the coronavirus diaries: week 76

Damn, y’all. Damn.

Last time I posted about the coronavirus, I wondered out loud if maybe it was over. I knew better, of course — even from deep inside my vaccinated bubble, I could hear the Delta variant hoofbeats fast approaching — but for a few months there it felt like life was almost normal. I wanted it to be normal so I happily stuck my head in the sand and pretended. It was glorious.

But now [brushes sand out of hair] — the numbers are rising. Kids are getting sick. Masks are back. 

I read the news reports. I discuss vaccine science. I talk with exhausted medical professionals and scared parents and public health nurses. And just the other day I placed an order for another box of medical masks and I wanted to cry. 

It didn’t have to be this way.

***

I don’t know what to do with my anger.

I’m frustrated about the resurgence, and that we need to wear masks again, and that our daily activities are, once again, in jeopardy, but mostly? Mostly I’m angry at the unvaccinated people who are so stubbornly committed to their “freedoms” that they are willing to sacrifice the well-being of those around them. 

Yes, I realize we’re supposed to be respectful and open-minded, tiptoeing oh-so gingerly so as not to destroy relationships with those who think “differently,” but any more these days I just can’t even. It’s gone too far. I’m done with civility. (Not really, but that’s how I feel.)

When I hear about unvaccinated people who end up in the hospital and then express dismay at the intensity of their illness and frustration with their inferior medical care, I want to scream, And the surprise in that is what? Did you think this was a JOKE? You do realize there is a pandemic going on, right? Hospitals are short staffed and the employees overworked precisely BECAUSE people like you haven’t had the decency to take basic precautions. Of COURSE your care wasn’t great! Did you honestly think it would be otherwise?

The way they act — stunned, almost, or affronted — I get the distinct impression that they’ve been living in an alternate universe and have suddenly bumped up against reality. How could they possibly have missed the memo? I wonder. Could it be that they aren’t savvy with their news sources?

It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

And as for the antivaxxers who play victim — Poor me! they blare on their Facebook statuses, I’m being bullied for my choices! — do not even get me started.

Of course no one should ever be cruel to another person — I stand behind that — but when personal choices inflict pain on others, it’s only natural to get angry. I mean, isn’t vaccination refusal a gross breach of the basic social contract, that implicit agreement that requires all of us to work together for the common good?

Break the contract, people are gonna get pissed, and then do something about it (I hope).

***

Which leads me to my next point: when, oh when, are the unvaccinated gonna have to start taking responsibility for their actions?

One of my local public health friends who is fed up with the unvaccinated bullshit says we should just stop treating the covid-positive unvaccinated people. That’s never going to happen, of course — it’d be unethical, and besides, medical professionals have taken an oath — but I get her point: half of us are bending over backward to stop the spread while the other half is just waltzing around, thumbing their noses at our efforts and wrecking havoc, and then we all come limping along behind them, meekly mopping up their mess. 

When is enough enough?

In a recent NPR report (if you’ve got an extra seven minutes, give it a listen), a medical ethicist argued that it’s time to start making the unvaccinated people liable for any harms. He explains that he’s not being vindictive or punitive. Just, people who live a high-risk lifestyle have higher insurance premiums, and if a drunk driver kills someone, there are consequences; likewise, unvaccinated people who are similarly endangering the health of others need to be held accountable.  

Some places, like Puerto Rico, are being aggressively proactive. There, in order to be treated at the health clinics, patients have to produce either their vaccination record or a negative Covid test, and in order for unvaccinated employees to continue working, they have to provide proof of religious exemption and produce a negative covid test each Monday, and they have to pay the 80 dollars for each test out of pocket.

I can’t wait for us to catch up.    

***

The other night, I dreamed I was in a fancy hotel. Through the big glass window, I watched as a huge tsunami wave crashed against the hotel, swallowing all the screaming people on the beach. At first the hotel held up; we were safe! But then people started finding their way in: dirty people, poor people, angry people. Our fancy hotel turned soppy-wet and rapidly fell apart. We were no longer safe.

***

I have close friends and family who are unvaccinated. I love these people, deeply, and yet I am angry at them. The disconnect is disorienting.

If anger is a secondary emotion, then what’s my primary emotion?

Helplessness, I think. A loss of control. Despair and sadness. Fear.

GRIEF.

I wonder if my anger at unvaccinated people is, perhaps, a scapegoat for a greater, generalized sense of powerlessness? Afghanistan, conspiracy theories, the climate crisis, Haiti, my pulled hamstring, impending old age: there are so many things I can’t control.

