That Time I Got Covid Because Someone Wasn’t Wearing Their Mask — But I Was Wearing Mine

They said, You’re vaxxed? Boosted? You won’t get Covid. Probably.

They said, Stop worrying so much. You can’t just stop living your life.

They said, C’mon. You’re wearing a mask the chances you’re gonna get covid are small.

But the thing is. 

I did get Covid. 

Most likely on the flight home from my grandmother’s funeral. I was the only one in my little area of plane wearing a mask, and it was a five hour flight…then an hour flight. Lots of time to get Covid.

I wondered if going to a grandmother’s funeral counted as a reasonable excuse to travel. Had I given up, breaking my no travel rule? I guess, if I had to get Covid anywhere, it was appropriate I got it doing something for her, in her memory. She had scoffed at the Covid prevention policies last time we spoke. It was another thing to add to the list of things we couldn’t talk about.

I wore one of those silicone braces, for a tighter seal, against my black k-95 mask so I looked extra silly. Even at the funeral, where I was the only one wearing a mask, I got double takes. A family member said they would tell me I looked well, if only they could see my face.

But I got Covid anyway, despite the mask and the four total shots I’ve had and traveling when my bivalent booster should have been at its strongest. 

Suddenly, everybody telling me I wouldn’t get Covid (probably) changed their position to, You won’t get Long Covid. Probably.

I’ve been very frank about my ill health as of late. Gut problems, probably from all the trauma and the stress of, you know. Being in a pandemic for nearly three years.

It could have also been caused by relentless dieting. Or that time my roommate poisoned me. 

That’s unkind. She didn’t do it on purpose. Probably. But how else can I contextualize a roommate who failed to wash their hands after going to the bathroom, after scooping cat litter, or before preparing food? That she then fed to me? Obviously, I didn’t find out about the hygiene (or lack thereof) until much, much later. And then I moved out. But my gut hasn’t been the same since.

I am a worrier, though. That’s the kind way to put it. Some might even say, hypochondriac. It’s hard to take me seriously because I’m the kind of person who texts my dad to see if he thinks pre-cooked, vacuum sealed meat that’s still within the expiration date is good because it’s been “in the fridge too long.” Should I have put it in the freezer? The package didn’t say to put it in the freezer. What if I should have? Was that something I should have known to do?

I am exhausting to be around. I exhaust myself with my brain worms that never, ever shut up.

My worries about Covid was just me being me. Worry wort. Anal. OCD. 

They said, You don’t have comorbidities you’ll be fine.

That we know of. 

I haven’t been to the doctor in a while because they keep telling me my ailments are caused by fatness, but I can’t seem to lose weight, so I won’t go until I do lose weight and they’ll be forced to listen to me for once (real logical, I know). The only thing I know about my health is sometimes I can’t stop pooing, and that I’m tired all the time, but every time I try to exercise, I can’t stop pooing.

I may have taken advantage of my weight when it got me earlier access to the vaccine when it was first released, and everybody was like, maybe this can be over soon. What can I say? I’m only human.

I’m 220 lbs in a 5’3 body. Do you know how many times ailments are missed in fat people because the doctors think fat is always to blame? Apparently, my fat makes me ill but the same body in the Covid Pandemic is perfectly fine and you won’t get Covid (probably) because you’re healthy and young. It’s almost like, it’s not actually about the medicine.

They kept saying, during the Covid Pandemic, we really need to take care of this obesity epidemic! 

If I sneeze on you, are you going to catch my fat?

My grandmother died. I didn’t want to go to the funeral.

It wasn’t just because she pretended things about myself she didn’t like didn’t exist. It wasn’t just because I had to listen Rush Limbaugh every time I went to her house because She Was That Kind Of Person. 

But what if — what if she had changed. What if — the family who I felt never “saw” me for the person I am— who only saw the parts of me that were — had changed — just like I had? Should I not give them a chance instead of remembering them for their worst selves? 

(Spoiler Alert — they haven’t changed. According to the preacher at the service, I’m going to hell and facing all of God’s wrath because I had the audacity to reject his love. Yay I’m so glad I crossed the country during a pandemic for my grandmother’s funeral to hear that old chestnut.)

