Covid quarantine: Yeah, $%@#$@ Omicron got me, too
In my continual quest to become fluent in Italian, I developed a love-hate relationship with the language. I love the sound of Italian, how it rolls off your tongue with ending vowels so soft even an old American like me can sound like a local, especially after a couple glasses of wine. But one Italian word I never want to hear.
I heard that word eight days ago.
Yes, it got me, too. I’m just announcing my Covid quarantine today as I emerge from my mandatory seven-day isolation. I didn’t want to field an avalanche of questions and unwarranted sympathy. Lord knows I had the time. Seven days alone quarantining in a one-bedroom apartment gives you a lot of time. It gives you a lot of time to think.
Funny, I feared Covid in its early days two years ago but after I caught it I had no fear. I read up on it. I knew Omicron, Covid’s latest strain, wasn’t very harmful, particularly people like me who had two vaccines and a booster.
What replaced fear was anger.
I was angry at myself. Ever since Covid spread its deadly tentacles around the globe, I took pride in being among the healthy. We were the ones wearing the masks, practicing social distancing, observing government orders. I didn’t protest when the Italian government locked us down twice.
I wore my mask everywhere, even when I took out the trash. It was a badge of honor to live without Covid, especially now that Omicron has become as common as a cold. Now I get lumped atop the scrapheap of Covid victims who seemingly fill half the planet.
I’ve become a statistic.
How did I get it?
I don’t know where I got it. On Jan. 11, a chunk of my ceiling here in Rome collapsed. My landlord came over the next day to look. He wore a mask. The next day on the 13th he brought a maintenance man. Both wore masks. We knocked down a few loose parts of the ceiling and they left.
The next day, the 14th, my landlord came with an architect to check the rest of the apartment. Both wore masks.
I did not.
I should have. It was a complete, inexcusable brain lock. I didn’t think. I have no proof that’s where I got it. Many people never know. But that afternoon on the 14th I developed a slight cough. I felt a little achy. It felt nothing like the flu. In fact, I read Omicron’s symptoms were headache, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue and cough. I had only one of those and it was mild, more of an annoyance than an illness. It should not be anything to cause worry.
We don’t live in normal times. When we sneeze, we cough, we get tired, we think, “Oh, no! Is this Covid?” It’s a virus that has killed 5.6 million worldwide and 143,875 here in Italy. When the cough and aches began, I felt well enough to do anything but I took no chances. I called my girlfriend, Marina, and cancelled dinner at her place that night.
My cough and aches never worsened over the weekend but I stayed in. Marina, who’s more cautious than even I am, treated me as if I was toxic. She urged me to get tested and I didn’t argue. I walked around the corner to my pharmacy and made an appointment for that Monday afternoon.
Marina came by on Sunday to drop off the ragu sauce she made for us Friday. When we saw each other on the street outside her car, we fist-bumped.
On Monday morning, my cough and aches were gone. I felt 100 percent. I made plans to visit Marina that night. I even put a bottle of white wine in the refrigerator. I prepared my gym bag for an afternoon workout.
I stood in a short line outside my pharmacy and the woman took the rapid antigen test. She told us all to wait 10 minutes and she’ll have the results. I remembered being worried last month in Finland where a positive test would mean a week-long isolation on the Arctic Circle and I had a plane to catch that afternoon.
Last week I stood there calm and a bit bored as if waiting for a bus.
The technician came out and called out one woman’s name. Negativo. She called a man’s name. Negativo. She called my name. I approached.
She put up both her hands. Don’t approach any farther. Uh-oh.
I was stunned. I’d lost my status as one who outwitted a global pandemic. I wasn’t worried about having an incubator stuck down my throat. I was crushed to be stuck in my apartment for seven days. Seven days with no outside contact, no girlfriend, no gym, no beautiful Rome neighborhood, no beautiful Rome.
