Monday, September 26, 2022

VIRAL DIARY: Interrupted at the finish line, but found luck

HADDONFIELD, NJ (AP) – Here it is, the finish line beckoning me to cross it.

I ran at top speed, trying to get over it.

I have been at my best since March 2020, when the pandemic reached the United States. For twenty months not going to a restaurant, not getting on a plane, and not seeing your 88-year-old father-in-law on the other side of the country. Twenty months of observing people wearing masks hanging from one ear (or no masks at all), or getting together for birthdays, baby showers and weddings. I lost colleagues due to COVID-19. At the beginning of this year, I lost my beloved aunt.

The last Thanksgiving was the four of us at home. It’s the same for Christmas. My husband and I juggled our work full-time trying to teach our two sons remotely, I edited stories, cursing to myself while I trained my 10-year-old on long division.

When I became eligible for the vaccine, I desperately looked for an appointment and an hour later drove to Atlantic City for an injection. Now there is hope.

I began to allow myself small indulgences, telling myself that I deserved them. In the summer, we gathered with the whole family (they cured everyone, except for the children). We went to Rhode Island (limited to outdoor activities). I went to the wedding (ceremony only, not reception).

Then my husband and I made the biggest jump of all. We booked plane tickets to California to spend Christmas with his dad. We knew that a vaccine for children was just around the corner, and we had already registered our sons at the clinic set up at their school. My husband and I signed up for boosters. I saw the finish line.

The day before the CDC gave its final approval From the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children, I woke up with a sore throat. My 10 year old child had a stuffy nose. I thought it would pass, like many of our other false positives.

But this is not the case. Later that night, my 10-year-old child tested positive for COVID, had a high fever, vomited several times, and shivering alternated with sweating. I was lying next to him, I had all the same symptoms.

A few days later, my 8-year-old also tested positive for COVID (thankfully, he had no symptoms). My husband, having spared him, took on the role of the sole guardian. We canceled the vaccination of children; I canceled mine for a booster. The finish line has receded.

The judgment that I left for the exposed and unvaccinated fell upon me. After all, you can’t tell if a person was having fun during the pandemic or was isolated in their home just by looking at them. All you know is that they have COVID and there is a good chance that they screwed up somehow.

And maybe I screwed up. Maybe I’ve allowed myself too many indulgences.

Or maybe even if I hadn’t gone anywhere in the last 20 months, I would still have contracted COVID. Or went everywhere and dodged COVID. Because that’s the essence of this damn pandemic: sometimes it all comes down to luck.

In my darker mood – and there are many of them – I look at all the people who went away on vacation and bragged that they had a beach, or got together for birthdays and seemed genuinely happy. I think to myself: if I was going to get COVID anyway, maybe I should at least try to enjoy my life.

Then I realize that things could have been much worse. I could go to the hospital or die. My children could get much worse. Any of us could pass COVID to my elderly mother or father-in-law – or anyone else, for that matter – if we weren’t careful.

My family and I have now largely recovered. We have postponed vaccinations for boys. My husband got his booster and I’m going to get mine. And I try to be less judgmental because you will never know what people’s lives are like if you are not in it yourself.

I also came to the conclusion: maybe I was lucky after all.


Virus diary, episodic article showing the coronavirus pandemic through the eyes of Associated Press journalists from around the world. Pia Sarkar is a news editor in the AP Business Newsroom. Follow her on Twitter at

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