After more than two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is tough to believe sometimes we are still living through it and its perils. The depressing tickers of infected numbers and deaths on television and the internet aren’t as prominent anymore, but they are still happening. According to the New York Times, the United States has now reached more than a million deaths and 93 million overall cases of COVID. Though many cases are milder due to vaccination, we still don’t know how “long COVID,” as long-term complications are called, will affect people in the years ahead. My family had a scary reminder of this these past weeks when we all got sick.
Ever since March of 2020, my family has been very vigilant about COVID. As several family members have potential health complications, we wanted to make sure we didn’t leave things to chance. That meant masking whenever it was mandated and even when it wasn’t. It meant making sure to space out and quarantine if we suspected COVID exposure, and getting vaccinated as soon as we could. This made things hard, especially when I left for college again in the fall and couldn’t visit and see everyone as often due to precautions meant to slow COVID’s spread on campus.
However, as has happened time and again during the last three years, after successfully avoiding COVID for so long, we were now going to experience it. All four of us at home became sick in quick succession. Luckily, things have been mild, and we have been getting better as the days go by. Actually quarantining, versus just doing it as a preventive measure, has been a strange experience. I am grateful now because all of our precautions throughout the past two years ended up being good practice. It helped us to have a plan for what to do when sick versus panicking.
While we have been recovering well in my family, I think of all of the families who weren’t so lucky. People who, despite taking precautions and/or having good health, died or suffered serious complications from COVID. Then there are impacts on their families, friends and wider society. It seems sometimes like we have largely moved on as a society from COVID, but for so many of us, there have been losses or experiences that aren’t as simple as recovering and moving forward. We need to recognize the people who have suffered the most grievous effects from COVID and figure out more about its long-term effects to prevent health issues from hurting even more people.
We also need to make sure there is a further push to increase vaccination and awareness. While vaccination numbers have increased, it isn’t right that vaccine resistance and misinformation continue to persist. Modern medicines like vaccines have allowed us to make life better and keep preventable diseases like measles, polio and smallpox from devastating our population. Stopping COVID should not be any different and we will only stop hearing about COVID once we get vaccination levels up to where they are for other previous more commonplace vaccines.
As much as we may be exhausted, COVID has not and will not just go away on its own. It’s something we will need to continue to be aware of. Even though for many of us it may be mild, for many of our neighbors this is a serious matter that could have long-term effects and/or kill. The ongoing pandemic continues to show we are all in this together. COVID doesn’t care whether we are done dealing with it or not. To truly move on, we all have parts we can play to not only protect ourselves but our neighbors, friends and fellow community members.
Connor Kockler recently graduated from St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.