we regularly dine in restaurants, and we occasionally travel. Needless to say, we're exposed to a lot of potential transmission vectors. 

Our entire family is active, healthy, don't have any preexisting conditions known to cause complications with COVID, and we don't interact with high-risk people other than the occasional people we encounter on the job. We've probably had COVID before, and our vaccines should still impart about 65% efficacy for prevention of transmission, and data suggests the vaccine dramatically limits the severity of the symptoms and potential for death. Needless to say, we don't really care about the danger of COVID to our family.

My biggest concern about COVID was the potential of missing work, which I despise. Testing positive would result in a ten day mandatory quarantine. I work as part of a team, and my employer is already critically short-staffed. If I'm out, the rest of the team has to pick up my slack. I hate that.

The Current Bout with 'Rona

Shelly was the first to show symptoms, which she assumed was a sinus infection. After two days, she went to the doctor to get tested out of precaution. She tested positive. Worried that I, too, might have caught it, I tried to limit my interactions with others as much as possible, especially with the few people I know who are not vaccinated or haven't contracted COVID yet. Even though I was asymptomatic and, due to the vaccine, only had about a 35% chance of contracting it, I didn't want to take the risk.

 I wasn't showing any symptoms until a few days later when I developed an occasional very mild cough one evening. Out of an abundance of caution, I went to the doc and got tested. The rapid test was negative. They did a PCR test, which was more accurate, but wouldn't get the results for about 24 hours. When I returned home, I took another rapid test (I had a few lying around), which was also negative. Even though I had those two negative tests, I still did my best to avoid close contact with others.

The next afternoon, I got the call from the doc; I tested positive. Aside from the occasional slight cough, I was still asymptomatic. Later that night, I started developing some shortness of breath, a low grade fever, a mild headache, and more coughing. Still the symptoms were a "1" on a scale of ten. I left work immediately and started what's going to be a painfully-long quarantine.

Beginning the next morning, I started developing the exact same symptoms on the exact same time schedule I had in May of last year - significant fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, low-grade fever, and chills. Occasional sneezing and runny nose. Occasional gastrointestinal distress. In between those waves, I have a cough and slight difficulty breathing. And some sneezing (that's new.) And I mostly lost my sense of smell this time, which is weird as hell. The severity, though, was significantly less than the bout last May. I'd call it a "4" on a scale of 10, with one bout two nights ago being a "6". 

The last 24 hours have been better; the symptoms already seem to be lessening in severity. The worst part is the fatigue, which just makes me really lazy for a couple hours. If I've experienced the worst of it, this was WAY better than the last experience. I could take a turn for the worse, of course, but the previous illness had a pretty linear progression. Should I end up dying of COVID in a few weeks, disregard this entire post. ;-)

Regardless, it's abundantly clear this bout of COVID is way less severe than the previous alleged bout in May of 2020. If COVID ends up being a regular seasonal illness that could be lessened with a yearly vaccine, I could handle this. Without the mandatory ten day quarantine, of course.

The Take-Aways

As it stands right now, today, this experience has confirmed a lot of my assumptions I've made since the pandemic started and progressed. Here are my thoughts.

Are vaccines a good thing?

Absolutely. This bout of COVID is way less severe than the previous bout, which could be a function of it being the second infection, could be the result of the vaccine, or both. The data suggests it did play a positive role. I'd totally get the vaccine again in the future simply because it made the illness way less severe. I was never really concerned about dying from OVID, but those who are high risk would clearly get that benefit.

I don't think they should be government-mandated, but I also think more parents should let their children touch hot stoves. Employer mandates are a little trickier; I'm generally a proponent of allowing private enterprises as much freedom as possible... including what they require of their employees. 

As far as the various conspiracy theories about the vaccines, the virus, or the motivation for various public health mandates, I think they're stupid. But I think pretty much all conspiracy theories are stupid. 

What about masks?

I'm not a mask-Nazi one way or the other mostly because the totality of the data only suggests a very minor overall positive effect. When weighed against the societal social cost of everyone wearing masks (psychological deindividuation) and my own personal problem with masks and communication, my stance is do what you want. If you're high risk, wearing a mask is a good idea. If you're really fearful, wear a mask. If you own a business and you're in either of those categories, go ahead and require masks in your business

Me personally? I'm still only wearing a mask in heathcare settings, businesses that require it, and when interacting with people who ask me to wear a mask. Seems like the decent thing to do.

What should we do About Schools?

Schools are a tricky issue. Until we can get the pandemic under control to the point where we stop having surges that overwhelm hospitals, I propose every school district puts the issue to a vote. Each parent with students in the district and each person who works in the school district in a capacity that interacts with students gets a vote. Students o18 or older get their own vote. Democratically decide what, if any, mitigation efforts districts will use, then mandate that. 

If parents want more or less cautious mitigation efforts, give them an online-only option. Many states already have online-only alternative schools, so this won't be difficult in most areas of the US.

Should we fear COVID?

Most of us? No. We now know enough about the virus, its effects, its complications, and its mortality rate to make informed decisions. And we're quickly developing more and more effective treatments. This round of 'rona is way better than the last round, to the point where it's merely like an annoyingly-bad cold. With vaccines, people have the ability to make this something we shouldn't fear. If we opt out of vaccination, we know the risks. Again, this comes from a "Yeah, go ahead and touch that stove" perspective. YMMV.

There are still some people who should absolutely be afraid of COVID, because a lot of people are still dying. Usually because of old age, obesity, or preexisting conditions. Even if they get vaccinated. This is why I still wear a mask in some situations... doing otherwise just seems like a real asshole move.


It's been a hell of twenty or so months. Regardless of our personal thoughts and feelings on the pandemic, it's disrupted our lives like nothing else most of us have ever experienced. Personally, aside from the two illnesses, it's forced us to close our jiu jitsu gym and led me to leave the teaching profession (but to a profession I've absolutely loving... so this one's not a bad thing.) But it hasn't really been too bad.

For wider society? Unfortunately, it's been far worse. About 700,000 are dead. Many more have experienced lasting long-term effects. People have a lot of totally irrational thoughts on the pandemic, usually fueled by emotion, and that emotion is slowly ripping our society apart. Hopefully accounts like this help some develop a degree of rational clarity to the pandemic, and help people start using a little more empathy and compassion with each other.

 Got any questions? Feel free to post them in the comments section; I'll answer them ASAP.




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