In April, when I received my first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, I was hopeful for the first time in over a year that my life was going to return to normal. However, seven months later, I tested positive for COVID-19 and it was as if the isolating feeling of the early months of the pandemic never left.
As a reporter who’s covered the coronavirus since March 2020, I’ve spent the last 20 months talking with people who have lost more than I could ever imagine — family members, friends, graduations and holidays. The weight of how terrible the pandemic has been was never lost on me, but with a virus that has killed more than 5.1 million across the world, you can never be too safe.
I got my vaccine as soon as I could, I still wear my mask in grocery stores and restaurants, all of my friends are vaccinated, and I mostly work from home.
I even had my booster shot, but I likely contracted the virus just before getting the shot and never even knew.
I became one of the statistics that many vaccinated people haven’t wanted to deal with.
Thankfully, because I was fully vaccinated the symptoms were mild for me. If someone close to me didn’t tell me that they had tested positive, I might not have gotten tested myself and probably wouldn’t have had second thoughts about my slight fever, sore throat or headaches.
While my symptoms were mild, the other feelings that have plagued everyone since the beginning of the pandemic enveloped me — guilt, isolation and exhaustion.
I felt guilty telling the friends who I had recently seen that I tested positive. Luckily, none of them were infected, but what if they had been? What if I had gotten one of them sick and they had a bad reaction?
I felt guilty that it was so close to the holidays. My family skipped out on celebrating Thanksgiving together last year because of the pandemic and I was nervous that I would have to miss another holiday with them if I was still sick.
I also felt isolated again. Once my roommate tested negative, she moved out of the house during my 10-day quarantine. All of my healthy friends were still having weekly dinners together or co-working in coffee shops. I had gotten used to feeling safe outside knowing I was vaccinated and I forgot how lonely it can feel to be trapped indoors.
It feels selfish to think about these problems when I know there are people who didn’t feel relief after a 10-day quarantine and a negative test. I know there are people who are grieving lost loved ones and there are people who are still suffering symptoms of “long COVID.”
But that’s the thing about a pandemic — it’s a shared experience in some ways, but deeply personal in other ways.
That’s why I believe in the vaccine now more than ever. It didn’t fail me. It saved my friends from getting sick and it saved me from severe symptoms or ending up in the hospital.
It’s also the best way I know how to show up for my community, the people who are sick in the hospitals and the people who are working hard to save them, the people who postponed funerals and the people who are burdened with fear that their vulnerable loved ones could get sick.
We’re all exhausted, but we can’t lose sight of the goal now.
This commentary by Allison Donahue was first published by Michigan Advance, a States Newsroom affiliate.