My mask protected me in this way too: when everybody sang hymns that had been bird-vomited into my mouth since infancy, I did not even have to pretend to sing. 

Because they could not see my face. 

I texted a friend: If I get Covid on this trip, I’m going to be so pissed.

I will never stop wearing my mask. I wear it to the grocery store. I wear it for food pickup when the OCD is too much to cook. I wear it during roller derby practice (when I am feeling well enough to go), and that was a two hour cardiovascular activity in the height of summer. I wear it all the time, even when most people around me don’t.

Back in the spring, I decided to risk a work trip because there was a mask mandate. A week before my flight was scheduled to take off, the travel mask mandates were lifted. I was devastated. I was afraid. I was told not to worry. I went anyway because sometimes I can’t tell if I’m worrying about something valid or something a brain worm thinks is a threat.

I was afraid of Long Covid, because I cannot risk being more tired than I already am on any given day. I nap through lunch more frequently than I care to admit to make it through my shift. 

I don’t know what not being tired feels like. 

By some miracle, I didn’t get Covid on that trip, even though a lot of other people did. 

I know I didn’t get Covid because I took a PCR test a few days after I got home, and it was negative.

Did you know not an insignificant amount of cases for Covid are asymptomatic, but you can still spread the disease, and it can still cause complications later on in the form of Long Covid? How is that not terrifying to people? 

People told me, you were fine then, you’ll be fine now.

There’s another work trip coming up in winter. People are surprised I’m not going.

That everything would be fine wasn’t the message I got from that first trip. I buttoned down even tighter with a new no travel rule. I couldn’t do anything else because I was already avoiding spreader events, crowds (indoor and outdoor), indoor dining, and so on. What more can a person do, huh?

Break their no travel rule, go to their grandma’s funeral, and get Covid apparently.

Alright. Okay. I gotta come clean. A few days before the funeral, I did go see Moulin Rouge because my dad took me to see it, and I really wanted to see it with my dad. Seeing shows together is our thing. But I wore a mask when I did, and my dad wore one too because he knew how important it was to me and because he wears his in a crowd. And we both didn’t get Covid that time. We took at home rapids the morning we left for the funeral, so we knew we were fine.

I’m learning more about disability justice. I’m reading more about how post viral issues aren’t new with Covid — we’ve always had them, and we’ve always shrugged our shoulders at them as a society. 

Why don’t we care more for our sick? 

I am pre-occupied with the idea of being perfect. It’s another brain worm. For me (but not for anybody else), anything less than 100% on anything graded, analyzed, or reviewed is Not Good Enough and may as well be an F as in fuck you, you lazy, stupid piece of shit. 

My brain worms whisper: Getting Covid is a big, fat F. Moral failure. Physical failure. Ethical failure. Couldn’t even get an A+ in surviving a Pandemic. What a fucking idiot. 

Over a million people have died from Covid, and they’re still dying. 

They said, the Pandemic is over, but I think I missed the memo. Pfizer is already talking about how much they’ll charge for the vaccine when the gov’t stops purchasing it. 

Can you imagine profiting off of illness? Off of sickness? Doesn’t it make you ill we live in a society where that’s not only allowed but encouraged?

I got what I needed from the funeral: there’s no need to regret what could have been because some people aren’t gonna change. 

I would have preferred not to have gotten Covid getting that closure but like the song says….you don’t always get what you want.

I’m actually the first person in my family to get a Covid diagnosis, even though I’m the most careful. One of my child parts wailed at the unfairness of it all.

I decided to get tested because I had been traveling, and it was the responsible thing to do, although I almost didn’t go because I was so tired that day. I was fully expecting a negative result. I had already taken two at home rapids and they were negative (check those expiration dates, folks! mine were two months expired, which I found after trying to figure out why my PCR was positive but my rapids negative).

I told myself I should be responsible and test with a PCR which is more accurate than a rapid. 

When I saw that positive result, lots of thoughts went through me, none of them nice, charitable, or even neutral. Why couldn’t I be someone who gets their diagnosis and be like, welp that finally happened. 

Because someone who didn’t wear their mask gave me Covid, even though I was doing everything humanly possible not to get it and not to spread it.

