COVID-19 in the house

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

I am running scared.

You would be if six families you know of all call you within a span of two weeks to ask for prayers because they got COVID-19 in the house. This has never happened before among people I know and definitely not in terms of in-house infections. What’s more, these families are people who are quite careful and who strictly observe health protocols. In the past, I would hear of someone getting infected maybe a month or month and a half in between incidents, but now it’s at a rate of three days apart and what’s worse, half the household or at least three persons are infected per family. The common symptoms are there: loss of sense of taste, smell, fever and in the more serious case, coughing or flu-like symptoms advancing to pneumonia. People use to take comfort in the thought that they were safe if they never leave the house or if they are fully vaccinated. But alas, that sense of safety has become no more than consuelo de bobo or consolation for fools, as my Lolo Enrique used to say.

I’ve been hearing of cases where the victims never left the house, never socialized but only to discover that the culprit that brought COVID-19 was a “stay out” employee or a delivery service rider who infected a maid, driver or a kid casually receiving purchased items from an asymptomatic rider. And because we have let our guard down, many of us no longer have those handy spray bottles filled with alcohol to disinfect our hands or packages, etc. In fact, even the stores and outlets as well as large hardwares no longer have disinfectants and alcohol dispensers available for people to use (calling the attention of DTI/DOH).

Whatever the case, I felt it necessary to write this observation down because it is alarming, not only because it involves close friends and relatives but because people may be having a false sense of security or reliance on vaccine protection as we go to a different approach, namely granular lockdowns. Practically all the families that reached out for prayer covering were fully vaccinated and, thank God, somehow managing mild cases, except for one or two persons. So just like the doctors and virologists have said, vaccines will protect you from a serious COVID infection but you are not “bullet proof” or virus-proof, especially if you are in the older age range and if you have existing medical conditions. But if all these case flare-ups tell us anything, it has to be that we are dealing with the COVID Delta variant at a much wider range and faster rate of transmission than we commonly believe.

In recent weeks, a number of health experts and analysts have suggested that we are past the “pandemic” status and moving towards the endemic state of COVID-19 where we will have to learn to live with COVID instead of trying to contain or control it. COVID-19 is the one making the rules and changing the rules of engagement, so any notion or attempt to control it is deemed futile. Living with “it” does not mean living your life almost like pre-pandemic times; it means living with established health protocols and, when needed, a certain amount of paranoia.

The most unnerving statement I heard lately is that in its endemic state, we should accept with certainty that it is no longer whether we will get COVID-19 but rather WHEN will we get COVID-19. Given how the most powerful global institutions – World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization – have expressed concern that the ideal goal of vaccinating 40 percent of population in every country globally may not be achieved by the end of the year, it is safe to assume that our current state of affairs won’t be changing for the better this year and, as some people estimate, not even in the next two years.

The question now is: what are we to do? As far as patient profiles and risks are concerned, things remain the same; the seniors and those with co-morbidities are highly vulnerable. It can’t be helped and best we can do is to make a choice. Do we simply live in isolation, constantly physically distancing from others, or create a bubble where any friend, loved one, etc. has to first pass a “two-step verification process” meaning proof of vaccination and test? Sounds extreme, you think, but I know of actual cases where a son, daughter in-law, an apo or grandchild was the source of the undetected infection. Carriers are no longer limited to actual patients and health workers; our very own family members who live and work outside our “bubbles” are now our biggest threat.

A number of my friends have left Metro Manila even before the third wave or Delta struck. They either sold or rented out family homes, condominiums or townhouses and moved to farms, provincial homes with wider, more open areas or to beach front properties. Their objective is to have space, open air that allows them to socially distance even indoors. Yes, moving out of congested communities, shelters and homes is a viable option. By selling or renting out their former homes, my friends effortlessly found affordable safer spaces to be in.

Some will argue that their job is in the city or Metro Manila. That argument unfortunately has a built-in self destruct mechanism that prevents people from considering or looking for other options as well as discovering that moving out of city centers is often cheaper in terms of food, utilities and lifestyle. So taking on a lower income or having a career change can work out. At the end of the day, it’s all about a safer, healthier space, something that Metro Manila never was even before the pandemic. It is called distancing yourselves from COVID-19.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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