Dealing with the “We’re all going to get Covid” crowd?
December 27, 2021 12:04 PM   Subscribe

This has happened throughout the pandemic, but now with Omicron I keep hearing people talk about the inevitability of us all getting Covid and it’s freaking me out! Even the most staunchly careful, isolating, etc people I know are suddenly acting like infection is just inevitable.

I don’t want to get Covid, at least not in its current iteration (and am lucky to be able to almost completely isolate when cases are high) and the drastic “we’re all gonna get it” language I’m hearing from so many people, media outlets, etc is concerning. It feels like everyone has given up and I don’t know how to respond except for going away to have some private anxious moments and do some breathing exercises. I get that some people are probably saying this as a preemptive comfort to themselves, but to me it works the opposite.

I could use some help with this, especially as cases ramp up again and hospitals are headed toward even greater crisis. It already feels like we’re staring down the barrel of The Worst It’s Ever Been, and now everyone is just resigned? How are you getting through these next few weeks? Are there some special coping mechanisms or expert advice-givers you are turning to?
posted by fleecy socks to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Based on how quickly Omicron spreads, even among the vaccinated, it does feel inevitable. Where I am (Philadelphia) has just surpassed the highest # of cases per day, and Omicron just started spiking this week. NYC is 4x the initial peak and 2x last winter's peak.

However, based on the data from South Africa, the peak came and went extremely quickly with minimal hospitalizations. So the good news here is that this variant appears to be of the "highly contagious yet minimally damaging" variety, meaning it will actually kill off the less-contagious but more-damaging Delta variant. Obviously this may not hold true in other countries, but it certainly seems likely - and it also seems that if you're able to completely isolate over the next, say, 4 weeks, you're likely to avoid the great peak of omicron altogether.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:20 PM on December 27, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: For me, the most helpful thing to remember is that lots of us are doing everything in our power to not get sick and to never get sick because a bout of covid would be devastating or even fatal due to serious, preexisting health issues.

The thing about isolation is that cautious voices aren't out there because WE aren't out there. So to rebalance the narrative, I've had to adjust my social media intake. I mute accounts, I turn off the news. I've had to unfollow threads even here on metafilter, where we're typically leaps and bounds more cautious than the general public. I've even put boundaries on relationships with some of my loved ones who feel very different about covid than I do, which has honestly been easier than I thought.

And it helps to remember that eventually, someday, tbd, there will be a time when we won't have to always be quite so cautious. You can get through pretty much anything if you know that it has to quiet down eventually.
posted by mochapickle at 12:27 PM on December 27, 2021 [40 favorites]

Best answer: I suspect I might eventually get Covid, but it’s not going to be any time soon. If it happens it’s going to be many years in the future, when Covid is endemic in the population, we know exactly how to treat it, and better vaccinations will take the edge off.

I think a lot of people are frightened about getting it now, under these very uncontrolled and scary circumstances. They’re hearing statements about Covid never going away through that lens. I think the best way to deal the sentiment is to realize that they are scared and treat their fatalism accordingly.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:29 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

In Chile, with 92% of the target population fully vaccinated, we had a minor spike but it went back down again, and hospitalization and deaths are way down. So, it's not inevitable if people get vaccinated.
We're getting 4th doses in the near future, and my son should get his 3rd next month,
posted by signal at 12:36 PM on December 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe "everyone" will get Covid, but that doesn't mean they'll get this variant, or the next, or the next. Maybe they'll get an asymptomatic one down the line.

I think some people comfort themselves by saying these very fatalistic things, without recognizing that not everyone will be comforted.

I also think some people adopt a "get it over with" mentality, which isn't super constructive (you can be reinfected, so you aren't getting anything "over with.")

I simply shrug it off as best I can, and I'm putting off Covid for as long as I can.
posted by champers at 12:38 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Possibly this is ghoulish, and by all means ignore it if so, but... I've framed it in my head as a game, one of those games where you're doing everything you can to avoid the end condition (whatever it is).

Avoided Alpha, so far. Dodged Delta. Now trying to Omit Omicron.

