The CDC has updated its COVID masking and quarantine guidelines as children return to school and more adults return to work at the end of summer.
Unfortunately, the new, less restrictive guidelines are premature.
As most people know, the current COVID variant is extremely contagious. Many argue that since a majority of the public has already been exposed to COVID either by vaccination or infection, we can relax into less vigilance.
However, it has been proven that re-infection with the disease is common. Importantly, many people who cannot receive vaccinations (such as babies and people who are immunocompromised) remain in danger. Finally, other people, like myself, are already chronically ill and cannot take our brutal lives being worsened in any way by an unnecessary infection.
Now, people will argue that death rates are lower now, and getting COVID is more like getting the flu, so it’s not a big deal.
What those people are not talking about, though, is long COVID.
One thing is being sick for a week or two with a “flu-like” illness that then goes away.
Becoming chronically sick with an illness that steals away your life is a completely different animal.
This is what’s happening to the millions of people getting long COVID, many of whom end up developing myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). ME/CFS is a complex multi-system illness that destroys lives (essentially killing the person yet leaving them alive). It leaves patients with unimaginable fatigue, post-exertional malaise (meaning that minor exertion makes them feel worse), cognitive deficits, cardiovascular dysfunction, gastrointestinal malfunctions, unrefreshing sleep, pain, and much more.
As a person who has lived with ME/CFS for 13 years, I urge everyone to avoid getting it at all costs. I also want to protect people like myself from getting sick with COVID and having our illnesses worsen to even graver severities.
No one wants to end up living their lives in their beds, unable to see people, work, go to school, or do the most basic life activities.
So, please, wear masks to prevent COVID transmission (there’s no reason to be embarrassed to do so, and every reason to care for yourself and others). Social distance. Have small indoor gatherings. And stay home if you’re exposed to someone who’s sick, or if you’re sick, for at least ten days. I know this puts a burden on families, but a short-term “bother” is much easier than a lifetime of hell.
No one knows what that special hell of chronic illness is like until they experience it, and most people don’t believe they’ll be the one to end up there until they do.
I don’t want you to end up here with me. Please do your part to protect us all.
Stephanie Marcovici is a patient advocate.
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