I got COVID-19 this month. I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan home to a university whose COVID response has left much to be desired. This has lead to an influx of infection in the community that is deeply intertwined with the university. I got COVID from a friend who got it from a student, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I tested positive and that I gave it to my mom. I was forced to confront the reality of the pandemic. Not to say that this reality didn’t already permeate all aspects of my life, but sitting alone in a room for 2 weeks knowing that you are infected gives a new dimension to the situation.
I am a believer in science. I am the daughter of a doctor. I take this pandemic seriously. I got a stab up the nose and a positive result. But mostly, I got lucky. I experienced only mild symptoms for 2-3 days. I felt exactly how I was told I would feel, halfway between a cold and the flu. The thing that surprised me was the shame and guilt I felt on top of that. No one has sympathy for young people with COVID. I suppose my symptoms were hardly severe enough to deserve sympathy but I was surprised by the stigma around the virus. The few people I spent my time with were angry. I understand the risk-reward equation that is attached to any and all lifestyle choices made during a pandemic, however, some people close to me seem shocked that they could have been exposed. I did not pass the virus to anyone besides my mom, but people who were potentially exposed to me reacted with anger and shock that their bubbles could be broken. This was where the shame I felt came from. The guilt came from seeing the news report rising COVID numbers and knowing that I was included in that. The guilt came from the lives of my immediate family members who were forced into quarantine, missing work, and Halloween. The guilt came from driving my mom to the hospital in the middle of the night to make sure that she didn’t have a blood clot as a result of COVID.
I am grateful to say that I and my family are now safe and healthy. However, I am also filled with sadness for others who cannot say the same. I recognize that my experience was singular and I urge everyone to take the time to understand the changes they are taking every day. You get to decide what you are willing to risk.