This strategy is of course akin to what's been said upthread about delaying contracting it... thinking about it this way just reduces some of the stress for me.
posted by humbug at 12:47 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

I think people are talking shit online because they're scared, bored, fed up, and have a craving to just get something over with. I for one made my mind up on day 1 I'm keeping everyone I know safe the best I can and that's that. But that doesn't attract clicks. Im coping by frantically retweeting, which probably isn't really helping, and I should probably just log off, but we're just doing the best we can.
posted by bleep at 12:50 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I’ve (privately) shifted my thinking to “I will eventually get COVID”. For me, it’s a coping mechanism, and a deliberate attempt to shift away from assigning blame or guilt on myself if/when I do get it. Otherwise, I am seriously worried for my future mental state when I get sick despite years (at this point) of doing everything in my power to avoid it.
So what you’re seeing may not be resignation, it might not mean people are letting their guard down. We’re all just trying to cope.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:52 PM on December 27, 2021 [37 favorites]

I intend to kick this can as far down the road as possible, so I’m continuing to be as careful as I can, but am realistic that everything is not within my control. My mom has been incredibly careful for two years but she just fell and hit her head and had to go get a CT scan, where she likely picked up Covid (test pending). That’s the kind of thing that can happen to anyone. But it’s also no reason to, like, hang out unmasked in the ER all day. It might be inevitable but the longer you can wait, the better. All the fatalists I know have indeed gotten it, due directly and obviously to their fatalistic behavior. I really don’t understand how the concept of reinfection is eluding them, but there’s a lot I don’t understand in this world.
posted by HotToddy at 12:52 PM on December 27, 2021 [12 favorites]

Best answer: A good friend of mine is in this camp, and I wouldn’t say it’s monolith in terms of motivation. We’ve talked about this shift in depth and from what he’s told me, his “infection is inevitable” stance is just resignation. He’s not doing anything different than he was last winter. Isolating pretty hard, not traveling, groceries twice a month, etc. He is not in the “fuck it” camp and going to concerts and shit, but is just fearful that it is inevitable, and kind of resigned to this. Resignation might not quite be the right word; In him it seems more like acceptance than a resignation. Even though those are super close to each other.

He’s told me that with basically no functional lockdowns or quarantines, loose masking requirements, not-high-enough vaccination rates, shit federal guidance, that he feels he has no real power in the situation.

And I get the perspective, but it’s not all cavalier “we’re all going to get it, so fuck it” folks, but some people are doing all the ‘right things’ and are still in the “we’re all going to get it” camp.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:55 PM on December 27, 2021 [24 favorites]

I feel like I haven't given up since I've done all that I can (triple vax, N95 out of the house) but I'm not going to keep living in a bubble to wait out something that might never end. At the beginning of the pandemic I was 100% on board with lockdowns because we were just waiting out the clock until the vaccine was ready. I was prepared for that to take years.

Well, the vaccines came, those who chose to take it no longer have a naive immune system, a significant portion of the human race has decided to say "fuck that", and the third-world just doesn't have access at all. And on top of that, exurban wildlife populations are now becoming viral reservoirs. All of the doctors I casually know agree that it's endemic.

So I'm not going to be attending covid parties, by any means, but I'm getting back on public transport and going to the grocery store.
posted by hwyengr at 1:05 PM on December 27, 2021 [27 favorites]

I would probably count myself among this crowd. Given the rapidity of omicron spreading, and my likely risk of exposure, it's "just one of those things."

For me, this attitude is mental preparation to go along with the other precautions I've taken: checking and optimizing biomarkers that correlate with covid outcomes (vitamin D, HbA1c, triglyceride-HDL ratio, C-reactive protein, etc); stockpiling supplements and medicines that may be useful for at-home early treatment.

I liken it to the weather: you can't control the storm, but you can put on rain gear and rubber boots to avoid getting soaked.
posted by theorique at 1:12 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: We are absolutely not all going to get COVID. Those of us lucky enough to have finite control of our exposure are still unlikely to get it. But the reality is that we are are the exception. Most people do not have that control. They have unvaccinated kids in school. They are being forced to go into offices. They have jobs they need that expose them to many other people.

I think what people who say "we are all going to get COVID" are really saying is "all of us in my position are going to get COVID." And they are probably right. Their only alternative to radical acceptance is abject rage.

