David Leonhardt in the New York Times last week wrote of “irrational COVID fears”:
Coming to grips with the comforting realities of post-vaccination life is going to take some time for most of us. It’s only natural that so many vaccinated people continue to harbor irrational fears. Yet slowly recognizing that irrationality will be a vital part of overcoming COVID.
Irrational? Irrational? This twice-vaccinated pundit will relate a story of “irrational.” And why it has proved more catching than coronavirus itself.
Picture this: An otherwise healthy 63-year-old distance runner, around March 12, 2020, comes down with the “classic” symptoms of the suddenly dread coronavirus.
Likely having been exposed around March 5, when the Centers for Disease Control website was advising, “For most of the American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”
Said sexagenarian, panicking through two weeks of illness over shortness of breath and nasty chest pains, to go with draining exhaustion at the slightest exertion, is desperate to get tested.
Too young. Too healthy. Not running a temperature (even though some 11% of COVID cases even early on do not present with fevers).
When a test finally is available – in May – it comes back negative, as does a test for antibodies. Even though he since had briefly improved, then puzzlingly relapsed (with thousands of others) into a continuing state of chest pains, breathing difficulty, chills, “exertion intolerance” and muscle pain that his general practitioner and specialists all ultimately agree is indeed COVID, in its “long” version.
Ultimately, beginning in the fall to push the limits of his endurance day-by-day, he fights his way back into running shape.
Meanwhile, vaccines are available. Now, the uncertainty as to whether he has actually had COVID is compounded by the question of whether, if he has, it has conferred immunity.
Whatever. He gets the Moderna vaccine, round one, then travels out of town and visits friends. During the trip, one of his hosts contracts a mystery illness.
He returns home, gets the second round of the vaccine, and feels chipper. Until he doesn’t. He’s tired, queasy, and a bit congested. Then comes the call: the friend has tested positive for COVID.
A little less self-assured, he submits to both a “rapid” antigen test and the apparently more accurate nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). Within 90 minutes, the antigen result: POSITIVE.
Shocked that the apparently impossible has happened, he reaches out – warning some he has ventured near, canceling appointments and obligations, and quarantining himself in his spare bedroom/office.
Then the next day, the NAAT test results: NEGATIVE.
Now what? He heads to the CDC site, where he encounters an impenetrable, Rube Goldbergian algorithm that confuses rather than clarifies his status.
Meanwhile, America has endured a year of COVID coverage that this commentator last year characterized as “Groundhog Day Meets Friday The 13th”:
(I)nstead of another 24 hours stuck in rural Pennsylvania, each new dawn involves rediscovering the horrors of Camp Crystal Lake, with goalie-masked, machete-wielding mass-murderer Jason Voorhees waiting to slaughter another random victim – potentially, you …
No matter who you are, how fit or strong, or what age, Jason is coming for you in the form of COVID-19 … You must find a place to hide, cover up, save yourself and your loved ones.
That admitted diatribe included some predictions that unfortunately have held up all too well – especially in the life of this scribe:
(Y)ou may never be free to go out in the open again – at least without a mask.
If the vast majority of the public is not in danger of death or even serious harm, why the ceaseless, day-by-day, minute-by-minute fearmongering? … (T)o help Big Government capitalize on the virus to accelerate the inexorable advance of the progressive agenda: to accrue more power on the part of government – and greater dependency on yours.
Irrational, Mr. Leonhardt? This poor guy (whom you surely guessed is this commentator) has for more than a year inhabited a Twilight Zone narrative of actual illness amid the uncertainty, confusion and often, isolation in the face of COVID crazy, confusion and fear fomented by our government and abetted by the media.
No one knows if his current mild condition, even if it is COVID, really is dangerous to himself or anyone else. For all anyone knows, he is maybe perhaps kinda could-be no one-knows-for-sure suffering from corona for maybe perhaps kinda could-be no one-knows-for-sure the second time.
But the incompetent, untransparent and erratic bureaucracy and media that were incapable of warning him of the potential danger of the virus and since then, of telling him where he really stands, is more than willing to deprive him of freedom and dictate terms on engaging with the world.
Irrational? The government and media will never empower or enable us to exit the Twilight Zone and “overcome COVID.” If that’s not irrational, what is?