Posted: 08/16/2021 08:53:41 AM
I examined my masked image in the bathroom mirror of my daughter and wife’s new home, remembering my first visit in May to the tiny cap they had managed to snag in a real estate market impossible. We then shared our joy with unmasked inside hugs, grateful for the miracle vaccine that gave us the freedom to be together, as we had before COVID turned our lives upside down.
My second visit was mostly limited to their shaded backyard. Cuddling was prohibited and indoor masking was mandatory. As I turned away from the bathroom mirror, I noticed a framed poem hanging near the sink, acknowledging my daughter’s careful impression of the words of poet Mary Oliver: “I may have many. edges called and almost nothing you can call certainty. I took a deep breath and walked back outside for a virtual goodbye hug.
The delta variant replaced the certainty that came after two late winter hits in my arm. The risk still existed at the time, but it was minimal. The guests returned to our dining room table, their unmasked smiles are a joy to see. The warming sun melted the fear that held us in its grip, as we packed picnics, planned vacations, and began to revert to aspects of our lives before COVID.
A few weeks ago, I didn’t think much about the delta variant when I got in my car and set off for a week in the Berkshires. Then came the headlines announcing the wave of revolutionary infections in Provincetown, shattering all certainty, leaving the sharp edges of “maybe” in its place.
Maybe the vaccine won’t protect me. Maybe I should cancel my October trip to New Orleans. Maybe I am propagating the variant asymptomatically. The familiar heartbeat, ruminations, and sleeplessness of the days before the vaccination had once again taken up residence in my psyche.
The only certainty was that everything was uncertain. I was obsessed with the potential consequences of every decision that could potentially affect the lives of loved ones and strangers. “Master yourself,” I thought, as I spent the week looking for certainties from reliable sources, including a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the CDC and, of course, Dr. Anthony. Fauci.
The bad news: The viral load of people infected with the delta variant is 1,000 times that of the new coronavirus, which means that even asymptomatic vaccinated people with breakthrough infections could easily infect others. The good news: Less than 1% of reported infections in the United States were the result of breakthrough infections, according to Kaiser.
Insurance, however, was elusive. It seemed like everyone I spoke to knew of a vaccinated person infected with the delta variant, including a report of a vaccinated person, with no pre-existing conditions, whose breakthrough infection took him to the hospital. I tried to reassure myself that anecdotal evidence didn’t matter, but my pounding heart betrayed rational thought.
More news regarding: The focus has changed. Instead of focusing on protecting us from infection, we are told that the vaccine does “exactly what it’s supposed to do” – code words to keep vaccinated people who are infected alive and out. hospital. I was not reassured recently when Dr Fauci said the level of vaccine protection against COVID had “gone down a bit”. If any of my former students had used this kind of language, he would have lost points for vague language.
More bad news: Delta has allies. The reluctance to vaccinate gave the variant a free ride across this country and beyond. Trumpian governors are risking children’s lives with policies prohibiting school districts from requiring masking. The Evil Governor of Texas has decided that schools are not required to notify parents of COVID outbreaks! We are all potential victims of those who politicize this pandemic.
Despite the growing push, many of us are in no rush to spend the last few days of summer hiding from the delta variant. A friend described the crowded lawn at a recent Tanglewood concert I attended as a “superspreader in the making”. My own common sense did not prevail as I chose to join a long line of customers to get my ice cream “fix” at my favorite Berkshire dairy. Today I had my car repaired and noticed that only one worker was wearing a mask.
My response to the uncertainty of COVID has been to develop a security plan that “maybe” can offer protection. I hide indoors (except my house), find socially remote places to park at outdoor events, keep social engagements outdoors or on Zoom, and plan to get tested weekly to make sure I haven’t inadvertently inhaled a maternal load of virus.
I also vowed to say “no” to anything that seems risky, even when friends raise their eyebrows. Yet questions remain. Dr Fauci didn’t tell me if my vaccinated brother could fly from Cleveland to Burlington to meet me at Smugglers’ Notch in September. A month ago, he might have said: “Come on! Have fun! You are vaccinated!
The increasing thrust signaled that it’s time to pivot again. Adapting to the uncertainty is a challenge, but it may perhaps preserve sanity in the face of the shifting target of COVID. Thank you Marie Olivier.
Sara Weinberger of Easthampton is Emeritus Professor of Social Work and writes a monthly column. She can be reached at [email protected]