But Covid, now. Covid, we could have controlled, should have controlled. That was in our power. And yet we failed and so here we are, being swept up in yet another tidal wave of destruction.

Cue the rage.

But listen: loving someone doesn’t mean you can’t be angry at them. In fact, I believe it’s actually a sign of respect to get angry at those we love because it means we care enough to be invested. And it’s a gift for us to know when we make others angry! My mother used to say it was important for me and my brothers to know that our behavior had an impact on other people — her. (And boy, did she ever let us know it!)

Confession: despite what I just said, I’m not directly confronting my friends and family, partly because I’m not sure it’d be constructive and partly — maybe mostly — because I’m chicken.

So what do I do? I write. Putting my feelings into words helps me think. My brain is so chaotic (last night my husband compared it to a filing cabinet knocked over in a windstorm) that it takes considerable time, and many many pages of words, to process my jumbled thoughts. 

And that’s it, folks. This is all I’ve got. I don’t have the answers, obviously, and maybe there is no answer.

Perhaps that’s okay.
xoxo

***

For those who want to dig deeper…

*What we now know about how to fight the Delta variant of covid (Tampa Bay)
*What to know about breakthrough infections and the delta variant (New York Times)
*Why Covid-19 vaccines offer better protection than infection (John Hopkins)
*Angry at the unvaccinated? Here’s a better way (CNN)
*Covid-19 in Virginia: Cases by Vaccination Status. (Virginia Department of Health)

***

P.S. Do I need to buy toilet paper yet?

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (8.19.19), a little house tour, miracle cat, the quotidian (8.19.13), an August day, drilling for sauce.

35 Comments

  • suburbancorrespondent

    My son’s girlfriend refuses to get the shot, which drives me mad. There are no good excuses anymore, with children falling severely ill and with 8 months of proof that the vaccine will not, in fact, make us grow tails. None. So tired of it. And the people waving the “personal choice” flag around apparently missed 7th-grade civics, where we discuss the conundrum of how society deals with situations where our pursuit of happiness interferes with others’ life and liberty (we make laws, that’s how – drunk driving laws, gun control laws, immunization requirements). Sheesh.

  • Anna C.

    You might want to get a few extra rolls, but I doubt that we’ll have the kind of lock-down and supply chain issues this time around. No one in government has the patience or backbone to actually do it.

  • Becky R.

    I am going out shopping today to lay in supplies, AGAIN. I am so disheartened. I have an extraordinarily at high risk husband, and I am high risk due to my age, so I haven’t been out except for necessities since this all started. If I don’t have agoraphobia when this is over (if it is ever over), I will be amazed. I don’t even want to go out anymore and encounter the people who are making me live this way. Their selfishness is stunning. Hang in there, Jennifer.

  • ccr in MA

    Oh, amen to everything you say. It didn’t have to be this way! Two months ago I was so jubilant, and now I am so angry about the loss of that joy and relief.

    I LOVE the idea of the willfully unvaccinated having to pay for their own Covid testing. Count me in Team Repercussions For Your Choices.

  • Eileen

    Thanks for the links to those articles, as it’s helpful for me to send to others. I live in the “Tsunami Wave” of Florida, and I work in an elementary school. Last year I was set against getting the vaccine, but have since changed my mind. I have members of my own family on polar opposite sides of this issue. At this point, EVERYONE should be vaccinated in my opinion. Thank you for so eloquently articulating the jumbled feelings I’m trying to work through.

    • Sarah DB

      Just wanted to say to Eileen: Thank you so much for your message saying that you’ve changed your mind. I think it takes a lot of bravery and strength to acknowledge when our convictions change, and it gives me hope that the same can happen for others.

  • Monica B

    You have such an amazing way of articulating every thing I feel and cannot get out in any kind of coherent fashion. My husband has heart problems and takes medication which lowers his immune system so I have never stopped wearing a mask, even though we are both vaccinated since we cannot trust people who are not vaccinated to actually wear one.

    But, I do yearn to go back to normal and to not wear a mask and boy o boy does it make me angry that people still will not get vaccinated.

