When COVID-19 struck, individuals with pre-existing conditions were labeled as high risk. Pre-existing conditions can range anywhere from diabetes to unrelated pneumonia. Not only were these varied individuals more susceptible to infection, but they ran a higher risk of battling a bigger war against the virus, enough to end up in an ICU.
Unfortunately, I became high risk at the peak of the pandemic. In early June 2020, I was diagnosed with unrelated COVID pneumonia followed by a diagnosis of lupus. Both hospital visits were nerve-wracking, to say the least.
Surviving the pandemic while being high risk
The early months of the pandemic put a halt to everyone’s social life. But, as restrictions began to lift, a high-risk individual like myself is still limited in my social activities. When groups of ten or more were authorized to congregate, I still felt horrified to gather in a group that big. I always thought that the odds of me being infected by 1/9 people was far too risky. When I did see friends, we usually would self-quarantine beforehand or get a rapid test. However, not everyone was willing to do the responsible thing. This hindered not only my social activities but diminished the social bubbles I considered myself to be part of. I continue to limit the number of times I go grocery shopping. I still have a funny fear of driving with my windows down without wearing a mask. I picked up the hobby of making all my meals.
While the pandemic affected my socializing, it in turn also took a toll on my mental health. Feeling fragile is not much of a confidence booster, especially if you cannot meet up with anyone to cheer you up. Being cooped up behind the same four walls can be deteriorating to your creativity, energy flow, motivation and overall life outlook. Since the beginning of quarantine, I have taken on many different hobbies and habits to avoid harboring the sadness that stems from isolation. I’ve had small victories.
Carlos Cordova, freshman nursing major at Santa Fe College, stated, “Navigating the pandemic felt like I was walking through a minefield.” He explained that he had to be careful with every single thing he did due to his pre-existing condition, along with his father’s.
Despite Cordova’s efforts to stay safe, he was infected with the virus in December 2020. He had to quarantine during the holidays, though he survived the isolation. He noted that partaking in a Zoom call to virtually open gifts lightened the mood and gave Christmas Day a new twist.
Not taking the virus seriously isn’t funny
Every time I see people acting irresponsibly in not only college towns but the general commercial world, is widely upsetting. It prompts me to believe that this pandemic will never end due to people not taking it seriously. College towns, like UF’s very own Gainesville, host bar nights where barely anyone wears masks while remaining in extended close proximity. In comparison, Tallahassee, Orlando and Miami do the same by having open a majority of areas to congregate at nearly full capacity. This not only frustrates me and makes me impatient, but it scares me to think I could become easily infected because of these large congregations creating a hot spot for a rapid spread.
Cordova said, “Seeing people joke about the virus and the pandemic was infuriating, and I felt disappointed.” Cordova was an essential worker for some time during the pandemic. He recounted his time as being stressful, to say the least. People walked into his employer’s retail store using shirt necklines as makeshift masks or with no masks at all. He described that many customers refused to wear a mask, claiming the mask mandate was infringing their constitutional rights. Yet, the same customers would harshly demand assistance, prompting Cordova to even call the authorities on multiple occasions.
Moreover, cases such as the recent Uber driver attack shed light on the ignorance many carry towards the virus. Two passengers mocked and attacked an Uber driver by coughing in the enclosed car, even going as far as to rip the driver’s mask off. Occasions like these are not uncommon, whether it’d be coughing, spitting or harassing individuals over mask mandates and COVID safety rules.
Moving forward with the vaccine
Although vaccine rollout is not at full capacity yet, it is motivating and hopeful to see many people willingly receiving the currently available doses. Individuals with pre-existing conditions currently have the opportunity to receive the vaccine with a doctor’s note. This has created a safe future for many of us. For me, it’s lifted a weight off my shoulders knowing that I’ll be nearly immune to such a deadly virus.
Cordova received his vaccine in the early rollout for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and he cannot emphasize how blessed and grateful he feels to have been vaccinated. Even though he’s been vaccinated, he expressed, “I still wear my mask, wash my hands frequently and keep my social distance.”
This vaccine is a game-changer for many who are at high risk of contracting COVID and potentially experiencing fatal accidents from it. Aside from following CDC guidelines and trusting modern medicine, the vaccine serves as the only weapon people have against this virus.
Surviving in this new COVID world has been very complex and difficult, but as we strive to eliminate cases and become immunized, we should keep our hopes up.