/The Pandemic of Convenience
Graphic by Bell Jackson

The Pandemic of Convenience

By: Jacob Gross  

Our managing editor, Xander Swain called me on Wednesday afternoon asking if I could pick up another article for the paper. With the rise in COVID-19 cases across the nation, I decided to pick up a COVID-19 opinion article. Before I could start researching for the article, my close friend tested positive for COVID-19. My Wednesday afternoon changed from studying and doing assignments to stressing about not being able to find any COVID-19 tests. Luckily, my mom’s friend had an extra rapid test that she was willing to give me. My mom came as soon as she could, and my body started to shake from the anxiety of it all. None of it felt real. It was as though I was reliving 2020. 

Sixteen hours later, it was hard to take a trip to the bathroom without coughing. I had chills and nausea and every ounce of my soul was asking it to end. It took me until that Sunday and a cocktail of over-the-counter remedies until I started feeling close to normal. 

I left on Wednesday night, and my symptoms didn’t begin until mid-way through Thursday. If I had followed the official university guide, I wouldn’t have been tested as soon as I was, and I would have exposed everyone in my Thursday class, a classroom that is packed and has no room for social distancing. 

The flurry of it all had me exhausted and confused. Whenever I checked my phone, it was bombarded with texts from friends on their COVID-19 results. Among our group of extended friends, several contracted COVID-19.  

This series of events made this article more pressing for me. It transformed my somewhat political stance that might look good in a tweet into a serious situation of guarding at-risk family members. 

And yet, the CDC has recently shortened quarantine time to five days if you test positive but are asymptomatic, or your symptoms “are resolving.” They did this during the rise in the omicron variant, based upon science that predates it. Biden has also backed the CDC’s decision, despite more than 80 million Americans being unvaccinated. These policies to shorten quarantine time completely disregard those Americans, assuming that everyone is going to recover from COVID-19 as if they were vaccinated. Why would the CDC and Biden do this?  

It’s simple. The CDC wanted to get dollars in the economy and flights off the ground. The CDC released this guidance amidst pressure from airline companies such as Delta and JetBlue to shorten isolation times for their business. Nothing said it better when the lobbying group for Airlines for America said “the decision is the right one based upon the science.”  

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to Joe Biden, dropped any pretense of the decision being scientific when he said that he supported the CDC’s decision, saying “if you are asymptomatic and you are infected we want to get people back to jobs — particularly those with essential jobs to keep our society running smoothly.”  

And where is Biden in all this madness, the president who got voted in by not being named Trump? The president who promised to rectify and correct the United States COVID-19 policy has seemingly done next to nothing. Declaring it a states’ rights issue, Biden seems to be more tired and apathetic to our lives than President Trump was. I remember watching press conference after press conference at the onset of COVID-19, where Trump at least seemed to be playing the part of a leader. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, I hardly see or hear from Biden, other than him occasionally saying that you should get the vaccine if you haven’t already.  

Every decision made in the face of omicron seems to be made from convenience. It is simply not convenient to care about a pandemic for two years with no end in sight. It isn’t convenient to quarantine for ten days, so if you’re asymptomatic, five days should be fine. Online classes aren’t convenient, so mask mandates should be fine. No response to the virus, especially the omicron variant, which can bypass previous immunities, feels convenient to the American economy.  

Sure, I was incredibly sick, but I have no pre-existing conditions. I’ve had my vaccine and was never in danger. The worst ramification of this illness is that my life and my commitments have been put on hold.  

While it does fill me with anxiety to miss so much school, I was someone who also thought of it as a pandemic of convenience. I was perfectly content to slander Biden’s response with my friends while unmasked and in restaurants. Our friend group has had a massive outbreak of COVID-19, and I can’t help but thinking that if I took omicron more seriously, if I thought to myself to stop hanging out with so many people, eating with so many people, then I would not have helped spread COVID-19 to our friend group. 

But I hadn’t thought about it any of this before my positive test result. I had so many close calls during 2020 and 2021, I figured I must be too lucky to get COVID-19. COVID-19 wasn’t a main concern for me. I had schoolwork, friends, extra-curriculars and a future to plan for.  

I have to live with the fact that I could have helped spread COVID-19 to people who have asthma and people who have family members who have weak immune systems, all because I chose the convenient option. I chose to play a part in this pandemic of convenience, and I can never relive it. 

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Jacob Gross is a writer for The Alabamian. He is an English major with a creative writing minor. He has played guitar for a few years and really enjoys painting even though he believes he is bad at it.