I believed I’d by no means get COVID-19. I’ve been vaccinated six instances – so many who I ran out of area on my vaccination card. I am the one who nonetheless wears a masks at Ralphs, Dealer Joe’s, and CVS. (I do not know what the folks in these shops have been as much as.) I’ve solely been to the cinema as soon as within the final three years – and that was to have fun a former colleague’s documentary at a movie competition.
In December of final yr, when the COVID elevated, I used to be shivering with mates on the out of doors seating of a restaurant. The proprietor got here out to greet us and requested, “What are you doing sitting out right here?” Not getting COVID, I believed.
One after the other my (vaccinated) mates acquired it. My niece, nephew and their mom all acquired it at totally different instances. Happily, nobody had a severe case or ended up being hospitalized.
Solely two of my shut mates had by no means contracted COVID—although every had lived in properties with individuals who did. And one among them has acquired all the things else – RSV, bronchitis and varied colds. By fall, there have been solely three of us left on our island of COVID evaders. We puzzled about our more and more uncommon standing within the biosphere. We have been the notorious “NOVIDs.”
Then I used to be kicked off the island.
On Friday, October thirteenth—precisely three years and 7 months since Friday, March thirteenth, when a nationwide emergency was declared—I walked into my highschool reunion in Chicago and spent the following 5 hours with my beloved schoolmates from my all- Catholic women’ highschool. We drank and ate. We hugged and laughed and talked to one another’s faces and huddled collectively for a category image.
I acquired off the aircraft again to LA Monday night time and examined after I acquired dwelling. For the primary time, I stared in disbelief—although I did not really feel effectively—at a vibrant pink line on a COVID take a look at. I used to be dejected and irritated. And I used to be sick – the next day I had a fever, cough, a flood of runny nostril and fatigue. My internist informed me it was exceptional that I had gone so lengthy with out getting it.
So why did I final as long as NOVID? And why did I lastly succumb?
“That is a extremely good query,” says Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious illness doctor on the College of California San Francisco. “A number of components made it simpler to transmit proper now.” The most important of them is the brand new HV.1 variant of omicron, he says. “These subvariants have gotten increasingly more transferable. … HV.1 was just about absent on the finish of July after which it began to select up. Folks suppose it is perhaps the winter variant. One of many causes it took velocity, is that it is vitally simple to get.”
There may also be a collective decline in immunity, he says. “Lots of people have been contaminated in California and across the nation within the spring of 2023. Once you add six months to it, some immunity and antibodies drop. If everybody drops on the identical time, it is simpler to unfold.”
And I did not have the total immunity my new vaccination would give me as a result of I acquired it lower than two weeks earlier than I used to be due for the reunion.
We do not know for certain the place I acquired contaminated (or if I used to be the one who introduced it to the reunion). It might have been the airport or the aircraft, although I used to be masked on the aircraft. However given the scale of the reunion and different components, it is conceivable that I walked into an ideal brew of circumstances to get COVID.
Chin-Hong is aware of how I really feel. He acquired COVID for the primary (and solely) time final Thanksgiving from a visiting relative. “I felt like I used to be a failure. Right here I’m probably the most cautious particular person,” he stated.
He estimates that maybe lower than 10% of the inhabitants nationwide has by no means had COVID.
Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Division of Public Well being, is one among them. She has by no means had COVID. “I do know there is a vital quantity of people that have not gotten COVID. However I am probably not satisfied for all these people who it is as a result of we’re by no means will get it.”
Ferrer has a member of the family who has had it 4 instances. “I have been with this particular person and have not been contaminated. However she did not infect anybody. There are individuals who get contaminated and do not get contaminated so simply. It is a new virus and there is nonetheless lots to find out about it,” she stated.
She takes lots of the identical precautions I do. She masks in locations that are not effectively ventilated. She avoids crowded eating places and hasn’t been to any bars since earlier than the pandemic. However she goes to out of doors live shows and baseball video games. And she or he exams twice per week.
In my case, she stated, I in all probability had a extremely intense publicity.
Out of the estimated 134 ladies who attended the reunion, seven of us acquired COVID, one of many reunion organizers stated. (I sat subsequent to one of many seven at a brunch that Saturday morning.)
“That is in all probability the tip of the iceberg,” Chin-Hong stated. Chances are high, a number of of my former classmates in all probability acquired it, however they did not take a look at or had little or no signs.
Seven days after I acquired sick, one among my mates who was nonetheless on the COVID island out of the blue examined constructive. “I doubt you gave it to me over the cellphone,” she wrote.
One good factor: Between my newest vaccination and my outbreak of COVID, I might have immunity that lasts all winter, says Chin-Hong.
He believes there could also be a small group of individuals with some pure immunity. “You have been a NOVID,” he tells me. “Maybe on the finish of this winter, the actual NOVIDS might be left standing.”