Is it rude to talk about long COVID?
I know a lot of people who’ve had Covid. Probably the majority of my friends and acquaintances. And something weird has started to happen to me. It feels rude now to say that Covid is serious. I actually feel like I can’t talk socially, and sometimes even professionally, about the risks of long Covid. Because if I do, I’m telling 80% of my friends that they’re at risk for dementia and chronic fatigue and joint pain and a billion other things.
Picture me then at a picnic or a pool party or work chit chat, and someone says “why are we still masking? The new covid variants are no big deal.” What do I do? If I point out that the new variants cause long Covid just like the old ones - and long Covid is a very big deal - I feel as though I’m being cruel to my friends. If I stay silent, I’m letting misinformation slide.
Sometimes a person actually asks me - what is your professional opinion? Is Covid still serious now that the infections are so mild? At that point it’s not just social. Asking for my professional opinion, that’s a different space. But professional or not, the nice lady next to me whose kids got covid when it ripped through their boarding school isn’t going to like me much if I share my true opinion.
My kid’s school had a week-long class trip. My child was the only one in the high school who didn’t go. About 40 Covid cases resulted from the trip. The parents involved are fine with it - class trips are important for social development, you can’t limit your kids, it’s not dangerous for young people anyway. I kept my mouth shut unless asked. I feel like we were right to keep my kid home. I feel like other parents prioritized the short term over the long term, and I doubt one class trip has much to do with social development. My kid can go next year.
That brings us around to the initial point. I feel like everyone is prioritizing the short term over the long term. Like we’ve lost our ability to think about the future. And so many people have already harmed their long term prospects that it feels rude to even admit that harm exists.
It almost feels like being gaslit. Or weirder still, like being forced to engage in gaslighting. I don’t like it and I have no idea how to stop. Do I have a moral obligation as a public health professional to make other people dislike me by pointing out unpleasant truths? I know I have to speak truth to power but do I have to speak truth to Portia at the school’s track and field day?
Oh gosh, this one really hits.
I work as a COVID Safety Manager for a local theater company, where my job is to assess risks and guide the company in defensive strategies in this unmitigated global pandemic catastrophe. And I feel like I just can't connect verbally in casual conversation with other people like I used to.
Encountering carefree unmasked people at a grocery story, or a coffee shop, or a pizza place... it's just so alienating. The best response I've managed to come up with to being asked about my mask is to respond with a question of my own: "Would you like to learn more about the severity of this coronavirus?" Seeing as how that usually ends most conversations, it seems that most people really would rather remain in blissful ignorance.
It is not cruel, rude or wrong to take every chance possible to speak truth to power. Your perspective on COVID is sensitive, but not paranoid, it is scientifically correct. I support keeping your child home from the trip. Safety first, empathy for others second, public action third. Always speak truth to power. The commercial, libertarian, freedom loving, short-sighted American culture has led to an extra 300,000 deaths from COVID. Lack of honest public health guidance from the CDC and a casual avoidance of the possibilities of future harms by political actors, e.g. massive numbers of folks disabled by long covid; teacher depopulation in school systems, a collapsing, monetized health system will have a huge negative future impact.
Teach Portia values!