It’s my turn to have a covid infection. I developed a cough on the eve of an appointment to get the bivalent vaccine. Just a little cough. So I took a home test and was surprised when it showed a faint positive line. No bivalent vaccine for me.
So, the immobility. I retreated to the guest bedroom Wednesday, where I’ve been since, except for venturing briefly (in a mask) to other rooms for necessities. No TV. If I stay here for five days, the minimum period of self-isolation that the CDC recommends to anyone who tests positive or has covid symptoms, it will represent an immobility utterly new to me. Never have I been confined to one room for days at a time.
The utter absence of bedside companionship makes it strange. No one to come in with chicken broth or sit in the corner to pass the time. My going out to lie on the sofa in the living room is out of the question, too. If I had an ordinary flu or cold, such would be my choice for seeing it through.
The isolation covid requires is elaborate and severe. It’s no wonder that household infection rates are so high (50% or more). Most families lack the room that the authorities say a self-isolating covid patient requires. Not every household has a bed and bathroom to devote to self-isolation. Also, the goal of keeping the covid patient isolated from others at meals is attainable only if eating schedules can be staggered or someone else can wait on the covid patient in his or her room. This is impossible if a household is cramped or its members have other obligations.
No wonder many Americans dismiss or ignore the official guidelines. For thousands, these guidelines are impracticable, outlandishly so. Space considerations aside, many workers can ill afford to stay home for so many days; those without sick leave forfeit their pay.
Global forces have found their way into my guest room via my lungs. Large events, such as covid, the January 6th insurrection, and the war in Ukraine, define our times historically. These vast, complex dramas, which are too large for any ordinary person to influence or control, have powerfully and lastingly transformed the tenor of our milieu. Yet, even as covid sweeps over society and every one of us individually, its effects on us are isolating. Just as covid’s dangers have jeopardized the institutions and customs that define society, so masking divorces us from one another. Being sick with covid not only removes us from society; it disrupts our households and families. Official policies regarding covid estrange people from one another and challenge individuals to live according to scientific standards at the expense of their own time-honored ways.
The nation’s response to covid is not necessarily objectionable. It can be defended on humanitarian grounds. At the same time, I get why segments of the population view the fight against covid as quixotic and ineffectual. Even as I adhere to prevailing guidance (which I need my doctor to interpret for me), I’m aware of its byzantine, hieratic qualities, which make compliance a kind of luxury.