I took a deep dive into my past week’s movements. Can I blame the men who checked my ceiling? No. Marina reminded me that Covid symptoms take an average of three days to surface. My first cough came only one day after the maintenance man checked my ceiling. The architect came the day I coughed for the first time. I counted back three days from Friday.
Tuesday – the day Marina and I celebrated my eight-year anniversary of my arrival in Rome.
It turns out, the other couple who joined us got sick the same day I did. The wife tested negative, but her husband tested positive and had to scratch his flight that day to New York. But how did we get it? We are all double-vaccinated and boosted. We all wore masks. Our waiters all wore masks. The bar and restaurant we entered required everyone to show their Green Pass vaccine certificate.
It just shows how indiscriminate Omicron is, how no one is safe, no matter the precautions. Fortunately, Marina doesn’t have it. We hadn’t seen each other for six days before I tested positive and she had no symptoms. She didn’t need a test.
It was me and me alone.
The good news
Instead of wallowing in self pity, I looked at the bright side. I’m not one of 5.6 million victims who have died. I’m not one of the countless millions who will never recover from their symptoms, such as – GASP! – loss of taste. I can’t imagine living in Italy without a sense of taste. I might as well live in Nebraska.
What I am is one of 83,387 people in Italy who tested positive Jan. 17 and one of the 10 million who have tested positive in Italy since the pandemic began. I am a speck of sand in the Sahara that is Covid. Nothing more.
I always wondered what someone does when they can’t leave their home for seven days. I was under Covid house arrest. But this wasn’t prison. I had plenty to do. I had my blog. I had a freelance assignment that required digging on the phone. I had a 550-page biography of Leonardo da Vinci. I had my Italian language tapes. I had Italian soccer, the Australian Open and the NFL Playoffs on DAZN, Europe’s sports cable streaming service. I had Season 3 of “After Life” and Season 4 of “Ozark” on NetFlix.
Covid quarantine day
I quickly fell into a routine, as unwavering as life in the military minus the jogs humping a 20-pound pack (Times vary depending on day and sports schedule):
7 a.m. Wake up. Write emails. Drink my perfect cappuccino. Rage about non-vaxxers.
8 a.m. Watch Australian Open. Eat breakfast.
11 a.m. Research freelance story.
1 p.m. Exercise using an online workout program. Rage about non-vaxxers.
2 p.m. Lunch
3 p.m. Read The New York Times, The Local and ANSA (Italy’s wire service) online.
5 p.m. Nap. Rage about non-vaxxers.
5:30 p.m. Study Italian language tapes.
6:45 p.m. “L’Eredita,” Italian’s Jeopardy with Italian subtitles
8:45 p.m. Italian soccer
9 p.m., 10:45 p.m., 2:15 a.m. (Weekend) NFL Playoffs.
Midnight, 2 a.m., 5 a.m. Go to bed. Rage about non-vaxxers.
I showered every day. I didn’t shave any day. I was already well overdue for a haircut. Vanity prevented me from posting a selfie. Suffice to say I looked like a hermit writing a manifesto.
It helps that I live alone. I’m a bit of a loner. I’ve lived alone for 37 of my 43 years since college. My home routine didn’t change much. Marina brought me groceries every other day. Meanwhile, a married friend had to isolate himself in a guest room for a week while his wife left him food outside the door.
It also helps to have an Italian girlfriend. She didn’t just bring groceries. She also made me a killer lemon turkey dish and two jars of her orgasmic ragu sauce which I warmed up and poured over dry pasta. We’d peer at each other through my front door’s peephole. We did video calls on Whatsapp. We did the same on my birthday during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020. It was oddly romantic.
Our lives in Covid
Is this the new normal?
Are we destined to go through life wondering if every cough could lead to grocery deliveries and deep-knee lunges in our living room? Not for me. I’ve double vaxxed. I’m boosted. I’m now immunized. In other words, I’m protected.
The CDC reported this week that Pfizer and Moderna booster shots are 90 percent effective against hospitalization. It is even more effective for those of us 50 and over.
