It’s been 19 months since the first case of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, was identified in Wuhan, China, and while I would love to tell you a lot has changed, I can’t. I mean, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the first-ever COVID-19 vaccine. On Monday, August 23, Pfizer’s two-dose regimen was accepted as a safe and valid form of treatment. The Delta variant is raging — which is new — and millions of Americans have been innoculated, a promising start. But ICUs are (still) filling up. People are (still) dying, with millions having already passed, and parents are (still) fighting for things like proper safety precautions. We are trying to keep our kids educated and alive. To send them to school. But misinformation is working against us. Conspiracy theories abound. Anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are shouting from the rooftops, fighting with teachers, restaurant workers, and business owners alike, and it’s not okay. None of it. We are a year and a half into this pandemic and I’m angry. I’m exhausted. I’m not doing well.
Of course, I am not alone. Pandemic stress — and fatigue — is real. Many are struggling to hold their proverbial shit together after wave one and two. We worked from home and took conference calls in our bathrooms in an effort to dampen the noise emanating from our living rooms and playrooms. From our (overflowing) homes. Children were educated remotely. My daughter (along with millions of others) logged into her first day of school. She virtually attended second grade. First responders, healthcare workers, teachers, educators, and other essential, frontline employees risked their lives every day to keep our country moving forward — and to keep us alive. They went to work without proper ventilation or, in some cases, PPEs. We endured wave after wave of shutdowns and lockdowns, particularly where I live in the city of New York. And we did so because it was the right thing to do. It was necessary, for the safety of our loved ones and peers. And yet here we are: still fighting this virus and our neighbors.
Many of us argue daily with our friends, family members, and peers — and it’s infuriating. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of fighting not only for my life but for the lives of my unvaccinated children. You know, the kids who are too young to be protected from COVID-19.
There are other reasons why I am not okay, too. I’ve seen members of my community sickened by the virus. Many pulled through. Others did not. I’ve seen friends denied medical care because the system is overworked and overwhelmed. Someone I love very much is very ill, and there is no hope on the horizon. There is no end to her suffering in sight.
Trips to the grocery store exhaust my patience. I am angry when I see unmasked people pursuing the aisles. I wonder whether I will come home with COVID, carrying it along with my chicken, eggs, and milk. The news infuriates me, not the facts — those are necessary — but the state of our nation. The fact that, even with science and a vaccine, we are here, with COVID numbers climbing and people continually dying. And social media reminds me why. This is a politicized matter, not a humanitarian one — as it should be.
The COVID crisis has caused me to lose faith in family.
Now I know some would say I should step back and breathe. My therapist reminds me constantly that I cannot control others but I can control my behaviors. I can control myself. And she is right. The only thing I can oversee is my own mind and mood. But I’m tired of attending (virtual) funerals. I’m tired of saying (virtual) goodbyes, and I’m tired of worrying and crying all the fucking time.
Two weeks ago my son and, subsequently, three-quarters of my family contracted coronavirus — not COVID-19, a different strain — and the incident nearly put my two-year-old in the hospital. With a 105-degree fever and a terrifying cough, I worried he would die alone in his crib, not because I don’t have access to healthcare, but because our system is overrun. I worried there would be no hospital beds, if he needed one, and no person or parent should experience this type of fear.
Ironically, things could be better. The state of our nation should be better, i.e. if we all wore masks to protect ourselves and others we could live a relatively normal life. The world would keep turning. Business could (more or less) resume. Getting vaccinated would also help. The “war on COVID” could be over this year.
But instead of believing science — and epidemiologists, virologists, immunologists, and other well-versed and well-educated officials — millions of Americans are listening to Timmy, who failed fifth grade science class. That, or they are turning to Alex Jones and YouTube — which, for those wondering, are not unbiased or even valid sources of news.
So please, check on your family members. Call your friends, and ask them how they are doing. How they are feeling. How they are coping. Because there’s a good chance that, like me, they are not well. Millions of Americans are tired, burnt out, frustrated, anxious, scared, and lonely. We are not okay.