An Invisible Pandemic?

Look, this post isn’t about denying COVID exists. I’m well aware of that, and my blog posts more than back that up. Rather, it’s about wondering if there’s a national reluctance to admitting when you come down with COVID. I realize this all might be confirmation bias, and that I’m dealing with a very small sample size here, but that’s why I’m writing this post: to try to get a sense beyond my limited daily interactions.

Bluntly put, I personally know 11 people who have come down with COVID. That’s off the top of my head, and I’m probably forgetting some. But of those 11 people, I only know of one whose diagnosis was actually “public,” so that people generally knew he was sick, and he’s over 80. (He has recovered, thankfully.)

If less than 10% of my friends are going public with their COVID bouts, I have to wonder how many more of my friends have had it but not said anything. More importantly, I wonder why. I’m concerned there’s some sort of a perceived COVID stigma, where people are worried they’ll be accused of not following the social distancing rules closely enough, or that they’ll face some sort of blowback in some other way.

I know it’s easy to sort of shrug this effect off. “What does it matter?” Well, I’ve seen the flip side of this: friends who don’t know of anyone who’s had COVID, so it seems like not that big of a deal.

I see a big discrepancy between the way COVID is reported in the news, and the way I see it play out in my actual life, so I can’t really blame others for noting that same discrepancy and even wondering if, as Trump puts it, COVID really isn’t something to be afraid of. “Less deadly than the flu,” and never mind all the experts who have said that’s not the case, and the 210,000 dead Americans who beg to differ. The flu kills around 30,000 or more people each year in the US. I don’t know anyone who’s died of the flu. I don’t know anyone who’s died of COVID, or who’s been affected by it long term, so it’s easy for me to conflate those two illnesses.

True, I live in Maine, and the COVID rates here are very low, so perhaps this is just something unique to my area, and people who live in places with a wider spread are actually talking about it, hearing about it, noticing it, etc. But I have friends and family in areas with higher spread, and I’m certainly not seeing a discussion about it on social media.

Which is part of the problem, I think. I wonder if so many people are just staying silent about it, and that in turn is swaying public opinion of the many who are still going out and about freely in public, unmasked and uncaring.

So I turn to you, my faithful readers. I don’t want to “out” any COVID cases who want to remain anonymous, so please anonymize cases if that’s called for. But how many people do you know who have had COVID? How many have been hospitalized or died? How many are dealing with long term effects? Maybe by talking about actual cases more, we can help convince more people to take it seriously. If we do that, we’ll be through with it all that much more quickly.


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