So perhaps the best response is the most compassionate one you can muster.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:13 PM on December 27, 2021 [53 favorites]

I have muted the word "covid" on social, deleted my Facebook (finally), and have told people "I don't want to hear it" when they start talking about how we will all get the virus. I'm immunocompromised and this line of thinking will get me killed, so I'm out. I don't need or want to know. It's too sad.

Oh, and I updated my will.
posted by twelve cent archie at 1:20 PM on December 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Here in the US, there's hardly any coordination around mitigating the impact of Omicron, so everyone is formulating their own highly individualized risk assessments. "Everyone is going to get Omicron" is a way of saying, "I do not have the means to protect myself effectively, and I have come to terms with that."

If this statement does not feel true for you, I think you should set your own boundaries. Hunkering down for 4-6 weeks and telling people you're not up for discussing Omicron is completely reasonable.

One thing to keep in mind is that many people have already been affected by Covid in life-altering ways. I got sick before vaccines were widely available, and it took me months to recover. At this point, I just don't have it in me to be very afraid of reinfection, especially when I'm unlikely to suffer the way I did the first time round. I'm boosted and I'm still being cautious, but I am mostly afraid for my vulnerable loved ones and neighbors, not for myself.
posted by toastedcheese at 1:27 PM on December 27, 2021 [18 favorites]

Best answer: My kids are in school. I work public-facing. We don’t eat out. We do curbside. I stopped working out at our vaccinated-only gym. My kids haven’t been inside anyone’s home but ours since March 2020.

A week ago I worked in a tiny office, masked, for 2 hours training a new staff member. She’s double-vaxxed, I’m triple-vaxxed as of a week before that. Tuesday morning she felt sick, did a negative rapid antigen test on arrival but I sent her home. Wednesday she did a PCR test and came back positive. I haven’t tested positive on daily (on some days 2x daily) rapid tests. Negative so far. But that’s not the end of this wave. If schools are in session, I’m providing busing and aftercare. If schools are virtual, I’m providing full day care for a smaller cohort, because those young kids need care. Along with my team.

I could easily quit my job and go back to marketing and not have to go out there. There are parts of the business I work in that are non-essential. But then who is going to support my team and watch these dozens of kids? Some of them have issues and during the last two lockdowns a couple of them stopped speaking entirely. I see huge deficits. And these are all kids whose families can afford our fees. So yeah, if Omicron can invade my booster and my mask, I will get it. That’s not right wing nonsense and it’s not fatalism. But it is my life. I don’t work from a desk all the time. I accept this may mean getting it. I’m trying to get my 10 yr old his second shot at least. (In Ontario he’s supposed to wait 8 weeks between shots.) I live with a senior. We do our best. If anyone were immunocompromised maybe I would have quit my job, I don’t know.

But - we say this to each other because it’s getting statistically likely. I honestly am getting tired of people who choose to be oblivious to everyone whose jobs are to be physically present in a space. I get your fear; I share it. But I don’t stand where you are. So maybe think of people like me? I’m not out to get you. I’m working on getting kids through this.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:33 PM on December 27, 2021 [54 favorites]

Right, like a couple of other answers, my partner works in a grocery store, and we recently said to each other, "well, I guess this will probably be when we get COVID." Of course, if US politicians showed any interest in a shutdown, that might not be the case - but it seems pretty clear that they've made a calculation that it's not worth the political costs right now.

And also, as someone who works in higher ed, I've seen more of the mental health/addiction crisis in the country among young people than I'm really fit to handle, honestly (I get weepy whenever I think of certain conversations with students). I am still doing my part to not be part of the problem (masks, booster, currently just sharing air space with my partner, etc.) but I don't begrudge people, particularly single people, who sometimes need to prioritize human contact.

But yeah, mute "COVID" "Omicron" on social media, or better yet, take an Internet break.
posted by coffeecat at 2:06 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: the inevitability of us all getting Covid

It depends on the time horizon. Even the newly revised, super-pessimistic IHME model "only" thinks there will be 140 million cases in the US this winter. That's an absolutely enormous number, but it's also less than half of the population. But on a scale of many years? Yeah, probably, just like almost everyone gets a cold at some point in their lifetime. But the longer you manage to avoid it the better and more available vaccines and treatments will be, including things like pre-exposure antibody treatments for the immunocompromised.

