Robert Cox

Writing on the Wall

Robert Cox is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is RCox@cherryroad.com.


Make the right choice

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Over the past two weeks, Iíve written about my recent encounter with the COVID-19 pandemic, being identified as a close contact and having to quarantine for most of a week.

At first, I was more than a little concerned ó even though Iím vaccinated ó but as the days wore on and I had no symptoms, the worry faded to the background. It was still there, but I was pretty well convinced that I didnít catch the dreaded virus.

The power of positive thinking, right?

As a quarantined close contact, I received daily phone calls from the Arkansas Department of Health.

ďHello. This is Sarah, the automated public health assistant, calling for your daily report.Ē

I really grew to dislike these phone calls ó especially since they chose the name of my late wife for the computer voice ó but they also provided a bit of comfort.

ďThis is the report for R.C., age 50. Is this person experiencing any of the following symptoms: cough, difficulty breathing, new loss of smell, new loss of taste, shortness of breath, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, congestion or runny nose? Please reply with ĎYesí or ĎNo.í Ē

Each time I answered ďNo,Ē I became more convinced that I didnít have the virus, even though I am well aware that many cases can be totally asymptomatic.

Thatís been a fear of mine since the start, that Iíd have the virus, not realize it and transmit it to someone who could die from it. Thatís why I pretty much stayed away from people as much as I could, and when I couldnít, I wore a mask. I also got vaccinated as soon as I could.

Despite feeling a bit stir-crazy, I soldiered on through the quarantine period and went to get tested as soon as I was able. That was another new experience for me. Iím pretty sure I got poked in the eyeball ó twice ó from the inside.

That test came back negative, giving me the chance to exhale, releasing a breath I didnít realize Iíd been holding. The next breath was much sweeter, as I was able to contemplate returning to a more normal schedule.

I like staying home ó the temperature is just right, the light is just right and all my stuff is there ó but thereís a difference between choosing to and having to.

As many readers might be aware, while this was my first time in quarantine, it wasnít my first encounter with the virus. For those who arenít familiar with my story, let me remind you.

My mother tested positive for COVID back in 2020 and was admitted to the hospital. She soon found herself in intensive care and hooked up to a ventilator.

A few short weeks later ó the longest in my life ó she was gone.

I was holding her hand when it happened, a week after she was moved from the COVID floor. I can still remember the sounds and smells of that hospital ward and seeing the hope ó and eventually despair and grief ó I felt reflected in the faces of other families.

My mother turned 73 only four days before she went to the emergency room complaining of shortness of breath and an intense headache. She was arguably healthier than I am. COVID took her away from me.

That loss has influenced many of my decisions over the past 16 months, including leaving a job and a town I loved to move to Berryville.

I donít regret the move one bit. My boss is a good friend ó really more family than anything ó and most of the people Iíve met have been very welcoming. No one here has told me to go back where I came from. Not yet, anyway.

That said, there are a few things I have a problem with. One is the lingering resistance by many of the otherwise good people of Carroll County to get vaccinated.

Donít get me wrong ó Iím not trying to force anyone to do anything ó but I donít understand their reluctance.

Is it stubbornness? Is it just general contrariness? Is is just a general distrust? It canít be political ó or at least it shouldnít be. Itís a mattter of public health.

Donít tell me you wonít take it because you donít know whatís in it ó especially while you stand there eating Flaminí Hot Cheetos or a hot dog, drinking an energy drink or some other manufactured beverage. You donít know whatís in most things you consume on a daily basis.

Donít tell me it hasnít been tested. More than 4.5 billion people the world over have been vaccinated over the past year. If something was going to happen, weíd know by now.

Donít tell me youíve ďdone your own researchĒ unless you immediately follow with the name of the lab where you conducted it and produce your medical or scientific degree along with a link to the scientific paper you wrote detailing your findings.

And donít tell me it doesnít do any good. Yes, you can still get COVID even if youíve been vaccinated. You can also catch it again even if youíve already had it.

Thatís because of all the variants ó and because many people still wonít take basic precaustions like social distancing and wearing face coverings in crowds.

You can still get the flu even if you get a flu shot. Itís harder to become infected but you likely wonít get as bad a case if do.

To put it another way, Howie Long and I can both play football. One of us is a lot harder to score against.

Basically, stop making excuses. Attempting to justify your resistance with some inane reason just doesnít make sense. Not anymore.

If you donít want to take the vaccine, donít. Roll the dice. Maybe you catch COVID, maybe you donít. If you do, maybe you get a light case. Or maybe you die, like 84 other Carroll County residents.

Maybe the people you infect through your inaction get a light case. Maybe they die, like 9,434 other Arkansans already have, along with more than 5.5 million people around the world ó 843,000 of them Americans.

I mean, itís your choice. Make the right one. Get the shot.