How is that fair?

Then I remembered the short little trips I made (while unknowingly sick with Covid) when I got home: quick runs to the grocery store, the bakery, the liquor store, the coffee shop. I calculated how long each trip had taken. Within fifteen minutes. I was wearing my mask the entire time. As usual, I was the only one masked. 

Hey. Wait a minute.

For the first time in this entire pandemic, I felt relieved that everybody had stopped giving a shit, because that meant I didn’t have to give a shit either. I was finally released from my burden, from my fear I had given it to somebody.

Well, for a few minutes at least.

I’m only human. Sometimes I’m a hypocrite. I’m not proud thinking that, in that moment. 

The only symptom I had was fatigue. 

But I am always tired. I am always exhausted. I am always fatigued. It was only more because of the trip, which was one of the hardest trips ever, and put me through the emotional wringer. I was sleeping in the day after I made those errands, but that’s not unusual, not for me. The need to do so happens so frequently I failed to recognize it as a symptom.

How many other people didn’t realize they had Covid as they spread it? 

The person who gave it to me, maskless, on the plane probably didn’t realize they were sick. 

And if they did and traveled anyway? Man, I really hope people aren’t doing that but because everyone has moved on, and Covid isn’t a legitimate excuse to get plane tickets refunded…it’s not like they make it easy or convenient to stay safe, right?

Guilt for my errands still whispers in my heart. Anger that I didn’t know I had it returns in increasingly ebbing waves. 

Frustration that my mild case will only reaffirm cavalier attitudes towards Covid is ever present.

Sonja had it and they were fine. Covid’s not a big deal if you’re vaxxed, boosted, and healthy.

What about everybody else? Not having a bad case of Covid felt like a slap in their face. Disrespectful to the dead. Not being a lesson to be learned felt like a moral failing on my part. 

These are the brain worms talking. 

I have to remind myself that Covid isn’t a metaphor for my life, and that it’s a thing that happened to me. That’s it. The chances I’ve had it before and didn’t realize are probably higher than I think they are. 

You can’t control disease. You can’t control how you’ll react to a virus. Or if you’ll get a post viral syndrome afterwards. 

My friend reminded me of this when I told them I never should have gone to the funeral. Reminded me that we look for ways to imagine we have control. My brain worms try to tell a story, casting me in different roles so it makes sense, so it’s fair.

My non expired rapid tests are showing negative, but I’m afraid there’s a ticking time bomb in my body called Long Covid. I am afraid I will not be able to work if I have Long Covid. 

The prevailing rhetoric around masks is that it’s a matter of perspective. People should do what feels right and what they’re comfortable with.

But this concept falls apart when it comes to public health, and it always has. People have accepted this for many other aspects of their lives — except when it comes to Covid, which is just wild to me.

Smoking areas have been significantly legislated to minimize exposure to second hand smoke because it’s now well known that second hand smoke can inflict health issues on non smoking bystanders. Why should they suffer because of someone else’s decisions?

Similarly, I think most people are expecting that food they’re served was made safely. Meat was safely dethawed, hands were washed prior to cooking and serving it. Is it a matter of perspective when you’re shitting your guts out because somebody accidentally poisoned you because washing their hands is about their personal choice? See, that story with my roommate had a point.

Even before Covid, people complained about people who didn’t cover their mouths right when coughing or sneezing because they didn’t want to get sick. Remember use the elbow posters? A shocking concept, I know.

Yet when it comes to Covid, this concept goes out the window.

The decision to wear a mask does not just affect you.

It affects you and everyone around you.

“Just a cold” can mean a lot of different things to different people. What might be just a cold for you can kill or disable the person next to you. 

There seems to be this preconception from people who don’t mask that the people who are still masking are perfectly content with the way things are.

I can assure you, we are not. I am just as tired of Covid and the endless precautions as the person who has abandoned wearing their mask. I am just as tired as hearing about the new variants as the person who has decided the pandemic is over, and it won’t be a big deal, and can we please talk about something else for a change. But — I’m also tired of how people have stopped caring. How they have given up.

