From TPM Reader AL …
My dad turned 80 on March 8th. I was already concerned about the coronavirus’s inevitable arrival, in no small part due to your excellent coverage, and it was in the back of my mind that he should cancel or postpone his birthday party and, if it wasn’t such a milestone, I might have pushed harder for it. But I didn’t, and I attended his party. Most of his friends were north of 70 and many of them weren’t taking the threat seriously (some of them wouldn’t for weeks after and at least one still doesn’t).
I’m involved in my local Democratic party and attended a climate study group meeting a few days later. Across the room, the committee who had spent months planning and preparing the biggest fundraising event of the year, due to happen in just a couple of weeks, were making the difficult decision to postpone the event.
That night, I realized I had a sore throat, a mild dry cough and a slightly higher than average temperature. I didn’t feel well but I know how my body reacts to colds and flus and this didn’t feel like either of them. It was a very odd sensation, which sent me into a panic.
I was terrified that I might have picked up the virus somehow (on public transit or in a store) and been spreading it unknowingly for two weeks. I’m in my mid-30s and wasn’t really worried about my own health prospects, but I’d been in contact with so many older people that I was extremely upset I could have put them at risk, especially given the irony that I’d been much more worried about the coming pandemic than they were.
Now, I’m in Portland, Oregon. Our state has apparently done an excellent job at managing the virus (extra surprising, given that we’re sandwiched between Washington and California) and we did not have a rash of hospitalizations. In retrospect, there’s absolutely no way I had COVID-19. The vectors by which I caught it would have meant many, many other people would have caught it too, some of whom would have experienced much worse symptoms than I did, and that clearly didn’t happen. If I had anything, it was probably a cold so mild that I might not have noticed it if I wasn’t being hypervigilant.
The result is I ended up distancing about a week before the country broadly realized that this was going to be a problem. Because I was still a little bit ahead of the curve, I could have avoided the panic shoppers and picked up hand sanitizer and the like…except I thought I was sick already, so I didn’t.
Oregon has always been behind the curve on testing and it certainly wasn’t worth spending a test on my mild symptoms, but knowing one way or another frustrated me for weeks. And in a way it’s kind of frustrating that I didn’t get it, since if I knew I was immune and couldn’t spread the disease (at least by breath), I’d have immediately started working on mutual aid projects. If I didn’t know so many older people, I still might have. And there are ways I might have been better off, since I really feel like I’ve been withering away, isolating by myself in my tiny studio apartment. (My 80 year old dad is only a few miles away and I haven’t seen him since that climate study group and it actively pains me. He is in outstanding health and I’m certain he’ll make it to 100, but that’s obviously contingent on getting through this. I desperately want to go over to his place and cook dinner and watch a movie, but we’ve agreed that even the modest risk just isn’t worth it.)