Well it finally happened. 27 months after New York City first went into lockdown, I finally tested positive for Covid despite consistent masking and being triple vaxxed.
The funny thing is, I'm still not sure how I got it.
I tested positive last Wed but that whole 4th of July weekend I was with my parents and my wife, mostly outdoors and masked in any indoor environments. My parents didn't get sick at all. My wife got Covid for the first time about 6 weeks ago and seems to have a mild sore throat but hasn't tested positive.
The most recent BA.5 subvariant of Covid-19 now accounts for about two-thirds of all Omicron subvariants in circulation in the US, and appears to have distinct advantages that increase its transmissibility. As epidemiologist Keren Landman writes in Vox:
An early-July report in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that in vaccine-boosted people, levels of protective antibodies were three times less active against BA.5 than against the first omicron subvariants. While these antibodies are not the only way the immune system protects the body from severe SARS-CoV-2 infections (we’re looking at you, T-cells), this finding suggests vaccines could be less protective against BA.5 infection than against earlier strains.
Looking back, I can only fathom that I may have caught this strain when out at dinner with a friend in the backyard patio at a restaurant before the weekend. It was technically "outside", but there wasn't much of a cross breeze—more of an open roof. The friend never tested positive though so this ultimately just my own guess and there's no way to really know.
I feel fortunate that my symptoms weren't particularly severe: it felt like a bad flu for several days, then several more days of fatigue and brain fog. I felt better within a week.
However, it's now day 11 and I am still testing positive.
This means I still have to mask in my own house and sleep on the couch as to not infect my wife which of course is inconvenient and No Fun. I say this acknowledging the privilege of an easily WFH job and an outdoor patio that we can eat meals at.
There have been a lot of concerns about mounting hospitalization rates of Covid but the Vox article I linked to earlier put me a bit at ease as people being hospitalized for any reason: broken leg, heart attack, are tested and counted as a "Covid admission".
The real concern would be critical care admissions which apparently are still ok:
Aaron Glatt, an infectious disease physician who is also the hospital epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau in New York, was clear: “We have not seen a surge in critical care admissions,” he said.
Although Covid-19 hospitalizations have been slowly creeping up across his region, intensive care unit admissions have stayed relatively low and stable. With incidence so high in the community, those critical care admissions and deaths are better predictors of what is really going on in some ways, Glatt said, “and those have not changed.” Glatt also said he had not noticed any new or unusual symptoms in admitted patients with Covid-19.
Then there's Long Covid. I have a friend who got infected at the start of the pandemic before there were vaccines or even tests for the virus. Her Long Covid is sobering and saddening and still ongoing.
We've obviously come a long way since March 2020.
While I've seen stats as high as 1 in 5 Covid infection rates leading to Long Covid (new or ongoing symptoms 4 weeks or more after initial infection), this paper suggests the likelihood was closer to 1 in 10 for Delta and 1 in 20 for Omicron, in two studies of 40k+ infected adults in the UK.
I was listening to a podcast recorded in March 2020 about strategies to ease feelings of anxiety. The guest Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan suggested using temporal distancing to ease Covid-concerns.
He talked about imagining how much better the situation would be two years later, when we have vaccines and herd immunity. And while it might have helped in that moment, sadly, this advice did not age as well as we had hoped. Now I feel like temporal distancing can backfire.
There's no simple way to wrap this post up except to say: take as many precautions as you feel comfortable doing to protect yourself and the people around you. Even if this virus is no longer deadly for most people, it's still a huge burden personally, professionally, and socially.
Jason Shen | Cultivating Resilience Newsletter
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