The last time I had a doctor’s appointment, I went without a mask. It was a few days after the Covid public health emergency was lifted in May, and masking in medical settings was no longer required. This felt strange, but liberating. I asked the medical assistant who took my vital signs how it felt to her. After three years of having to mask for work, she said, it was both odd and freeing. She found herself feeling for her mask to be sure it was in place and realizing it wasn’t there.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that masking has been an essential step toward reducing the spread of Covid and has helped to save lives. I’m sure it also kept me safer from other viruses. But I’m glad that we’ve moved on to be able to choose safely, for ourselves and others, when to mask and when it’s no longer necessary. So far, I’ve stayed healthy (knock on wood) despite not masking in a medical setting. I stopped masking in restaurants months ago, and in stores, and even on a long flight home from Germany in March, and still stayed well. Thank goodness.
I also got my second co-valent booster the first week it became available again for seniors. So that certainly helps give me an extra layer of invisible protection. And I remain meticulous about using hand sanitizer after touching public door handles, touch screens at check-out counters, elevator buttons, and using public restrooms. I did that before the pandemic, and I have never stopped. That’s just common sense.
Recently I noticed that Covid is no longer necessarily spelled with a capital C in news stories. I’m not sure if this coincided with the end of the public health emergency. It looks a bit odd, and I’m not quite yet ready to adopt that transition in my own writing. The virus has a long shadow. But perhaps this is just one more way that the pandemic has become endemic, like influenza, which is never capitalized and even has its own nickname, flu.
Covid is actually an abbreviation, already, of its full descriptor, corona virus disease. During the worst of the pandemic, I’d seen it shortened to ‘rona’ in casual texts and social media posts. Someday, perhaps, we’ll check off the annual rona shot on our fall medical to-do lists, along with flu shots.
Whatever you call it and however you spell it, all I can say is, to the best of our knowledge, thank goodness this very long, dark chapter has come to a close. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta wrote recently, while we still need to remain vigilant, now is the time to apply the hard lessons of the past three years, stay home when sick, be proactive about our health, and invest in staying well and living healthfully.
Stay safe out there.
Image: Vera Davidova