Andrew Lewis: The New Mandate

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The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have at least as many phases as variants, and Andrew Lewis is experiencing one of them.

I’m now in day nine of COVID. And I’m finding myself in what may be the pandemic of the vaccinated. Granted, the vaccines are keeping people out of the hospital and most importantly out of the coffin. But this new phase of the pandemic comes with some important lessons.

Two weeks earlier we had attended a large event. It was supposed to be safe because current guidelines had been followed. It was outdoors. All guests were vaccinated and boosted. We were protected, right?

That night I slow danced with the woman I’ll call Patient Zero. Filled with abandon, a large group of us danced the hokey pokey and did the mashed potato. We even do-si-do’d, the original gangster of vector transmission.

We trusted our elite exceptionalism more than the virus’ ongoing quest to adapt. We believed in the end, that because we had followed all the rules, that somehow we were immune.

And we were. That is, until we weren’t.

The morning of the event, Patient Zero had mild cold symptoms. She cautiously took three home antigen tests that came back negative. Clearly she had a cold. And outdoor transmission is supposed to be rare.

We quickly learned the trickery of the evolving variants. Despite our antibodies and the outdoor air, 20-plus guests got sick. Our rapid tests came back negative multiple times before they returned a positive. And this thing was not the sniffles. The vaccines kept us out of the hospital, but many of the afflicted described their symptoms as sheer agony.

Although the virus has conferred an additional immunity, it too will wane with time. Along with my ongoing booster regimen, I realize that my masking and distancing are also going to be sticking around.

But this time the mandate will be different. It will come not from the government or department of public health, but from the extraordinary mysteries of the virus itself.

With a Perspective, this is Andrew Lewis.

Andrew Lewis lives in Sebastopol.