After three years of masks, tests, vaccines and boosters, the pandemic just won’t away
We spent Christmas in New York, where it was very cold. Its eight million residents, plus probably another million tourists like us, appeared to be dashing between restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums, subways, buses and any place that promised shelter and warmth.
In Manhattan, there were small tents staffed by shivering city workers on practically every block, that offered free Covid testing. A few weeks before, the mayor and city health officials had exhorted everyone to wear masks, though the vast majority of the people we saw did not.
Stew is more diligent about masking than I am. The masks’ straps tend to tangle with my $1,500 dollar hearing aids and besides, after almost three years of living with the pandemic, I’m fed up with the masking, gelling, distancing and the rest of the Covid-protection playbook. If someone orders me to put a mask on, I’ll comply but not without a quick glower in return. Anymore, only three in ten Americans say they wear masks regularly, despite health officials’ pleas. Even government officials have retreated from mandating to just recommending masks.
As for vaccines and tests, there’s hardly anything, short of canine distemper, that Stew and I have not been vaccinated against or tested for. Two Pfizer vaccines in San Miguel; two Pfizer boosters in San Antonio; and a third Moderna booster when we went to New York. These in addition to flu and pneumonia shots in San Antonio and New York; and finally a two-shot shingles vaccine in San Miguel ($700 dollars not covered by Medicare). (If we omitted any shots or tests, please note it in the comments box at the end of this post.)
While in New York we also picked up eight packages of home tests for the new virus variants, courtesy of Medicare and when we got home discarded the batch of tests we had picked up a year ago and never used, except for testing our gardener once. He turned up positive.
For all our diligence, in May Covid caught up with us during a trip to Vienna where no one wore masks or wiped their hands with gel, except while aboard buses and streetcars. Small free-Covid testing storefronts downtown seemed to have been closed and abandoned weeks before. The Viennese apparently had decided the pandemic was pretty much over and gone back to biking and whistling along the Danube. The positive diagnosis after Vienna surprised us because neither one had shown symptoms except what felt like slight colds, and no fever. And even then, the symptoms went away after two or three days.
While in New York, Stew developed a raspy, persistent cough that went on for more than two weeks. I didn’t show any symptoms in New York but then picked up Stew’s cough plus a chest cold when we returned. Then a friend mentioned a neighbor that had contracted Covid and her symptoms were a nasty cough along with a fever. Uh-huh.
So two days ago we broke out the test kits we’d picked up in New York. The new tests, developed and sold by Abbott Labs, still require to stick a cotton swab up the nose, but then has several other steps and specific instructions that read almost like a mechanical comprehension test. You have to swab each nostril just so and for exactly 15 seconds, insert the swab at an angle into a slot with two holes into one of which you have put exactly six drops of a reagent. Then you uncover a piece of adhesive and fold the carboard test holder and wait for exactly 15 minutes and watch for one line (negative) or two lines (positive).
Did I put exactly six drops? Swabbed my nose in the prescribed way? Inevitably, I lost count with one of the steps and peeled off the wrong strip and had to do a test twice. The results looked negative but I am not one-hundred percent sure. There was a very faint pink line on the indicator strip, which I took as a negative result. Stew got the same iffy result. That, plus we never had a fever or body aches, are no longer coughing, and have been vaccinated, led us to conclude we didn’t have Covid. We think.
Declining number of Covid cases and fatalities could lead some to sigh in relief, but no. A new subvariant of virus, the XBB.1.5, accounts for 75 percent of the cases in the Northeast and is rapidly spreading across the U.S. to become the fastest-spreading coronavirus subvariant. The good news is that so far it doesn’t seem to be as menacing as the Omicron, but should a new, more deadly flavor of the Covid virus come up, we could be back to masking and lining up for a new vaccine.
Meanwhile, some people are experiencing long-term Covid symptoms, such as our gardener Félix who picked up the virus during a working sabbatical in Texas last year. His sense of smell has been returning but only slowly. Félix’s run-in with Covid was particularly heart-breaking because as an indentured “illegal” worker in Texas, with the threat of deportation always hanging over his head, he had no access to any testing let alone medical care.
Scientists continue working on all fronts, including coming up with new names for variants that will help the laymen better understand what’s going on. Using Greek letters can get confusing: Nu may be confused for “New” and Xi is the name of the president of China, who probably wouldn’t appreciate having a virus named after him.
