New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Delta broke through my family
My husband and I are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, so when he came home with congestion and a headache, I, the gentle companion, never once thought “COVID.” I thought “summer cold” and chastised him for working while sick.
We have been married a long time. He ignored me, mixed a cocktail of Benadryl and NyQuil, and laid down to sleep it off.
Only he didn’t sleep it off. He woke up the next day feeling worse, and worse the day after that. A test showed that he’d become one of those much-discussed breakthrough COVID cases.
He has since fully recovered and tested negative for the virus, but this is a puzzler. In addition to being vaccinated, both of us mask up, even more so as Connecticut sees more COVID cases. Both of us carry hand sanitizer in our cars. Both of us trust science and our own good sense not to stray where we might get infected. We avoid crowds, and if I know someone is unvaccinated, I steer clear.
I have lost the capacity to care if that last part makes me look unfriendly. If you are unvaccinated, you are a walking target, and I choose not to be collateral damage.
We’ve observed the protocols, but one of us got infected anyway, with what appears to be the delta variant, which moved fast and furiously through him. Frankly, I cannot imagine dealing with this virus without the protection of a vaccine. The severity of his symptoms was stunning.
When friends found out, they had two questions.
1. Which vaccine did he get? (Moderna.)
2. Does he know how he got it? (No. In a perfect world, that is what contact tracing is for, and we have both dutifully answered questions when the state called — he as the patient, me as the contact.)
I know why friends asked. They wanted to reassure themselves that they are safe. If they got, say, Pfizer-BioNTech (as did I, so go, Team Pfizer), they could blame the brand and rest easier, though the vaccines are basically equally effective in preventing infection.
And if he’d known and could share how he contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated, then the people asking the question could vow never to do whatever he did when he caught COVID, and so they would be OK.
Only that’s not how this virus works. It is mutating and spreading, fast. The delta variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is twice as contagious as previous variants. It’s also harder on unvaccinated people than previous variants, and scientists are still learning about it. We only know what we know right now, today, and what we know right now, today, is stark.
What I also know is that unvaccinated people are extending this pandemic for the rest of us. They are risking the lives of people they’ve never met because ... well, I don’t know why. I have read the essays and listened to talk radio, and none of their reasons make sense.
Scientists tell us this will be our lives until the unvaccinated do what they need to do, though estimating how many other breakthrough cases are out there is difficult. In May, the CDC switched from publicly reporting all breakthrough cases to reporting only those cases that involve hospitalization or death. Those numbers, understandably, are small. The vaccines work. The number of breakthrough cases the CDC reported between January and April are small as well, given that most Americans who were vaccinated by that time had only recently received their shots and so enjoyed full protection. For what it’s worth, as of April 30, 10,262 vaccinated people had breakthrough infections, and 63 percent of those cases were female, with a median age of
As it turns out, both of my COVID tests were negative. Why? Beats me. With all the talk about a booster shot, I have been fully vaccinated just shy of five months, compared to my husband’s nearly seven, but let’s not play armchair Fauci. He got COVID despite doing all the right things, and if we were all vaccinated, I would be writing about something else, something not COVID-related.
There can be no more discussions about the efficacy or safety of the vaccines. The virus is attacking people who took proper steps to be protected. Masks should be mandatory, as should the vaccine. Anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers have turned the rest of us into petri dishes. Enough is enough.
I do not anticipate hard-liners — people on street corners hoisting misspelled signs about freedom — will read this and think, “I bet her husband is a nice guy (he is), and I want to get vaccinated so I won’t hurt other nice people.” A sense of community would have moved those unvaccinated persons to change status months ago.
So: How to say this next part delicately? Never mind. This is no time for delicacy. If you are exposed to COVID and you haven’t been vaccinated, get your affairs in order. The virus is brutal, and I cannot imagine the human constitution capable of riding it out without Pfizer or Moderna.
And if you saunter into a store without a mask, looking for a fight from someone who is observing protocols, that someone won’t be me. The virus will do my fighting for me.
Susan Campbell is the author of “Frog Hollow: Stories from an American Neighborhood,” “Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker” and “Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl.” She is a distinguished lecturer at University of New Haven, where she teaches journalism.
This is no time for delicacy. If you are exposed to COVID and you haven’t been vaccinated, get your affairs in order. The virus is brutal, and I cannot imagine the human constitution capable of riding it out without Pfizer or Moderna.