I enjoyed the freedom. Then I got a breakthrough case
The coronavirus pandemic has upended everyone’s life for more than a year now, but for me, it seemed easy enough to maintain some control over how it affected my own routine. Wearing a mask in public, avoiding indoor gatherings, handwashing, distancing and eating takeout instead of going out to eat became the new normal.
As soon as I was eligible, I got the vaccination, as did my spouse. When cases started falling and restrictions were eased, we began venturing out again, often without a mask. That felt great.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, things got personal.
It started as what I thought was a summer cold. Sneezing, runny nose, scratchy cough, but nothing I hadn’t experienced before — or so I thought.
I took a day off work to recuperate.
Then, I decided, just to be safe, I would work from home, get a COVID test and wait for the results before going back into the office.
The surprise came the next day. “DETECTED” read the test result in the MyChart app on my phone.
I had come down with a breakthrough case of COVID, despite being fully vaccinated since April.
How? Who knows. None of the people I had been in contact with have developed symptoms or tested positive, to my knowledge. My wife never developed symptoms, and she tested negative, although we didn’t take the precaution of separating in the house. By the time I tested positive, she had already been exposed anyway.
So I settled in for my quarantine period — 10 days from the onset of symptoms, I could return to work, as long as I had no fever for 24 hours prior.
I continued to work from home, because I didn’t feel sick enough not to. I was sick, no question, but I’ve been sicker from a bad chest cold.
I never ran a fever. I had no difficulty breathing. I never lost my sense of taste, as many patients do, but my sense of smell did go away, and still is not completely back.
The most notable symptom was the fatigue. I found myself sleeping 10 hours a night — not normal for me — and still not feeling rested when I got up. I could tell this was no ordinary virus.
After 10 days I returned to work, and I feel fine.
There is no way to know for sure, of course, but I suspect I would not have had such a mild case had I not been vaccinated. I’m well into my 64th year on the planet, I smoked for 30 of those, give or take, I’m carrying more than a few extra pounds and I have some cardiac history — in short, not a low-risk individual by any stretch.
It’s also likely I had the delta variant, because it’s far more infectious than the previous strain so it’s more likely to get past the vaccine’s defenses. It’s not possible to know that, either, because my test wasn’t that specific.
What is certain is that the vaccine offers protection against contracting COVID in the first place, and makes it much more likely that you will stay out of the hospital and, most important, out of intensive care.
Local ICU beds are filling up, because Jackson County has a low rate of vaccination. Yes, it’s possible to contract COVID even if you are vaccinated. I’m living proof of that. But here’s the important message: If you get the vaccine, it’s extremely unlikely that you will have a severe case even if you get the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of July 19, there were fewer than 6,000 COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths out of more than 161 million fully vaccinate people nationwide.
Jackson County set a record on Friday: 188 new COVID-19 cases. The numbers of COVID-19 patients hospitalized and in the ICU in the region also hit record levels. Only five ICU beds were open in Jackson and Josephine counties.
If that doesn’t convince you to get vaccinated, I’m not sure what will. But if you insist on refusing the vaccine, which is your right, do us all a favor. Stay home.
If you must leave the house, wear a mask everywhere you go. It’s the very least you can do for your friends and neighbors.
Gary Nelson is editorial page editor of the Mail Tribune.