The Thing About Covid
By Briana Livelsberger
In general, I become livid when someone tells me not to worry about something that either could have a major impact on myself or on someone I know. Living with multiple chronic illnesses, having a weaker immune system, and having family members in a similar situation as myself has made me very careful about how I go about things. For years, I’ve avoided going out aside for classes when different viruses and bacterial infections were going around. Every time I was out, I’d use sanitizer often and I’d always wash my hands as soon as I came back to my room. I also would wear my masks I bought for coping with bad allergies because they also protect me from germs. More often than not, I still ended up sick. But some people didn’t understand and seemed to think that I was being overcautious. Nowadays, I’m livid that the general public is being told not to worry or let Covid run their lives. There are treatments that work against it and it’s only a minor illness, like the flu.
For those who say that Covid is a minor illness like the flu, it is not. The flu, for the most part, is not deadly. But what many didn’t realize is that it still kills. Because of my diseases, the flu is something I have been afraid to get, especially since I can’t get the flu shot. Did you know that for those with autoimmune system issues, the flu vaccine can actually cause many symptoms resembling the flu and can even cause death? Those who are allergic to the flu shot can’t take it. For those with autoimmune issues, the flu shot can result in Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can be disabling or deadly. That’s why it’s important for those who can get the flu vaccine to do so for those of us who can’t. Not only does the flu cause one’s body to be more susceptible to other infections (such as pneumonia) which can lead to more complications, the flu can cause diseases to flare up. Depending on the diseases a chronically ill individual has, they could end up with life-threatening issues. And getting pneumonia (which can be serious for anyone who gets it) can be especially tricky for a chronically ill individual to recover from. I say this because the body is already working hard to keep other functions working properly despite their disease and can’t easily fight pneumonia. This means that a chronically ill individual could end up fighting pneumonia longer than a “healthy” individual and can be more likely to die from it.
But the common cold can also do these things. So the common cold can kill, and is more likely to do so when the individual has a chronic condition and/or weakened immune system. Colds set off the immune system. So those of us with autoimmune diseases will have our diseases flare up, resulting in either a bad flare, disability, or death. Not only that but for those of us with these issues, the common cold, flu, as well as other infections can last for weeks or months when they might last only a matter of days or a week for a “healthy” individual. However, is this generally common knowledge among “healthy” individuals? I don’t know. Honestly, it seemed like the fact that the flu still kills people was only remembered by the general public as a way to try and diminish the fears surrounding Covid. If you’re going to bring up the flu as a way to lessen your fears of Covid, then you should be prepared to also minimize how much the flu spreads. However, since we are often not trying to prevent the spread of the flu, I feel that this argument is invalid.
While many may have found comfort in the fact that the flu kills people, I have found it unsettling. I’ve known for years that people die from the flu and the cold, so these aren’t new. However, it was only when Covid started breaking out that the flu was talked about in such detail. First of all, the fact that the flu can still be deadly for people is sad and worth acknowledging. But using that information to make the deaths of hundreds of thousands of others is sick. It shows a lack of compassion and disregard for life. Especially since Covid is worse than the flu. Unlike the flu, Covid can cause many other issues. For starters, it is uncommon for the flu to cause life-long chronic illness or disability. It is also nowhere near as contagious or deadly as Covid. Covid, on the other hand, can cause individuals (young or old) to have heart conditions, need organ transplants, and have amputated limbs. And Covid is deadly for many. Plus, unlike before if there were complications with the flu, individuals could have their families with them should they die. Because of Covid, those sick with Covid die alone, regardless of their age. Saying that Covid is like the flu and that it isn’t something to worry about is like saying that we don’t need to worry about floods because people die from minor rainstorms. It has no real logic. If there is a way to prevent more people from dying, shouldn’t we seek to do so?
President Trump saying that Covid is less lethal than the flu or giving speeches on how it isn’t anything to worry about because there are treatments for it shows how out of touch he is. He brushes aside the fact that most Americans wouldn’t get the same treatment when they get Covid as he did. The treatments he got are considered experimental, meaning that insurance most likely wouldn’t cover the cost of these treatments. He is ignorant about the racial divide; Black Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latinx Americans, immigrants, and other populations being more likely to have complications and/or die from Covid than white individuals from not having access to good medical care. He is ignorant about the class divide; those who are poor or working class being unable to afford the expensive treatments for Covid and less likely to have access to good medical care. Even the middle class would be in immense debt. Only the rich can afford these treatments and are therefore more likely to have less complications. But it is still possible for the rich to die from it. He doesn’t care that those in the LGBTQ+ and trans communities are also less likely to have access to good medical care. And he doesn’t care that the elderly, immunocompromised, or chronically ill are more likely to have complications and die from Covid. And he couldn’t care less for anyone who is a part of more than one of these groups. In short, it doesn’t matter to him if many Americans die. And yet, many of President Trump’s campaign ads talk about how he is pro-life. But how can he be pro-life if his policies allow for the deaths of Americans of all ages?
Being told to not let Covid run our lives inspires mixed feelings from me. On one hand, it’s true that letting a disease control entire aspects of your life isn’t healthy. However, I feel that only applies to chronic conditions. In terms of Covid, I feel that the only way to not let Covid control our lives is to be hopeful about the future. Specifically, being hopeful that we, as a nation, as a world, can get through this pandemic with as little damage as possible and actively seeking ways to reduce Covid’s impact on us, our neighbors, and the world. Not letting Covid control our lives doesn’t mean thinking that Covid won’t affect us or anyone we love. It doesn’t mean doing whatever we want without taking any protections just because we’re tired of staying home, wearing masks, or social distancing. If simply wishing Covid away was possible, there wouldn’t be a pandemic. The only way to keep this pandemic from getting worse is to take action. We need to wear masks and keep at least ten-feet apart (since Covid is an aerosol, it can stay in the air longer than it was previously realized). We need to stay home as often as possible and make sure that, when we do go out, we are keeping ourselves and others safe. The fact that so many people can’t understand that shows that our nation lacks empathy, common sense, and foresight. And it is all of this that, I fear, will cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands more. We can fight Covid and move forward from this, but we can only do so if we work together.