  • Hattie

    I share the intense frustration with the unvaccinated that Jennifer and other readers have articulated so well. I’m sick of the specious argument that in America we have freedom to choose not to do something such as get a shot. In fact, our freedoms are not unlimited when they’re irresponsible and affect others adversely. Call it civic responsibility or just the old fashioned sense of patriotic duty. Maybe that’s the right tactic in trying to persuade unvaccinated friends or family to change their minds. Rather than argue and possibly alienate them, personalize it. Try framing it “It’s the best thing you could do for your grandson who is too young currently to get the vaccine.” Or “Do it for our immunocompromised friends and neighbors who have been homebound these past months even though they’re fully vaccinated. Or even ‘If your choice not to receive the vaccine results in someone else getting ill or dying, is that something you could live with?”

  • Marie

    While unloading our cart in the Costco parking lot the other day a man walked up to my husband and said, “Thank you for wearing a mask”. We were both shocked! We smiled (ya know, “eye smiles”) and felt from now on we will tell others how grateful we are to them for wearing masks also. It’s our plan to bring back more positivity to our little corner of the world. We too want our power back to live the life we have been given. Try it and pass it along!!

  • Valerie S.

    I hear you, Jennifer. It’s frustrating to be at this place.

    It’s also frustrating and infuriating that white folks performed medical experiments on BIPOC bodies against their consent for generations.

    It’s also frustrating and infuriating that people can’t get time off work (and can’t afford to take time off work or perceive that they would lose necessary employment if they asked off) to get vaccinated.

    There are certainly other circumstances which impact a person’s vaccination status. To be “anti-vaxx” is one thing (and it’s mind-blowing), but it is only one thing.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/07/unvaccinated-different-anti-vax/619523/

    • Jennifer Jo

      Yeah, considering that so many people get sick, especially with the 2nd vaccine, I’ve long wished people, particularly saleried workers, would be paid to get vaccinated and/or be given paid time off. (The people I know who are skipping the vaccine aren’t anti-vaxx, I’m pretty sure, nor are they unvaccinated for logistical/financial reasons.) Thanks for the link to the article!

  • achangrwu

    Thanks for the post. I am worried about the risk to children from secondary contact. Do you think parents should go to work regularly, even if their kids at home are young and unvaccinated?

  • Marie

    I had to wait a day to read this article. I haven’t found any anger in this pandemic, just sadness, and disillusionment. It’s a little funny, since anger is usually my go-to for small issues, but for something of this size I just don’t have the energy for anger.
    I am not chronologically young, but I’m realizing that in many ways I’m young in experience. How many people, alive now or in previous generations, have lived this long without seeing on a large scale the damage humans can do to each other? So many people have lived through wars, exploitation, disasters. So many other events, around the globe and through the years, where people were thinking “this didn’t need to happen! we could have prevented all this suffering!” I feel like I’m joining some species-wide fraternity of the formerly naïve.
    One by-product of this new perspective is my thoughts on climate change have shifted. I feel more acutely how the far-off, disconnected repercussions of climate change and the united, self-sacrificing response that is likely needed is a dangerous combination. Trying to keep the hopelessness at bay.
    Thank you so much for your writing.

    • Jennifer Jo

      “I feel like I’m joining some species-wide fraternity of the formerly naïve.” Oh yes, you say this perfectly. Many, many times, my thoughts about Covid make me thing about all the other large-scale tragedies — it’s kinda crazy that I’m halfway through my life and this is my first. In so many ways, my anger feels both ridiculous and cute, kind of like a toddler pitching a fit over a broken pretzel.

  • Jane Allen

    I agree with everything you have written in this post. I was in kindergarten the year the polio vaccine came out (1956). We all trouped through the gymnasium like little soldiers to receive our shots, not without some angst and tears for some, but it never would have occurred to any of our parents to refuse to let their children be protected against this horrible virus that was claiming limbs, lungs, and lives. My generation also suffered through measles, mumps, chicken pox, etc because there were no vaccines to prevent them. We are so very fortunate and blessed to be able to have these medical miracles. My “freedom” is impacted in a far greater way by those who refuse to be vaccinated and maintain it is their “right” to infect others through their negligence and stubbornness. I am beyond angry, and as a retired nurse, so very thankful I don’t have to take care of those who refuse to do what they should to protect themselves, and especially others.

  • Lana

    This kind of selfish post makes me angry in light of Afghanistan, catastrophic flooding with homes lost, loved ones washed away in floods in the SE with their family watching, a text from a dear friend whose brother had a massive heart attack very shortly after having the vaccine last week. Who the heck cares if Jennifer has a temper tantrum? Time to get your head out of the sand and see that there are much worse things going on right now.