Dr. Ryan Gregory, a Canadian professor, has proposed a new nomenclature to help the public sort out the different viruses and variants. So the new variant XBB.1.5 would be renamed “Kraken” according to his system. Kraken is a mythical Nordic monster, though also the name of a Bitcoin trading platform. Using his system, new viruses and variants could be named Chiron, Argus, Basilisk, or Typhon.
As if the public wasn’t confused enough already.
32 thoughts on “Forever Covid?”
Re: vaccines…we too paid out of pocket to get Shringrix vaccination in 2020…because shingles is NO FUN apparently. Our cost was less than what you paid but still a few hundred US dollars per shot. I hear that starting this year, Medicare will cover Shringrix… thus free! Dang! But at least we haven’t gotten Shingles….
I had a brush with shingles here in Mexico after I got the Pfizer booster and the flu shot. Apparently that combination didn’t agree with me and it reawakened the chickenpox virus that I had when I was a kid in Cuba. Apparently viruses don’t go away but instead go to sleep somewhere in your body to possibly make an appearance later on. The shingles that I had was not a particularly big deal, an ear infection and chickenpox scabs but “all of this only on the righthand side of my face”. I was lucky because you can have shingles in your eyes and other places in you body and it’s really painful. My only souvenir from my encounter with shingles is bump on by chin, just like Kirk Douglas used to have. LOL
I’m glad you got a relatively mild case! Apparently it’s starting to affect younger people these days too. Our son-in-law got shingles in his 40’s…. And his doctor said sinc e they were seeing so many cases of people in their 40’s and 50’s getting it, they were thinking of lowering the recommended age to get the vaccine.
Shingles has been around forever and it is nasty. I was lucky to only have the Kirk Douglas cleft chin side effect. It’s kinda classy. We’ee see you soon.
What, you’re unvaxxed for tetanus? What about rabies?
Are you sure those test kits you picked up in NYC weren’t pregnancy tests?
I’ve never tested for Covid-19, I’m unboosted, never have had a flu shot, much less one for shingles, mask up only if forced (the last time was back in November, when a small museum in CDMX required it, forcing me to buy a mask at the corner newsstand), but I do compulsively wash my hands and keep my distance from others. And I avoid touching doorknobs and bannisters. And I’ve been cold- and flu-free for at least five years.
But then I was addicted to hand sanitizer, cringing at the obligatory hugs and kisses and not enjoying the idea of sharing desserts with others decades before The Late Unpleasantness.
I know you’re a tough frontier woman, but you should consider the shingles vaccine because shingles has been around forever and it’s really nasty. I had a routine tetanus shot for some reason long ago. But, and I don’t want to get personal, how are you going to find the Love of Your Life if you’re constantly avoiding people and just sitting around scrubbing your hands and not sharing desserts? I’d reconsider your health plan if I were you…lol
Hi Al and Stew,
Trust all is good.
Hope very much your gardener’s health improves.
FYI. If you have Part D of Medicare you should have waited until 01/01/2023. It now covers shingles vaccinations along with several others.
You should write a song using the music from Hamilton. Call it MASK UP.
Stay safe and healthy.
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What happened to our gardener was really sad because he had no options.
Strange, but a couple years ago I had the Shingrix shots, and I paid nothing out of pocket. (Don’t know if it was my Medicare or the supplemental insurance that covered it.)
As far as your COVID testing, the instructions for all of the tests that I have taken say that even if the pink line is very faint, you are positive.
I am still wearing N95 masks indoors in public places, and most definitely on airplanes and public transportation. So far, knock on wood and fingers crossed, I have avoided coming down with COVID.
As I mentioned to Barbara, neither the shingles nor the flu vaccines is available in Mexico. We thought of going Texas to get it, but by the time you figure travel expenses and having to go up there twice, the $700 we paid down here was the more economical option. You’re not the first one to point out that the faint pink line meant positive. I remember reading and re-reading the instructions and they said you had to have two lines to be positive. Maybe we should retest ourselves. Thanks for your comments.
If there was only one pink line, that would be the “control” line, meant to indicate the test is valid. Usually the control line is bold, not faint. A single line is negative. One bold line plus a second line – no matter how faint that second line is – would indicate Covid positive. (I’m a doc, and my aggrieved nose has lost count of how many times it’s been swabbed.)
Thank you, that is most helpful. After all our testing we weren’t sure what the results were.
