The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Column: Why the pandemic never ended for me

Maya Oclassen

When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, the prospect of life returning to its former state seemed utterly impossible. Three and a half years later that sentiment remains unchanged for me

For immunocompromised individuals like me, the prospect of Covid-19 still poses the same threat, even with the vaccine.

I’m not blaming the rest of the world for abandoning pandemic-era protocol. I can understand the difficulty in finding a threat in something the government declared officially. Many are exhausted with social isolation. However, I can’t understand how society treats those of us who continue to take precautions for our safety and those around us.

I’ve never been one to take others’ opinions personally, but if yet another stranger approaches me, demanding to know why I’m wearing a mask, I might just reach my breaking point. Must my reasons for wearing a mask, whether to protect myself or the elderly residents at the part-time retirement home job, be your concern?

Since the first signs of Covid-19 emerged in late 2019, I’ve been on constant alert. Being mindful of my health and the risks posed by even mild to moderate illnesses is nothing new to me. With a medical file full of chronic lung issues and one too many near-comatose encounters with illness, adulthood has meant constantly advocating for my physical well-being.

Therefore, when the pandemic struck, I naturally assumed that the well-being of everyone in our country would be the top priority. 

Was I so naive to believe that the masses would don masks out of respect for themselves and their neighbors? Apparently so. 

I acknowledge that our current circumstances may seem significantly different from those of 2020 and 2021 and in many ways, they are. The Covid-19 vaccine offers crucial protection against the virus when individuals stay current with booster shots. Likewise, many doctors say the prescription drug Paxlovid can keep people out of the hospital — especially those of us who are high risk.

Still, the pandemic and its potentially life-threatening consequences are far from over, not just for me but also for the 7 million other immunocompromised adults in the United States.

It’s difficult to predict how Covid-19 will impact the body or the symptoms individuals will experience until the virus runs its course, according to the Centers for Disease Control. However, for the sake of my future, I cannot afford to take that risk. While the idea of ending up in the hospital is terrifying, the specter of long-term Covid-19 compels me to maintain my precautionary measures. 

Affecting anywhere from 7.7 to 23 million Americans, “long Covid” encompasses a broad spectrum of health problems such as chronic fatigue, persistent respiratory symptoms and challenges with cognitive focus. While the risk factors for developing long Covid-19 remain unclear, receiving a diagnosis is something I can’t contemplate if I wish to maintain a happy and fulfilling life.

As Covid-19’s presence fluctuates throughout the year, I cannot return to the pre-2020 way of life. I don’t seek sympathy and am perfectly willing to wear a mask indefinitely if it means avoiding hospitalization or the debilitating long Covid-19 symptoms. 

Nevertheless, I request that those fortunate enough to choose when the pandemic impacts them to consider doing the bare minimum.

If you feel unwell and can’t stay home, please take a Covid-19 test and wear a mask. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a cold or the flu. I don’t want to catch your illness. I’m not suggesting a return to the strict measures of the early days of 2020. Instead, I’m asking you to consider the broader impact of your actions on others.

If your doctor recommends it, stay current with your vaccines and take precautions when unwell. What may appear as a minor inconvenience to you could save someone’s life. 

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