Getting COVID-19 sucks

This week I learned what many of my constituents already knew – it is no fun getting COVID.

Late Saturday evening, I began to experience mild symptoms typically associated with a head cold. Out of an abundance of caution, I tested for COVID-19 and received positive results Sunday, Dec. 12. Despite being fully vaccinated I contracted a breakthrough infection. I immediately notified my HR team and my district office to conduct contact tracing protocols and to receive proper testing if necessary. Earlier in the week I had tested negative after one of my district office staff tested positive with mild symptoms. Since my test, another staff person has also begun to have symptoms. As a result, we are going to operate the office remotely, with phone calls and emails the best ways to reach us. All of my staff, even those who have tested positive, have stepped up to continue the remote services just like we did in the early days of the pandemic. We didn’t miss a beat then, and we won’t now. We will not be seeing constituents in person at the office on Richmond Street until after the New Year to give everyone a chance to get well and be sure that we are fully clear of this round of the virus.

Breakthrough infections happen. Everyone in my office is fully vaccinated and boosted. The symptoms we are experiencing now are mild and hopefully will continue to be mild. The vaccines worked for us, by keeping us all from having more serious cases. We are in the process of contact tracing but there does not appear there was any risk for constituents at this time. I will return to in person work after the 10-day quarantine period mandated by the CDC.  I want to wish everyone a prosperous holiday season and Happy New Year.

I count myself lucky because, this breakthrough infection is not as severe as it might have been. In the almost two years since COVID first made its appearance, close to 800,000 people have died in the U.S., more than 34,000 in Pennsylvania. To put that in perspective, I have 65,000 constituents, my neighbors in the 177th district. Most of the severely ill and fatal cases have occurred in people with no protection from vaccination. I recently had a friend who declined to get vaccinated, and he died from COVID in November. My own case is more like a common cold because the vaccine has strengthened my immune response.

In Pennsylvania, over 60% of people are fully vaccinated and close to 85% have at least one shot. This is a good start, but we need to have more. I have heard from some people that they do not want mandates or governmental control to dictate their vaccination. The problem is that many people are ignoring the facts and the basic science and assert their own liberty to be free from a vaccine as if that assertion exists in a bubble that only affects them. As I said recently in talking about the right to bear arms, none of our individual liberties exist in a vacuum, we must take into account other people’s liberties, and create a system to hold each other accountable for overall public safety. That system can be common sense evaluation of the facts and people accepting vaccination for themselves and their families – something we did when I was a kid in the 60s, 70s, and 80s; or it can be a system of incentives – paying or compensating people get vaccinated; or it can be coercive – requiring vaccinations if you want to participate in social activities like dining out or going to sporting events.  In any case, if we are serious about making sure as many people are protected from the deadly impact of COVID, we must increase the number of people vaccinated.

If you’re not yet vaccinated against COVID, please, review the information from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health and recognize that all of us – you, me, and all our neighbors – are safer with more people getting vaccinated. I believe the vaccine saved my life by making my case of COVID just a common cold, and I mourn the death of my friend and others whose cases were fatal because they didn’t have that protection.