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Embracing the New Normal

By David Haldane

Feb. 3, 2022

 

 

It started as a mild itch in the throat. It developed into a deep-throated cough. And then I tested positive for COVID-19.

Three weeks ago, I wrote a column arguing that the new Omicron variant marks the beginning of the pandemic’s end. I concluded it this way: “For the record, let me say that I am fully vaccinated and certainly don’t wish to get sick. If I must, however, bring on the Omicron sniffles. That would be far better, I suspect, than any alternative I can think of.”

All I can say now is that God must be reading my column.

So far, my sickness has felt no worse than a bout of seasonal flu; very similar to what I’ve experienced frequently before. And so, I’m relaxing at home, taking cough medicine, drinking lots of herbal tea and, oh yes, wearing a KN95 mask while practicing extreme social distancing. But here’s the thing; except for the mask, that’s pretty much what I do every year, anyway. Which is why I couldn’t help noticing a recent article headlined, “COVID is the new normal, doctors say.”

“COVID numbers are still very high,” Nellie Bowles writes in the weekly newsletter, Common Sense with Bari Weiss, “but the risk of serious illness remains vanishingly low for the vaccinated. The big question is what to do with that information.”

Bowles quotes several doctors at the University of California San Francisco who are among the signatories of a widely circulated petition calling for the state to rescind its mandatory masking requirements, especially for school children.

“We don’t do massive testing for the flu and try to pick up every… asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic case and send that person home,” Dr. Jeanne Noble told The San Francisco Standard. Noble is an associate professor of emergency medicine and director of COVID response for the university’s Parnassus Emergency Department. “The argument for chasing down asymptomatic cases and blocking transmission,” she said, “is really to prevent serious illness and death. We really don’t care about preventing runny noses and sore throats. COVID is a mild, non-threatening disease for the majority of people.”

To some extent, that sentiment seems to be catching on globally. The Philippines recently announced that, beginning next week, fully vaccinated foreign tourists can finally enter the country, provided they test negatively for COVID within 48 hours prior to arriving. Malacañang also said it will lift longstanding quarantine requirements for vaccinated incoming passengers because maintaining such restrictions “doesn’t make sense anymore,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Added Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat: “[W]e are confident that we will be able to keep pace with our Asean neighbors who have already made similar strides to reopen to foreign tourists.”

Down on the ground where most of us live, meanwhile, many are already taking COVID in stride. My wife, who works at a medical lab that monitors the disease, told me a fully vaxed colleague at another facility missed five days of work after testing positive last year. He didn’t require hospitalization, however, and experienced nothing worse than a cold. So, this year when he again tested positive, her colleague just kept on working despite the minor ache in his back. And, within five days, the positive turned back to a negative.

Apparently, that attitude isn’t unusual. A recent survey reported by the Los Angeles Times indicates that as many at 66% of Americans employed in service industries are showing up for work even with COVID symptoms.

“People shouldn’t worry about it so much,” my wife’s colleague advised.

So just how will this “new normal” look? Noubar Afeyan, co-founder and chairman of the giant vaccine-producer, Moderna, recently provided a glimpse in a Fox Business interview. COVID, he said, “may need an annual booster, potentially varying on a year-to-year basis… similar to what we do with the flu…” In fact, he said, the company is already developing a seasonal flu vaccine containing elements designed to fight COVID too. Eventually, Afeyan predicted, people will see their annual FLU/COVID boosters “as a part of how we’re living.”

Not everyone, of course, will be capable of embracing such change.

“I may never ride a subway again without a mask,” co-host Sara Haines said last week on ABC’s daytime talk show, The View. “I may never go indoors to big crowds and ever feel comfortable without a mask.”

As for me, well, I intend to do all those things again. Just as soon as I get over this annoying cough.

 

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David Haldane’s colorful memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” recounts growing up in countercultural California to eventually find a wife in the Philippines. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is an award-winning journalist, author and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.

 

2 Comments

  1. Bruce Lewis says:

    I enjoyed your column, as usual. Glad you’re going to be okay–and that you got triple vaxxed. Imagine how bad it might have been if you hadn’t gotten vaccinated.

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