    • Eve

      Ditto.
      Never posted a comment here before, yet have read Jennifer’s blog for years. I’m done reading here. I will not be forced to be injected with the gene manipulation shot that has not been properly tested and is unnecessary. Many of my friends and family have successfully healed and have natural antibodies. We’ll remain the control group. G*d bless.

  • Crystal

    I’m not sure how to reply to this. For a few days I figured it’s best to just say nothing..So much I’d like to say. However, it is obvious you (and nearly all your other commenters) have made it clear there is no room for a respectful discussion/ comment of differing studies, opinions, observations, reasoning, etc.
    I’ve read your blog for many years and have always enjoyed your witty and endearing writing and ability to see things from different perspectives. Reading this feels like a punch in the stomach.
    I don’t expect a reply. Just wanted you to know that smart, thoughtful people are on different sides of this very divisive issue, and these comments only make the divide that much greater.

    • Pauline in Upstate NY

      Hello, Crystal, thank you for your courage in posting a thoughtful reply expressing your frustration that there seems to be no room for discussion on this. I, for one, would welcome the chance to hear your thoughts on the issue of vaccination. It does seem to be one where there is relatively little middle ground… Let me freely admit that, as a retired nurse and firm believer in science, I am squarely in the “get vaccinated ASAP” camp on this, BUT, I suspect that a lot of us live in families where there is disagreement on this, and it can feel fraught with danger to take it on with people we love. If you are willing to share more thoughts, I would love to hear about it from someone with whom there is no emotional baggage. Obviously I have no way or knowing whether Jennifer Jo would welcome this, or even whether other readers/commenters would listen and respond respectfully, but I hope so. We need to heal the divide…

      • Thrift at Home

        Crystal, I would like to hear your respectful comments, reasoning, differing studies. I would like to hear from a smart, thoughtful person on the other side of this issue – it sounds like you are one of them.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Crystal — I imagine many of my readers share your feelings. Thank you for being vulnerable and courageous enough to speak up. This whole situation is messy and uncomfortable and disorienting, especially when we feel disregarded by people we respect and value.

      Pauline — Thank you for encouraging dialogue. I, too, welcome it.

  • Thrift at Home

    I fully agree with you, Jennifer. I am tired of playing nice with people whose selfish choices are hurting all of us.

    I also appreciate the reminder to write down all the chaos in my brain so I can see what I think! Kudos to you for doing that and sharing with us xoxo

  • Karin

    My anger is mostly directed at politicians and alternative news sources who are putting out so much false information. In reality they don’t even believe all the anti-fact, anti-science BS they spew every day but unfortunately the people who follow them actually believe this information. I think they are to blame for a lot of the misinformation and conspiracy theories that people are falling for. As far as the people who believe these crazy theories (covid isn’t real, covid isn’t dangerous if you’re healthy, vaccines turn you into magnetic lizard people, masks don’t work, the election was stolen…) I just don’t understand why so many can’t separate facts and science from random made-up stuff people are passing around the internet. I find it disturbing and distressing. Where will we end up if people can’t differentiate science from some random internet post/video with no factual basis.

  • Melissa

    I too have loved reading this blog for so many reasons over the years, and was also saddened to see this angry response to something that has become so polarizing. I also respect that it is your right to post whatever you want on your blog! But Crystal has made me feel brave enough to push back a little as well on the comments that have left no room for a different response. I’d like to stand up for my vaccine injured son – that the Drs. told me would be fine with his shots as a baby, and the guilt I’ve lived with for 16 years over that decision. And my dear friends son who is also vaccine injured. And her husband who works for a national retailer and is scared to death he will lose his job of 24 years because their family has seen first hand what living a life with a vaccine injured child is like and they are not willing to risk any more injury. My friend who was a nurse and had an almost life-ending reaction to a vaccine the hospital she worked for told her she had to get. That vaccine wasn’t pulled off the market for 2 years after thousands were injured. Can’t we say that it’s okay to have doubts about the safety of something that hasn’t really gone through the proper trials and not be thought to be selfish and hateful of everyone else? My naturopath works with Emory university ( who is still working on a legit vaccine), and even the doctors there aren’t comfortable with this vaccine. I am in love with Jesus and believe with all my soul that it is my Christian duty to love others as myself. To put others needs before my own. It hurts deeply that people don’t want to have a civil dialogue over this issue. I am prepared to give up travel,concerts, and many other things to not get vaccinated. I am prepared to be hated and misunderstood. Not all anti-vax people are conspiracy theorists or jerks. There are many stories of people dying from this vaccine that aren’t being listened to or are being dismissed because society doesn’t want to hear it. If you are comfortable getting vaccinated that is great! Why should those of us who are uncomfortable be forced/shamed/bullied/coerced into something we don’t think is a good medical decision for our family? Medical freedom is important! And those of us wishing to maintain it are not just a faceless, selfish bunch trying to ruin the world for the rest of you. I’m genuinely so sorry for the anger you feel Jennifer. I feel it as well, and a grieving for what is going on.