Meanwhile, hospitals around the world are filling up again with non-vaxxers, these hypocrites who sit in their mom’s basement and find obscure websites and theories debunking the strength of vaccines.
Here in Rome an American friar named Alexis Bugnolo, who runs the Italian non-profit association Scholasticum, a post-graduate institute for the study of scholastic theology and philosophy, recently said on social media, “The death of 2 billion vaccinated people in a few years will cause serious civil unrest. You have to prepare yourself.”
People fear the vaccine because of clowns like this. These people are the foot soldiers in the global war of misinformation. I’m lucky I live in Italy. Here more than 94 percent of our 60 million people are double vaccinated. In the U.S., it’s only 63 percent. The other 37 percent are puffing out their chests to proclaim their independence. They boast they will not be controlled as if staring down a foreign army instead of an invisible virus that doesn’t care what they think.
Yet they see nothing wrong with infecting others, nor the irony of not fearing Covid but fearing a virus.
I trust the CDC and the World Health Organization and Dr. Anthony Fauci and The New York Times. I don’t trust an American friar screaming to be heard from the bowels of the Vatican.
Thanks to my vaccinations and booster, I survived Covid with nothing more than a mild cough for three days. I can roam the globe worry free, knowing my chances of contracting Covid again are like my chances of contracting typhoid again.
They told me I could look up my test result Tuesday morning. It took me an hour of negotiating through the impossibly confusing instructions on websites and SMSs but with Marina’s invaluable help, I found my result. It’s a beautiful Italian word.
January 25, 2022 @ 12:21 pm
Glad to read that you are better. The anti-vaxers here in the U.S. have prolonged this epidemic and they don’t even seem to care. John Stockton, the retired basketball star, is spreading lies about athletes dying from the vaccine. People listen to him but ignore medical professionals who study this stuff. The world is upside down.
January 25, 2022 @ 2:39 pm
Glad you’re feeling better and the vaccines did their job. I too rage against the anti-vaxxers and as you mention, here in the U.S. it’s 100x worse. Not only do people not get vaxxed because of insane misinformation they’ve seen or heard, the same bunch is fighting against masks. Here in my state of Virginia, the new governor just dropped mask mandates for schools in the middle of a huge Omicron wave. Pure insanity. I dream of leaving this madhouse and retiring to Italy.
January 25, 2022 @ 3:49 pm
Those not getting the vaccine will hopefully die a shit lonely death. Good fucking riddance. I’m glad you are ok John!
January 25, 2022 @ 4:48 pm
I recommend reading the Herman Cain Award subreddit on Reddit to help with the rage against the anti-vaxxers. Lots of them getting awards these days.
January 25, 2022 @ 10:04 pm
Hope your feeling Better soon my friend. I too contracted Anti vaxed syndrome in the last seven days. I agree totally with your description, not me, I’m so careful, all those knuckleheads will contract the plaque, not me.
Instead of being in my Lucca apartment, I am stuck in Maine USA, in a garage sperate from my wife, laying on a blow up mattress from Walmart, surrounded by shelves full of boxes loaded with items designated for hoarders heaven on one side and a rack full of paint cans on the other. Oh, and tomorrow the temp is estimated around 0 degrees with a major snowstorm on its way. Mio Dio
January 25, 2022 @ 11:58 pm
We have crackpot anti-vaxxers in Canada, too, who claim the restrictions being taken to reduce the spread of the disease amount to totalitarianism. Idiots.
I made my first trip to Italy in November 2019 – just a 10-day visit to the northern town where my grandparents were born, so I could meet a distant cousin. Got home at the end of November and just over 2 months later, the pandemic hit. I am looking forward to being able to return. In the meantime, yeah, I curse the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.
January 26, 2022 @ 6:13 am
Glad you came through the storm ok. What a nutty time. Grazie mille for sharing.
