I am a travel business writer. In early May 2022, I attended a conference at a hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. This was the first conference I flew at in January 2020. Everyone present had to be fully vaccinated, proving this through the Clear app on their phone. Masks were recommended, but few wore them.
I flew to Las Vegas on May 2 and returned to LA on Friday, May 6. On May 7, I finished and posted a story on Forbes.com Party, like it’s 2019 in Las Vegas, where the crowds are returning. On Sunday, May 8, after avoiding it for more than two years, I tested positive for COVID.
COVID is not over. I caught him somewhere during my trip, on Uber, at the airport, on the plane, at the hotel, at the conference, on the streets, in a restaurant or bar.
I started coughing and feeling sick around 1 am on Sunday. When I got up, I did a home test for COVID. Both blue and pink lines could be seen; I was tested positive. I spent the day in bed taking Anacin. I used a thermometer to check my temperature and a finger pulse oximeter to test my oxygen level. On Monday, I did another COVID test at a local pharmacy (with results reported in LA County), then went to an emergency center. I tested positive for both.
I tweeted: “As late as ever, I finally got # COVID19, two and a half years later. Yes, vaccinated three times. Did I lose my vigilance or was my number higher? So far unpleasant, sometimes painful and isolating, but it seems survivable. He’s lying in bed watching #MichaelCaine movies. “I later wrote,” I’m tired and have a hard time working. I fall asleep writing this. I closed my eyes. ”
I was sick for a week. My symptoms include a persistent cough, choking, fever that rises to about 102.7, diarrhea, and general exhaustion. I isolated myself from my wife and took the steroids, the Z-pack antibiotic and the inhaler they prescribed me.
My friend, an epidemiologist, recommended that I take Pfizer’s new antiviral drug, Paxlovid. Although I am in a high-risk age group and have chronic bronchitis, I had to teach the doctor to give it to me. He was trying to save me possible side effects, but relaxed when I said I had to fly until my son’s college.
I found one of the few pharmacies with Paxlovid and took it for five days. My symptoms disappeared after about three. I recovered at home without going to the hospital. After 8 days I stopped giving a positive test and was healthy enough to fly to the east coast.
I was lucky that my case of COVID was mostly annoying, not life-threatening. More than a million Americans have died from COVID, including some I knew.
Instead, I am one of the 85 million who tested positive. Still, the CDC says 60 percent of Americans have had COVID – about two hundred million people. A CDC spokesman said: “We know that the reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Millions do not develop symptoms. Others are simply not tested or remain at a lower level, as the results of their home tests are not communicated to health professionals.
So, whether they know it or not, it is quite possible that the person in the seat next to you or dancing at arm’s length has COVID-19. Yes, even if they are triple oiled, as I was.
I know people who traveled within days after a positive test. For other passengers, the easiest way not to test positive for COVID is not to test at all. How many are at this stage “ignorance is bliss”? Or did they think they had a bad cold or seasonal allergies?
Are indifference plus the latest COVID epidemic the cause of paranoia? Is it time to stop traveling again? My answer is no. I will not be locked in my house and the surrounding six blocks for another two years.
Our health security system, as it is, is fragile. Compliance is optional. The United States is not China. Flights to the United States do not require COVID tests or proof of vaccination. Not most hotels. Or restaurants. Or shops. So when you leave home, there is a good chance that the person next to you will have COVID-19.
I chose to travel to a well-attended conference. I was flying after the mask mandate was revoked. Like 90% of those on board (including the Southwest crew), I didn’t wear a mask. I didn’t wear it to the conference either. I guessed without a mask at the casino when I was sitting at a gaming table or going to eat. Most of the people around me were also unmasked.
You can call it rolling the dice. You could say I was stupid or tired of blocking and shutting down. I wanted to live my professional life as a writer on the road, not locked in a house staring at screens.
Like most things in life, travel has its risks. I risked catching COVID and I did.
I would do it again. I will do it again.