I just had my tetanus shot…it was due. No other shots since I went to Egypt in 2006 and my MD in CA make me take a polio booster and the tetanus shot. Maybe you guys should lay off the junk and stop being so gullible.. I come from one MD husband, lived at the medical center, another famous MD fiance who I lived with. I can send you a list of serious foods you should incorporate if you want to stay healthy…and I’m 74 and have had cancer twice (rejected Western meds both times). Normally have a cold once every 10 years if I’m careless. No covid tests. Have a carbon filter mask for places where there is serious pollution (I lived in Cairo), and I wear it in the campo when I’m out with the dogs if the dust is up. Use the K95 and safety glasses when I clean out the chicken house or am out picking up cow pies for fertilizer in the campo.
Only a tiny bit of research in Pub Med can bring you to the reality that there has never been a vaccination for a respiratory virus (dog covid vaxx isn’t particularly successful) and you would know that Ivermectin is the only drug to win the Nobel in 10 years…a multipurpose human use drug that I do take if I’m going to be in situations (like trips to offices in Mexico City) where I feel I might need protection.
I could say a lot more, but I won’t bother, because you all could have found all of this out yourselves if you had curiosity and minor research skills. Oh boy.
and you would know that Ivermectin is the only drug to win the Nobel in 10 years…a multipurpose human use drug that I do take
Ivermectin is great. At treating parasites. At treating Covid? No. It does nothing for Covid. Nil. Nada, Zilch. Few drugs have been so thoroughly tested on their impact on a particular illness. At this point in time, folk who are still convincing themselves that Ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid probably banged their head hard on a chemtrail on their way out somewhere.
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Oy, more ivermectin bs
Oy, is about all I can say too.
All I can say, is I haven’t had the gene therapy shot; haven’t had covid, no one around me has had the shot or covid….covid never. Vit D, Zinc. Ivermectin when I go to Mexico City for appts.
You have had the shot; will have covid forever I guess…The smallest amount of research on nih.gov could tell you there has never been an effective shot for coronas. The smallest further research could tell you what the time frame is for testing new vaccines.
But, you are happy with covid forever and I am happy with covid never.
Just read even the abstracts.
Stew’s brother is a gun-carrying devotee of ivermectin, and hydroxychloroquine before that, and arguing about this with him is like arguing with my cat Fred, who’s outside at the moment chasing chemtrails.
Christine: You underestimate my curiosity, IQ and research skills. Ivermectin got a Nobel Prize as a drug to treat parasites NOT viruses, much less Covid. Likewise, hydroxychloroquine is a drug to treat malaria not Covid. And sorry, I’m not going to spend my time following every trail of diet quackery that pops up in the internet. Life is too short.
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I had no idea that ya’ll had had so many boosters and vaccinations. I have only had the two original vaccinations and no boosters as they were available once but by the time I found out, they had run out and I didn’t get any. I guess I have been lucky not to get covid although the grandkids had it. Mati had it twice! So, it appears that not being out in public might have its positive side! Sorry ya’ll have gone through so much. Still hoping to connect with ya’ll soon. Let me know when you’regoing to be near LaComer. I am just five minutes from there, more or less. Hugs Barbara San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
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You have led a very cloistered life since the pandemic began and that more than anything else probably have kept up Covid-free. I don’t understand what is the deal with booster and the flu vaccines in Mexico and why they are not available. We’ll connect soon and check out your new place!
When I saw the first headlines about the newest Omicron variant, I thought “Oh, the XBox virus!”
Did you get the high-dose flu vaccines for seniors? Some are 3x-4x stronger than the standard dose, one contains an “adjuvant” to boost the efficacy of a standard dose. I’m 71 this winter and have asthma, so thought it would be worthwhile to get it this flu season. Not covered under Nova Scotia’s medical plan (but is in neighbouring New Brunswick). The cost was about US$77, worth it to me for the additional peace of mind. I think it’s available through Medicare (which I never use).
I also got the newer two-dose Shingrix this year, but paid $306 CAD, about US$227. The Canadian federal government sets limits on prescription drug prices, for which I’m grateful.
And in response to your question, “Forever COVID?” the answer is yes. This virus isn’t going away. At some point we’ll work up immunity, get better/faster vaccines, and/or the old and weak will die. Like the Japanese and Chinese, I mask up in winter and will continue to do so.
We had to pay a premium, a big one, to get the Shingrix vaccine in Mexico. Essentially, an enterprising doctor imported it on her own, because it is not otherwise available here. And you go and thank the “socialist” government of Canada for setting price limits on drugs. In the U.S. no such luck. And I’m afraid you’re right. Covid seems to be yet another virus that’s going to be with us forever. Figure that they have been searching for a vaccine and a definitive “cure” for the virus that causes AIDS, and so far no luck. Thank you for your comment.