January 26, 2022 @ 7:35 am
Sorry to hear you got tagged! Reading of your experience gave me incentive to be even more conservative than I already am. As did the study from the UK, reported in the U.S. today, indicating that double vaxxed and boosted folks (that’s me, all Pfizer) are only about 50% protected from symptomatic Omicron infection by as little as 10 weeks after receiving the booster, though still protected from serious illness and hospitalization. That means a heck of a lot of asymptomatic folks (not factored into the data since they’re not testing/getting reported) are out there transmitting. My 85 year old mother, her 91 year old husband, my 62 year old brother, and a plethora of my daughter’s 30 year old friends have all gotten ‘breakthrough’ Omicron infections, none seriously, but many feeling quite miserable for at least a week, some with lingering brain fog, aches and lethargy (long CoViD?). All of these folks were mRNA double vaxxed and boosted and all are fairly careful. So, yeah, I guess virulent really means virulent, and highly contagious means just that, i.e., a huge amount of Omicron virus is residing in infected people’s noses and throats who are asymptomatic (vaccine cards become irrelevant when breakthrough asymptomatic infections are at play), and these huge quantities of virus are being shed from talking and laughing restaurant diners who have removed their masks to eat and drink (the place doesn’t have to be crowded). And this miasma is staying suspended in the air for some time (unless there is a state-of-the art air exchange system operating), including in a just vacated restaurant bathroom, where many folks likely remove their masks while doing their business. At this point, I limit my interior forays to grocery shopping once every 10 days or so and then I double mask. I feel extremely lucky that I’m a loner by nature, have been a teleworker for years, and I’ve no children at home, not to mention that we live in an era of streaming media, digital film festivals, and delivery of whatever you want or need (for me that’s mostly books), and I’m still able to take long walks with my dogs in large parks near my house, or drive 30 minutes to hike in a state park, where I can get plenty of distance from others so dispense with a mask. I’ve been enjoying your blog, as it fuels my fantasies about future trips to Italy. I started taking a month’s paid vacation from work starting in 2017 to visit Italy, but had to skip 2020 and 2021, of course, and am not planning to return until April of 2023 (for my 4th time in Rome — my favorite city in the world, 2 weeks this time — a week on the Amalfi Coast, and 3 weeks in Sicily), which will be just after I retire. My plan is to resume Italian language studies before then, and, ultimately, to spend a year in Rome studying Italian at the DiLit Italian School on a student visa. It’s the only school I could find in all of Italy that offers a medium pace option (for as many weeks as desired): Small Group Non-intensive 5 Lessons a Week —lucky for me that it’s in Rome!! Assuming the stars align, and 2023 isn’t beset by another Coronavirus variant that extends the pandemic, and we’re not in a war with N. Korea or Russia, and a comet isn’t on a collision course with Earth, I hope to be enjoying a cappuccino while drinking in the view from the patio off the Terrace Cafe on Capitoline Hill (the first place I go when arriving in Rome) in about 15 months. Ciao!
January 29, 2022 @ 7:21 pm
Our son tested positive in Denver last fall. He is fully vaccinated, and only got tested because he was coming down to see us for his birthday. (Good kid!) At the time the quarantine was 10 days, and he was in a basement bedroom in a shared house. He said his only symptom was boredom.
Glad to hear you got through it ok and are better. Now you should be at about 120% antibody effectiveness.
January 30, 2022 @ 12:49 am
[Exercise using an online workout program. Rage about non-vaxxers.]
Would imagine that breakthrough Covid finds the vaxxed exercise yard a far more advantageous workout program with regards to virulence than an un-vaxxed exercise yard.
The relatively mild Omicron may be the natural endemic end game of Covid, lockdown restrictions only serve to impede that natural end game. Unless there are forces that would welcome more virulent breakthrough strains – in that case jab, jab, jab is the profitable slogan.
February 15, 2022 @ 12:18 am
I am glad you have recovered quickly John!