I am ready to get back to living my life, but I cannot, because people are pretending this is over when it’s not, which is causing more variants, and dragging this out for who knows how many years. When the government has decided that the economy has taken enough of a toll so let’s just say it’s over so everybody can get back to work to line the pockets of millionaires and billionaires.

We only have ourselves. We only have our family. We only have our neighbor. We only have that random stranger beside us on the plane. Yes, I’m talking to YOU anonymous, maskless person who gave me Covid — I had your back, why didn’t you have mine?

For every person who says they would rather die (from Covid) than stop living their lives — you are actively keeping people from living their lives. 

There are people who have illnesses and comorbidities whose lives would be devastated if they caught Covid. There are people who don’t want to risk their health or the health of their loved ones. You are saying that you would rather live your life unencumbered by a simple cloth, than make an accommodation so they can leave their house and join you? Really? Isn’t that lonely — for everybody?

I’ve been accused of invalidating people’s feelings when I point this out. But I do respect their feelings. I know they’re tired, and I’m tired too. Wearing a mask is uncomfortable and frustrating, but we do uncomfortable and frustrating things every day — or is my forty hour a week grind for funsies instead of for surviving?

Feelings are different from actions. Feelings are valid, but judging whether an action is valid or not is reductive. An action is tangible. Concrete. An action can help, it can be neutral, or it can harm.

This is just to say, it’s valid to feel anger when someone ate the plums in the icebox you were saving for breakfast. Choosing how to action on those feelings is way more complicated than “valid.” 

Choosing not to wear a mask is an action that actively causes harm, even though your feelings about the pandemic are valid, your frustration is valid. Not wearing a mask says you are perfectly okay with giving Covid to other people — people who could die from it, or be disabled from it, or, luckily, be fine from it. 

Thanks for that, Person on the Plane Who Wasn’t Wearing Their Mask Who Gave Me Covid Without Having Any Idea How I’d React To It. I’m really glad I didn’t like, die or have to go to the hospital, or something like that. Was everyone else you came in contact with as lucky as me? Guess we’ll never know.

Too soon to know about the Long Covid, though. That’s the bitch of it all, am I right?

You may say, I won’t go out when I’m sick.

But what if you don’t even know you are sick? What then?

You may say, well people who are at risk shouldn’t go out. What happened to the concept of living? Are only the healthiest of the healthy supposed to go outside, go to the movies, go to the sports game? I will be deeply grieved if people truly think that.

Do you really think health is a simple equation where if you’re healthy you’ll be fine and if you’re not too bad? Diseases can’t be predicted like that, and Covid, especially, is unpredictable. 

I am grateful that my case of Covid was literally a best case scenario, especially considering my ill health, at least for now. I believe being vaccinated to the max plus consistently wearing my mask protected me significantly, even though I still became infected.

Wearing a mask would do so much for society, outside the bounds of Covid 19. People who have health issues where any kind of illness puts them at risk and keeps them housebound would be able to participate in their community more. Fewer people would become sick and suffer complications from those illnesses.

Even if you are the only person in the room wearing a mask, and you don’t want to be the weird one, the one people are laughing at behind their hands, don’t succumb to the peer pressure. Wear the mask. Even if it doesn’t protect you 100%, it might reduce the severity of your illness. And it communicates something to those watching. 

It says that you still give a shit, and that means something. 

The only people we have is us, and we have to take care of us because we are the only ones who can step up to the plate and dance like our lives depend on it — because our lives do depend on it.

To the inevitable person who is going to crossly mention that even if the person who gave me Covid had been wearing a mask there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t have been infected anyway — 

Then at least we were all doing the best we could. We can’t choose to get Covid, but we can still choose how we act in the face of Covid. We can choose to wear the mask, knowing we have done everything humanly possible to keep ourselves and the people around us safe.

In my case, they had stopped trying, they had given up. I and who knows how many others paid the price…just like the person who gave it to me originally paid the price because another (probably) unmasked somebody gave it to them…and on, and on, and on.

And that’s the difference.

Break the cycle. Wear a mask.

Sayre and Delphi, my two sphynx cats, lounging on the bed. Sayre is a peach covered spynx while Delphi is a more lavender hued sphyx with curled ears. One of Delphi’s legs is extended off the bed.

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