Coming Out of the Pandemic, Some of Us Faster Than Others (and That’s Okay)

Lemme admit something here. I haven’t been the most dedicated Covid warrior. I mean, sure, yeah, I got vaccinated and boosted as soon as I could because you’re just a motherfucking delusional piece of shit if you don’t. And, for a good while, I wore masks pretty devotedly, especially once I found one style that fit my big, bearded face decently. Hell, I started wearing a mask before wearing a mask was cool, before it was recommended. I had people in grocery stores staring at me a long time ago.  I also had Covid really early on, in late March 2020, a mild case, but, still, during the scary period where each of the days I had a low fever I wondered if all that cocaine was gonna finally catch up to me, if I was gonna take the plunge into the depths of the virus’s effects, fucking up my lungs and more. It didn’t. 

So what I’m admitting is that I’ve been a bit cocky since I got my second Moderna shot a little over a year ago. My thinking has been that, at some level, you gotta believe that the vaccine works. Early on, we thought it prevented you from getting Covid, but now, with that bitch Omicron, we know now that it prevents serious illness and death, which, you know, still means you’re just a motherfucking delusional piece of shit if you don’t get it. 

I’ve been living my life, going to concerts indoors, eating indoors at restaurants, drinking indoors at bars, going to movies, plays, and comedy shows. I’ve traveled on planes and trains and buses. When I say, “I haven’t been the most dedicated Covid fighter,” it’s because that, in situations where I can take off my mask, I usually take off my mask. And I almost never wear it outside. I haven’t for a long time. Shocking, right?

I’m not a dick about it. If a place wants me to keep a mask on, I keep my damn mask on because other people are allowed to want that. I suppose if I felt strongly enough, I could avoid places that demand masking, but why be that person? I hate those people. Those of us who want to get out in the world and do shit ought to have the good sense to know there are limitations. 

It’s really not that hard to give a damn about other people. I’m fortunate in that I don’t live with a child under the vaccination age or someone who is immunocompromised. I don’t even see people in that situation too much. I recently visited a dear friend who had a bone marrow transplant. I took a rapid Covid test before going to see him, as I would before seeing anyone in such a position.  If someone would like me to put on a mask, sure, I’ll put on a mask. 

And, yeah, despite what right-wing cumrags say about us, I fucking hate wearing a mask, even if I’ve found a relatively comfortable one. But my feeling of discomfort for a short period isn’t worth being a total asshole to others. What is worth it is acting like we can live again. And if I say I believe in science, then I fucking well should act like it.

I’m not saying we’re getting back to normal because that implies that we can ever return to the pre-2020 times. That’s over. And our leaders need to be honest about that. It’s a fucking lie to say we can ever not take the kinds of precautions that prevent the spread of Covid, even if it’s just a buzz in the back of our head when we’re in a crowd, even if it’s just taking a test before going to Grandma’s house, even if it’s just an awareness that it could all close down again, that we know what that’s like. And it’s also a fucking shame that we haven’t done all the things that would make everyone feel safer about the lifting of restrictions. 

Let’s put aside the danger that antivaxxers are putting everyone in as being incubators for variants or for clogging the hospitals with their failing bodies. I’m talking about the practical things that could be done with some effort and expenditure.

We could have invested a shit-ton of money on new ventilation systems at schools or offices or, really, in lots of places, but especially schools. We know that having upgraded ventilation helps prevent Covid from spreading, and some school systems are using federal funds to get new HVAC systems and HEPA filters and other things that I’m sure begin with H. But it’s not enough and not fast enough. The great thing about those kinds of coronavirus mitigation projects is that they’re passive enough that even willingly unvaccinated assholes are protected and we’re protected from their unvaccinated asses. 

We could have done something about our ongoing horror of a health care system and poured funding into nursing training and salaries and more on a permanent basis, not just as crisis pay. We already had a shortage of health care workers, especially nurses, and now it’s a full-blown crisis on top of the crisis of the pandemic. We could have said, “You know what? It’s just motherfucking dumb to not have a national health care system. People shouldn’t be afraid of their co-pays so they don’t go to the doctor and spread the sick around.” We could make mental health care far more widely available for all the trauma everyone has suffered. We still get more than 4 rapid tests to households. There are all kinds of things we could do so that everyone could participate in the world again with some amount of caution, sure, but still able to do so. 

A nation that really gave a shit as a whole would have passed a Covid tax on the wealthy to help get us the fuck out of the crisis. We are not that nation. So, instead of roaring into the end of the pandemic, we have a two-tier reopening: a decent level of safety for most of us, an indecent level of risk for those most at risk and for families with young children.

The nation is still ridiculously bifurcated between the places with high vaccination rates and places with low ones. The reason we have 2500-3000 people a day still dying of Covid is because the corpses are piled up in Unvaxxed America. It’ll be a while before those numbers decline, as well as the numbers in hospitals (which will also be playing catch up with all the surgeries and other things that were put off because of the Omicron and Delta surges). 

As the nation opens up, even in the unvaccinated places, the people to thank are the vaccinated and the masked. If you’re unvaccinated and all of a sudden vaccination card checks go away so you can go back to Chili’s again, thank all your vaccinated friends and family and everyone else. It’s because enough of us did what we’re supposed to do and weren’t selfish twatfleas about it like you that you can get your baby back ribs again. It wasn’t ivermectin or piss-drinking that got us to where we are. It’s because a bunch of us are responsible goddamn people. You’re welcome, you pathetic fucks.

(Note: I’m sure some of you will get all pissy about my relatively relaxed attitude towards getting out in the world. But I respect your fear of the virus. I respect your limitations. Mine are just different.)

(Note 2: Obviously, you could respond that “It’s not over” and you’re right. But it kind of is for a lot of people. We just have to not be cavalier about things, like back in April of last year when everyone went fucking crazy and having orgies in the streets.)

Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on February 17, 2022 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.

Image Credit: Imperial College London

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