Saifee: You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty if You Get COVID-19

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Sydney Stam

(Graphic by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Zahra Saifee, Opinion Editor

 

This semester, COVID-19 still threatens the health and safety of our campus community and has altered our learning experiences. However, the narrative surrounding COVID-19 has changed. With the rise of the highly transmissible Omicron variant earlier this year, more people have gotten sick than ever before. The number of people who are vaccinated and boosted, and have still contracted COVID-19 has also increased. Every week, I’ve had a COVID-19 exposure notification from the tracers at University of Utah Health, despite an 84% vaccination rate on our campus. I’ve had friends and coworkers test positive even though they’ve taken all the precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19.

Many continue perpetuating the narrative that your actions determine whether you get COVID-19 or not. And while vaccinations, regular testing and masking can lower your likelihood, there’s no foolproof method to avoid COVID-19. Guilt can creep in with a positive test result, especially if you’ve done everything in your power to stay safe. But you shouldn’t feel guilty if you contract COVID-19 — there’s only so much you can do on an individual level. However, at a national and local level, our leadership has failed to properly manage the pandemic and prioritize our health.

Breakthrough cases have become more common compared to the early days of the pandemic. Each new variant is more contagious than the previous one. Preliminary research has shown that the two shots of Pfizer or Moderna, or the one shot of J&J are not as effective against Omicron. People should get boosted too. But one thing has stayed consistent despite breakthrough cases — unvaccinated folks have it worse. If you are unvaccinated, you should be worried about contracting COVID-19. ​​Here in Utah, an unvaccinated individual has a 1.5x greater risk of contracting COVID-19, 4x greater risk of hospitalization and 6.4x greater risk of death. Unvaccinated individuals pose a risk to our public health, their personal health and an already strained healthcare system.

Realistically speaking, COVID-19 and all its future variants are here to stay. The same goes for methods of protection, such as vaccines, masks and testing. The sooner you get on board with those actions, the better your health and your community’s health will fare.

It’s unfortunate that many of our political leaders have worked against the best interests of our health and safety. ​​From the repeal of the mask mandate here in Salt Lake County to the Supreme Court’s decision to block President Biden’s vaccine mandate, these decisions adversely affect our health. Our leaders should be making scientifically sound decisions instead of getting caught up in the politicization of COVID-19.

Here at the U, our COVID-19 prevention options are limited, because we are a publicly funded institution. We can’t enforce a mask mandate. However, we can enforce a vaccine mandate that includes the booster, which is already in the works. The U should cultivate a more accessible learning environment as people continue getting sick and needing to isolate themselves.

In an interview with Grace Hall, a vaccinated and boosted student who recently contracted COVID-19, she said that missing 10 days of class was difficult. “It’s frustrating that some classes don’t have a Zoom option and aren’t really open to offering a Zoom option.” Like Hall, many other students face the same difficulties despite doing everything they can to prevent being in these circumstances. The U can better support its students throughout this pandemic by offering better remote learning options and encouraging its faculty to do so.

I have hope that we’ll get to the point where COVID-19 is no longer an all-consuming crisis, but a manageable sickness with effective prevention methods. Scientists predict that COVID-19 will eventually become an endemic similar to the flu.

Until then, you should make common-sense choices to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 and keep yourself and your community safe. Vaccinations are the best way to stay healthy. Continuing to wear masks in public places and at large gatherings will also help slow the spread. Get tested weekly, because asymptomatic positive cases have and will continue to happen. Try your best to convince the unvaccinated people in your life to get vaccinated by meeting them with compassion, patience and understanding rather than pointed attacks.

And, finally if you do get COVID-19, please follow the CDC’s recommendations for isolation and inform everyone who has been in close contact with you. It’s considerate and respectful to let people you’ve interacted with know that they have been exposed so they don’t spread it to more people.

This pandemic is not over yet, and individuals can only do so much to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Our leadership should be doing more to prioritize our health and safety. So don’t feel guilty if you get COVID-19, but don’t stop making smart decisions to keep yourself and others safe.

 

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@ZahraSaifee