As I said, you won’t do the research on Ivermectin, the “shots” or covid…not my problem. I’m NEVER COVID…and never shots…and a research librarian who has spent a lot of time studying propaganda and censorship, as well as being a historian and lawyer. Y’all cover your mouths now while you get your next spike protein injection!
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Sorry, I don’t follow what you’re saying.
No Covid jabs or boosters here. Had Covid. Treated with ivermectin. A total of 5 of us got Covid at the same time. We refused the experimental vaccine and my mom was 98 years old. We all treated ourselves with ivermectin, quercetin, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D. We did not need a doctor and we all had very mild symptoms. Our 98 year old mom had the lightest symptoms lasting two days. We had the delta variant. It has been proven masks don’t work . None of masked up unless we had to and then we did. The jabs are killing people everyday who suddenly and unexpectedly. Do your research and stay informed. Keep an open mind.
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Repeat after me: Ivermectin is a drug for treating parasites in animals and in some people. It has been used to treat malaria which is a parasitic illness most commonly transmitted by mosquito bites. Covid is a VIRUS and therefore ivermectin does NOT prevent much less cure Covid. As for masks, and the rest of your vitamin regimen, go for it, if that’s your preference. In our case, we prefer to follow directions from established medical sources, NIH, CDC, Mayo, Johns Hopkins etc and stay away from internet chatter. Good luck and thank you for sharing your thoughts.
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From Lynn in North Carolina, via email:
Just read your blog and guess what- on Christmas Day I had a scratchy throat and fatigue. On Monday, after working with the goats in 17 degree weather, I felt tired and had a little headache. Tested myself on Tuesday, and it was positive. Yeah, a faint pink line but even a faint line means positive! After 5 days of isolating myself, I re-tested- still positive (that’s not unusual even if symptoms are gone). I also did not have a fever and my symptoms were mild, since I’ve had all of the same vaccines as you) BUT today I realized that I have no sense of smell! Damn! I suspect your faint pink line was a positive, my dear. BTW, I had the same at home test as you and it shows very faint pink line means positive.
There is a treatment to help with symptoms IF you start it within the first couple of days. Our ages alone qualify us for it. It’s called Paxlovid and requires a prescription. I opted not to take it because my symptoms were quite mild and it has it’s own side effects, of course. Other than that, the treatment is whatever helps the symptoms plus rest!
The moral of your story, as far as I’m concerned is to stay away from goats when it gets cold outside…
I can only speak for how things are in the UK. For the most part, people have moved on. We’ve had few restrictions, if any, since early summer 2021, once we’d all been vaccinated. Sure, the papers now and again use a new variant to try and flog a few extra copies. But mostly it’s just the conspiracy theorists still banging on. The vaccine doesn’t work! The vaccine kills! Covid doesn’t exist! It’s 5G! The vaccine gives you covid. Bill Gates is installling implants! No one died from covid. On and on. Never has a bunch of people been so conclusively and demonstrably wrong, and yet try and kid you the opposite. They make even Trump blush…
I wore a mask during the pandemic, because they are pretty effective at helping reduce spread and thus reducing hospital admissions. But that’s it. Reduction, not forever prevention. I don’t wear one now because I long ago accepted (about April 2020) that we’re all going to get it sooner or later, so why put so much effort into trying to prevent the inevitable.
I got vaccinated because I don’t like being seriously ill and the covid vaccines have proven very effectively at stopping people becoming seriously ill. They worked on the first variant and they’ve worked on every variant since. They’ll very likely work well on all the next variants too. Some folk talk of covid now as if it’s just a cold. Some folk would like you to believe it became super mild. It isn’t, and it hasn’t. The largely unvaccinated people of Hong Kong can testify to that. When Omicron swept through, they died at the same rate as folk did during the initial outbreak in early 2020.
When the autumn boosters get released, I book myself in. I get the flu shot too. And then I mostly forget about it. Same as most folk here.
Your problem regarding Covid, Gary, is that you’re a sane person who apparently believes in science and modern medicine. I wonder if all the Covid-related quackery is an American phenomenon or it has spread to the UK and the rest of the world. Our experience in Croatia and Austria is that folks seemed to have moved on, except China. I don’t know what’s going on out there. Generally speaking, I think Covid and its variants are going to be around for a while, like different varieties of the flu, and we’ll just getting vaccinated, take reasonable precautions and carry on.
I wouldn’t say “moved on,” but accept that precautions that made sense in March of 2020 we’re never going to work as a permanent lifestyle, especially in light of more or less miraculous development of vaccines and better treatments.