I have been operating under the assumption that the COVID-19 pandemic would end the same way every other viral pandemic ends: virtually everyone will catch it or be vaccinated for it. My number came up a few weeks ago as I was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have opposed using the violent, coercive power of government to impose lockdowns, restrictions, mask orders, and the like. Using the blunt instrument of government to fight a natural phenomenon is anti-liberty and results in countless negative consequences that we are just beginning to understand. Our government is useful to pool resources and provide information, but individual citizens retain the right and responsibility to live their lives according their own values and risk assessments.
Even though I oppose tyrannical government decrees, I do understand the science of viral infections. I did not want to get sick and I did not want to get other people sick. Like many Americans, I have spent months wearing a mask when out in public, obsessively washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, avoiding close contact with people (something that goes well with my misanthropic tendencies), and staying close to home.
At the same time, I am not going to give up months and years of living for the miniscule risk of death from COVID19. I took reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of disease, but I did not live like a recluse. I supported local restaurants and stores, fetched groceries, attended to my routine health care needs, enjoyed the parks, cheered on my teams, worked, played, and went about living my life.
In the end, they call it “inevitable” for a reason. Despite taking CDC-recommended precautions, I caught COVID-19. I don’t know where it came from. I did not knowingly come into contact with anyone else who had it. Likely, I caught it in passing from someone at a grocery store or restaurant who may not have known that they had it.
The first indication was a scratchy cough on a Friday in November. Saturday and Sunday were pretty crummy. I experienced varying degrees of fatigue, aching joints, coughing, headache, and general symptoms between a bad cold and a mild flu. By Monday I was feeling better but decided to get tested for COVID-19. By Thursday, I was almost completely better, and my test came back positive. Per CDC guidelines, I isolated for another 10 days, spent some time on the phone with a contact tracer (she was delightful), and now I am back to normal, except now I have a super-charged COVID-19-killing immune system.
COVID-19 is a nasty disease that is severe or deadly for some people. We need to be careful about spreading it — particularly to people in higher risk categories. But for every story you read about someone who was severely ill or died from COVID-19, there are more than 40 people whose story is more like mine. It was a rough few days and I am fine. That does not include all of the people who have had COVID-19 and did not get tested or never had any symptoms.
The point of the story is not that COVID-19 isn’t serious. It is very serious for a small percentage of people. For most people, however, the risk is a few days of unpleasantness. For most people, a few days of unpleasantness is not worth throwing away our livelihoods, our children’s education, our mental health, our life’s savings, our liberty, or our enjoyment of life. For most people, we have already sacrificed too much of life for so small a risk of death.
Fear is a powerful emotion. Fear is also the emotion most often used to subjugate people. Fear of war. Fear of enemies. Fear of natural disasters. Fear of global warming. Fear of disease. All of these fears have been, and are, used to convince free people to accept more regulation, more restrictions, more government, and less freedom. “It is for your own good,” they coax in soothing tones. “Think of grandma,” they say to stoke your familial loyalties. “You don’t want to get the dreaded virus,” they warn as if the politician has exclusive magic to protect you from disease. Meanwhile, they strip away one more liberty and stick their hand further in your pocket.
Hearing a politician say, “trust me, I am here to help” should make every freedom-loving American’s hair stand on end. Living longer is less important than living free. In the case of COVID-19, we must each evaluate the risk according to our individual characteristics and tolerance for risk, but not impose our choices on our neighbors through the police power of government.
Everything but tech support.