Bryce Martin: Being a COVID breakthrough
Despite endless hand washing, a revolving collection of masks, keeping a mandatory 6-foot distance and getting my vaccination as soon as I was eligible, I still ended up contracting COVID-19. I’m what scientists call a breakthrough case, and I have many questions.
I emerged from isolation over the weekend, 10 days after I first experienced COVID-19 symptoms. Unfortunately, I exited the seclusion with renewed uncertainty and anxiety over how this virus continues its reckless grasp on the world.
Every official I heard from or article I read said the same thing: “Breakthrough cases are rare. No vaccine is guaranteed 100% effective.”
Sure, that may be true, but it’s discouraging when someone who takes all the precautions and does everything they’re supposed to still gets COVID-19. How can that be? How is that fair?
I lost more than 150 pounds since August 2020, and I credit my newly active and healthy lifestyle for keeping me safe. The vaccine was an added bit of security; I never thought of it as a 100% guarantee that I wouldn’t get sick, though I’m sure I relied on it more than I should have. It’s been clearly documented that people with persistent health issues and those who are heavyset are more prone to serious illness and even death after getting infected with COVID-19. Had I not made the decision to get fit and also to get vaccinated, it’s very possible I would have died or at least been ravaged by sickness.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
On the last day of my isolation, I ran a 5-kilometer on my treadmill in about 28 minutes. I took that as a sign I was going to be OK.
I feel like now I serve as a cautionary tale. That despite doing what you’re asked to do, you can still get sick. To make the best out of this bad situation, I consider my luck. I continue to dwell on the fact that I didn’t get too sick instead of criticizing and lamenting all the previous abundance of caution. I also try not to place blame.
My husband and I both contracted COVID-19 because somebody we were in close contact with chose not to get vaccinated, unbeknownst to us, and was unknowingly infected.
While I can’t be upset that person contracted COVID-19 and spread it to us, I feel disappointed that they chose not to get vaccinated. That seems to be where the resurgence in cases is happening — among the unvaccinated. I’ll refer to the recent words of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey who said it’s “time to start blaming the unvaccinated.”
Still, I strive to keep optimistic.
What’s interesting is, despite being a journalist and reading exhaustively about COVID-19, I still felt unprepared when I tested positive. With most of the restrictions gone and people starting to return to normal life, I’ll admit COVID-19 almost seemed a thing of the past. Perhaps I let my guard down too quickly?
My husband was the first to test positive and experience symptoms — headache, chills, muscle soreness and a runny nose, followed by loss of taste and smell, a ubiquitous sign of COVID-19 infection. I hadn’t felt anything, but I chose to quarantine as he isolated, even though vaccinated people don’t have to if they don’t have symptoms. Public health officials confirmed that I didn’t need to quarantine at that point.
But if a person is most contagious in the two days before they feel symptoms, according to health officials, wouldn’t the better suggestion be to isolate in the off chance they can spread the virus? I chose to err on the side of caution and, therefore, prevented any close contacts from also getting sick, because, days later, I tested positive, too.
Through the whole process, I kind of felt as if my husband and I were an afterthought; it felt as if there was no longer a sense of urgency when dealing with COVID-19. It almost felt unimportant. People seemed to act indifferently to hearing, “I have COVID.” It would appear COVID-19 exhaustion is real.
I don’t know what it was supposed to feel like, but it surely didn’t feel as it had been hyped for the last 16 months. Maybe that’s a good thing? Or is maybe that the problem?
What I have learned from this weekslong process is that we’re absolutely right to cheer for the ones who have been on the frontlines of COVID-19. I’ve also learned that I will continue to be an advocate for vaccination, even knowing they’re not always 100% effective. Unpopular opinion: It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Bryce Martin is assistant editor and digital engagement editor for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
To reach Bryce Martin, call 970-871-4206 or email bmartin@SteamboatPilot.com.
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