I guess, based on the occurrence of a President Biden speech, that this week marks the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in the United States. To me, the baleful presence of COVID-19 has been around for what feels like much, much longer—so long that I can’t even remember it clearly.
My COVID panic started in early January, when we thought the disease was only in Wuhan. In America, for a couple weeks at least, it still seemed likely that the disease would never leave China, much like H1N1 and SARS never made a big impact here. For almost three months my mental state caromed between what I think of now as irrational fear and rational fear. I could see the whole year of 2020 play out in my imagination, way before my friends and family could see what was coming, but I could do nothing to stop it, and I could do almost nothing to protect my family from it. All those feelings felt very real and very debilitating, even when almost no one else around me was feeling them.
I had about two months of angst about COVID before it actually hit around here. The last time I went out with friends and family was, I think, on March 14, 2020. We went to see a musical and when out to eat at a crowded restaurant afterward. It was really hard for me to feel comfortable the entire time, but I didn’t want to let everybody down because I was concerned about a pandemic that hadn’t hit our area yet. Less than a week later, my entire family was on lockdown.
Back in January, February, and early March 2020, it didn’t help me at all to have known about the scope and length and shape of prior pandemics, like the Spanish Flu, which I know, from reading family letters, killed a bunch of people in my extended family about a hundred years ago. It didn’t help me at all to know what I should do and buy to prepare for it. It didn’t help me at all that I am smart enough to think for myself and to scrutinize, with a pretty good understanding of the relevant science and statistics, the information and advice experts were providing to us. All of these things just made me feel more uncertain and more cynical about what was going on.
A year later, I am feeling more hopeful. I have the vaccine after all, and am probably (but not definitely) immune to COVID 18. But my county is still at extremely high risk level. The numbers are still higher than they were last year when all of us were in a panic. Despite that, all the states, even blue states like mine, are reopening rapidly and throwing caution to the wind, when it would be more prudent to do so more gradually. It makes me nervous that we are giving the virus a chance to circulate long enough to adapt resistance to our vaccines.
I was early in being scared of COVID, and I may be late in getting over that fear. I just hope that, when I look forward from today, whatever fear I feel is merely anxiety over things that will not play out, rather than the accurate foresight into the future that I had late last winter.