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The Discourse

Welcome to the Summer of Sick

I rejoined the world and immediately got a horrible cold. Welcome back!

Flickr/Phyllis Buchanan

Last Sunday I woke up with a horrible sore throat. I thought I was just hung over and dried out, as I’d spent some time at a bar next to a friend who was smoking for the first time in months the previous night, but by 5 or 6 p.m. I realized that whatever was wrong with my body was not solely connected to the mixture of clamato juice and Corona (the beer, not the virus) I had agreed to consume at 1 a.m. Instead, I was sick.

Like many people I know, I have not been sick in well over a year. I was fortunate enough to not catch the deadly disease rampaging the country and in doing so managed to not catch any other disease for about a year. But now things are opening back up, I am vaccinated against the Big One, and we are going back out in the world. It’s going to be a hot vaxx summer. We’re going to have so much fun. Unfortunately we are also going to get sick all the time.

When I realized I was sick I was mostly just offended. It seems profoundly unfair to have survived a global pandemic only to lose a week of your newly reclaimed life to a simple cold. Before this, of course, was the panic that maybe I was about to be another entry into the very, very short list of breakthrough COVID infections. Every cough had me convinced that this was it, that despite two shots of Pfizer I had finally contracted the disease.

I went and got a test, dreading the list of text messages that I’d have to send if it came back positive. I had outdoor drinks with two sets of friends last weekend, played in a rec league softball game, had another friend over inside our apartment. Almost everyone involved in this was fully vaxxed, as was I, but still — the fear is there.

In January, there was a wave of articles about how, thanks to widespread social distancing and mask-use, the flu season had almost disappeared. I’m hopeful that perhaps with even a modicum of post-pandemic mask-wearing, we can lessen the annual burden of fall and winter sickfests in the future, but I think we’re also discounting that many of us have not been sick at all in the past year. And oh boy, we’re about to be.

I don’t say this to spoil anyone’s summer. I had forgotten what it was like but getting a cold is fine. It sucks, but it’s fine. It’s more inconvenient now because you need to go get a COVID test to make sure you’re not going to kill anyone with it and you have to stop being as careless with your mask as you were merely days before, but it’s going to be ok. Stock up on DayQuil and ibuprofen, download a new video game you’ve been meaning to play, and prepare your partner for the ordeal of having to deal with you whining about having the sniffles for 3-5 days and then succumbing to the same bug just as you’re getting better. You’ll be back out there in no time.