While I “pondered weak and weary” by the flickering light of … a Bic disposable I was using to light a postprandial cheroot – Relax: I was alone and outdoors – I asked myself when we’d know that the COVID pandemic was over. The answer came back “Nevermore!” An appropriate response in a Lowcountry that honors the poet Poe.
And that, of course, is true. Like the seasonal flu, COVID is nothing more or less than a virus. It’s not going to be wiped out, in large part because it’s constantly changing. Newer vaccines will emerge, sometimes actually preventing infection and almost always ameliorating COVID’s symptoms.
But there’ll be no raising Old Glory atop Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima or Churchillian display of the “V for Victory” salute. The best we can hope for is that, like an Atlantic hurricane being downgraded to a tropical storm, COVID will be labelled first an “epidemic” and finally just a seasonal annoyance.
And that’s all good. No one asks for your “vaccine passport” anymore and even most doctors’ office – including my own – no longer require either patients or practitioners to wear masks.
Folks doing their grocery shopping with N95s plus plastic shields or wrapping their heads in bandanas or T-shirts or whatever else they could cobble together to fend of the “bug” seem like distant, quaint memories. And the once omnipresent hand sanitizing stations lie idle.
Of course, that’s not stopping the conversation about COVID. Not by a long shot.
Recently, your faithful disciple of Asclepius attended a cocktail party – a soiree, if you will. There, he was chatting about world affairs with a former State Department envoy when a woman of a certain age broke into our confab demanding to know where she could find free COVID tests.
Within our small gathering, the answers were varied. One man offered, “You can get ’em at your pharmacy.” Another demurred, “But those aren’t free. You have to buy them.” A third gentleman suggested, “You can go to a government web site and order them. I don’t know how many you can get at one time. Those are definitely free to you, but, somewhere, somebody’s paying for them!”
“The American taxpayer!” added a second woman grumpily, as if none of the rest of us shared her taxpaying burden.
A kibitzer plunked his Martini down at our table confrontationally: “What the hell do you want COVID tests for now? If you get sick, you’re positive. If you don’t, you’re negative. Or do you just get a kick out of testing yourself?”
I could sense that the COVID conversation might be taking a nasty turn, so I begged to be excused and busied myself with the hors d’oeuvres selection.
I’ve always believed that it’s counterproductive to overreact to any health threat, no matter how ominous or how many protections against it are recommended.
Now, if I could just figure out what to do with that gallon jug of aloe vera and bottle of grain alcohol I stashed two years ago when I thought that all the hand sanitizers would run out, and I’d have to cobble together my own. I’ll never have enough sunburns to use up all that aloe vera. Of course, if a COVID upsurge ever traps me in my humble home again, that fifth of alcohol could come in handy!
By Dr. Duke