  • Lora

    I care for my 2 adult children who are living with significant disabilities and medical challenges. Your outrage over the sudden lack of concern and consideration for the safety of your able, privileged life of self determination and acceptance is laughable. Looks like karma is catching up with white women living a life of plenty.

  • Libby

    Thank you for this post. Such an interesting array of comments.

    I’m reading the new book about Facebook by two NYT reporters entitled, An Ugly Truth, and wonder how much money Facebook is making from people who rely on false news about Covid and the vaccine as well as Facebook’s ethics for continuing to allow false info to be posted. FB is often cited by anti-vaxers as their source of news.

    I saw my primary care physician two weeks ago for a routine visit and she expressed how angry she is at her at-risk patients who have not gotten vaccinated. She is concerned about their health as well as malpractice suits if they contract Covid.

    I wonder who is going to pay for the hospital costs at these maxed out facilities in low vax states. I live in CT, which is the fourth state that pays more in Federal taxes than it receives back. In other words a “giver” state. NY is #1 paying $22 BILLION more than it received in 2018, #2 is NJ paying $12 Billion more, #3 is MA paying $9 billion more and #4 is CT paying $8 billion more. (source is US News & World Reports). There are only 8 states out of 50 that are “giver” states. So not only are all of these unvaccinated people prolonging the pandemic, creating hosts for new variants to develop, endangering the rest of the country/world, BUT residents in these four states will probably end up paying for the medical costs of the unvaccinated.

    My neighbor’s husband is a nurse and contracted Covid prior to the advent of the vaccines. He has now been diagnosed with long haul Covid. Yale has a neuro-Covid lab to research the long term effects of the disease and DEMENTIA is one of the primary long term effects. My neighbor describes parts of his brain “going numb” which the lab said is textbook for what they are finding.

    Long haul covid patients will most likely end up on federal assistance as many won’t be able to hold down jobs. Another cost to our society.

    I wonder how long the current vaccines will hold up against potential new variants.

    I have been thinking about this prediction by President Ulysses S. Grant: the next Civil War “will not be the Mason and Dixon line, but between patriotism and intelligence on one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.”

    We are all deciding between risks. On one hand the risk of newly and quickly developed vaccines versus catching Covid, prolonging the pandemic, etc. I cast my lot with the risk of the newly developed vaccines. The risk seems lower with less potential impact. There is no perfect choice in the situation we are all living through.

    And finally I cried at the end of this New York Times video about a hospitalized man in Arkansas who clung to his freedom and right to remain unvaccinated and paid for it with his life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pd8P12BXebo

  • beth

    Let’s consider another situation. When war comes and young men are asked to fight, Mennonites say, “We won’t go to war. We won’t fight. We are a peace church. Our deeply held biblical conviction is to be non-combatant.” The response to the Mennonite position is often, “What? But you live in America. You enjoy its privileges. You enjoy its freedoms. And you won’t defend our country? You’ll let other mothers send their sons to war to protect your freedoms but you won’t send your own sons? What cowards you all are!” And the Mennonite reply to that is, “We must obey God rather than men.” Mennonites have stood by their convictions despite ridicule. Mennonites have stood by their convictions to the point of martyrdom. This is your proud heritage. And now you’re saying that people who have equally strong convictions against getting vaccines have a duty to uphold the social contract and get the jab in order to make your life easier?! You outright state that those who won’t get the jab are selfish idiots waltzing around thumbing their noses at enlightened people like you who are doing all the work of quelling the virus. Holy moly! Let me remind you that we all have the right and the duty to form our own convictions as we consider the news, the science, and our own medical situation. We each wrestle with our values and what we feel it means to be an American citizen, where our responsibility lies, how much the government can dictate to its citizens. I would march to protect your right to not take up arms in war. But would you support my right to be in charge of my own medical care? Maybe your convictions are more important than my convictions, eh?

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