I contracted COVID-19 in August when I was in Eastern Washington visiting some of my boyfriend’s family. While we wore masks, sanitized our hands, and socially distanced ourselves from people in public, someone in the family got infected and unknowingly spread the virus.
After the third day of getting my positive test result, I had never felt sicker in my entire life. My body ached so badly that I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t stop coughing, and my headaches were relentless. I could barely get out of bed and, when I did, all I could do was drink the herbal teas my suegra, boyfriend’s mother, had made. The peak of my bodily pain was at this time, during finals week of my summer quarter at the University of Washington. I had projects due, exams to take, and articles to write, and I felt helpless throughout it all.
I had projects due, exams to take, and articles to write, and I felt helpless throughout it all.
Once I got the positive test result back, the doctor told me I had to stay quarantined for 14 days and that I could only leave the house if I had no remaining symptoms. There were a few subsequent calls from the county asking about my symptoms and informing me of my quarantine date. I spent the remainder of my time at home resting until the primary symptoms subsided, but they never fully disappeared; and, even today, my health is the focus of every action in my daily life and consumes my every thought.
I am still full with fear, as every little headache and body ache scares me. I decided to keep frequenting the doctors one whole month after having COVID to ensure I had not sustained any adverse effects. I’ve started taking a cocktail of vitamins and teas as a daily morning ritual to alleviate the aftermath symptoms.
These post-COVID symptoms were not easy. I would wake up to an awful, and perpetual, morning sickness and would continue to feel groggy through all hours of the day. I even gained weight from my time being inactive.
Being a young adult, I never thought I could get so sick, so quickly. The fear of getting COVID was initially low for me, as I had not personally even known anyone with it. Nonetheless, I would follow the guidelines, but at times begrudgingly. I now realize that my selfishness could have endangered many more people. Like many young adults, I let my youth and age alone shelter me from the realities of COVID, pushing the responsibility off as if I was immune to it.
Like many young adults, I let my youth and age alone shelter me from the realities of COVID, pushing the responsibility off as if I was immune to it.
The seriousness of this virus cannot be overstated, and when I see people, especially from my community, disregarding it like it’s nothing, I am angered and scared. We don’t know the long-term effects of the virus and what will happen to those who contracted it and recovered — even for those who are young. For instance, I am suffering recurring headaches and shortness of breath at night almost six months after having had COVID.
The long-term health risks and effects are not just physical. I get tested often out of fear of contracting the virus again, and while they repeatedly may come back negative, I know these tests are just snapshots of my body at that moment. When an individual tests negative for COVID shortly after being exposed, that person can still be infected and report a false negative test. In this way, tests don’t provide me relief the same way they did before; I am mentally and emotionally scarred.
I don’t think people understand or acknowledge the psychological effects of getting this virus. I’ve become far more aware of my mortality and health — all at the ripe age of 22. I am overwhelmed with anxiety each time I go to the store and when I see a crowd of maskless people, my heart sinks, the panic within me rises, and my body shuts down.
I try to avoid watching the latest number of deaths and cases on the news, but I know that the number of cases within my age group is at an all-time high.
This is not surprising. It takes only a moment of me browsing through my social media to see parties and maskless social gatherings, with meaningless captions like “We all got tested before, don’t worry” or “Me and my quarantine squad.” These captions exacerbate the idea that the virus is difficult to spread or that getting a test is guaranteed protection, or that a “quarantine squad” of five is not an indirect squad of 50 or 100.
With a mindset similar to those captions, I made that trip to visit family in August without any thought of contriving this potentially deadly virus. And looking back at it now, I thought I took every precaution, but the most important one was to avoid gatherings — even family ones.
And looking back at it now, I thought I took every precaution, but the most important one was to avoid gatherings — even family ones.
A previous article written about Greek life parties during the pandemic discussed the utter lack of responsibility exuded by young people, carelessly spreading the virus to the community and essential workers.
I warn all people in this country who treat COVID as a danger exclusive to older people: we are not invincible. Yes, there is a higher chance that we will recover faster than those in older age ranges, but that should not be seen as a blanket of protection. It certainly was not one for me.
I warn all people in this country who treat COVID as a danger exclusive to older people: we are not invincible.
After I recovered from my sickness, a friend of mine told me that their boyfriend’s cousin, someone in our age range, died in the hospital that same week I was sick. When I hear stories of those around me who died or were hospitalized, it ripples guilt inside of me. I regret my decision not to follow all of the guidelines — guidelines that aren’t merely suggestions or requests but informed decisions that save lives.
Some people see COVID-related statistics and try to compare them to other data sets, yet those numbers are not just quantitative digits in some vacuum. They represent deaths, hospitalizations, sickness, and long-term anguish that will linger for a lifetime. It’s strange to think that I was, and am, a part of those numbers.
As a Black person in a predominately Latinx community and in a rural town, I was also represented in the COVID statistics about marginalized communities. While it is known that the severity of COVID-19 is worse for Black and Latinx communities, data alone could not show how few resources exist for many marginalized areas during this pandemic. When I contracted COVID in my small rural town, there was only one medical facility. Just two doctors were walking up to cars and conducting testing.
Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities have endured enough pain and suffering. These communities are not equipped to support excess hospitalizations, and if they are also in rural areas, they are even more vulnerable due to a lack of medical care and government support.
As we eagerly wait for a vaccine to be slowly distributed across the country, it is necessary for us — the youth — to continue to take responsibility, care for our communities, and recognize that we are not immune.
Last updated 12/16/20
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