It's also really important to put it in terms of your own risk and the risk you pose to others. First there's your own risk. Most people have okay outcomes: no hospitalization, no long COVID. Vaccination and boosting reduces that risk even further. Being vigilant about symptoms and getting tested maximizes your access to what treatments there are available, since many of them depend on early detection.

Then there's the risk you pose to others. If you wear a mask, minimize your exposure to others, and test as early and often as you can, then you minimize the risk that you will spread COVID if you do catch it.

So saying "I feel like it's inevitable" does not have to mean "I feel like it's inevitable that I will get badly sick or die" or "I feel like it's inevitable I will get it and pose a serious risk to those around me." There are lots of very effective strategies for mitigating those risks.

How are you getting through these next few weeks? Are there some special coping mechanisms or expert advice-givers you are turning to?

I and everyone in my bubble of 4 have had their booster shots. I'm fortunate enough to work from home. I wear an N95 on the rare occasions I'm outside my bubble (e.g. grocery shopping). We keep an eye out for at-home tests so we can maintain a small but steady supply and test anytime we have symptoms that could be COVID. So far we've always tested negative, but if we do turn up positive we have a plan for dealing with it, including in-house isolation and 24/7 mask wearing until the coast is clear.

I think my risk of getting it this winter is low, despite the wave. I also know that if I did get it, I and the 3 other people in my bubble would probably be okay. Every interaction with another person is a little roll of the dice, but it's also a fallacy to think that since we've made it this far that we're somehow "due". Keep taking precautions and remember that any given person you interact with probably doesn't have COVID, if they do they probably won't transmit it (because of the precautions you're taking), and if you did get it you would probably be okay.

The last thing: try not to see getting COVID as a moral failing (at least not among those who take any kind of reasonable precautions). If you catch a cold you don't think "oh no, I'm a terrible person and the person who gave me this cold is a jerk who should be shunned." It's a risk to be mitigated and (if necessary) an illness to be treated. Assuming you're taking reasonable precautions, then putting moral weight on it only adds unnecessary stress, and I'm sure you have more than enough of that already.
posted by jedicus at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2021 [18 favorites]

It is highly likely in my life I will get in a car collision, develop some form of heart disease, and catch the flu. My conclusion from that isn't to not wear a seatbelt, avoid exercise, or lick my unwashed fingers after being out for the day.

I can simultaneously conclude that infection from COVID is a highly likely event for me and take the precautions I think are appropriate to avoid that result.
posted by saeculorum at 2:09 PM on December 27, 2021 [30 favorites]

Best answer: I could use some help with this, especially as cases ramp up again and hospitals are headed toward even greater crisis.

It may seem that way but here are some stats: as of today the US has about 50million COVID identified cases two years into the pandemic.

And to get some stuff out of the way, that 50m includes people sick enough to think they had it (about 90% [these are guesses] and 10% people who went to the doctor for some other reason and found they had it but had no symptoms). People can also get COVID twice and more, but we're going to consider each case being an individual person.

So what does that mean? There are 330m people in the US, and considering the age grouping and ethnic grouping of COVID bumps this a bit depending on risk profile. That statistically, only 1 in 3 to 4 households has direct experience with COVID. The rest have indirect experience, ie a relative not in their immediate family unit or a friend got it.

Believe it or not, those are not huge numbers. So will we all get COVID? Probably, but it will be several more years.

Have more than 50m people gotten it? Maybe, but it's not particularly meaningful if they got it and didn't realize it.

Also since the vaccines have come out and are extremely effective against death and hospitalization, pure case numbers alone are not particularly valuable or meaningful unless you are in the immuno-compromised category.

Also 'getting COVID' is not particularly meaningful, given it's huge variation in symptoms.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:20 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

"I'm probably eventually going to get it" is frankly just a hard-headed, realistic assessment of the odds under current circumstances. Unless you have the means to isolate yourself fully and indefinitely, you're likely to get some variant at some point before you die. An infectious respiratory disease endemic in the population you live in? Come on.

Does that mean I'm running around careless of my own and others' health? No. I don't want to get it, and I particularly don't want to get it now, when health care systems are so strained. But at a certain point one must accept the fact that even perfect rule-following cannot keep you safe forever in the face of constant exposure to small but significant risks.

Did this disease have to play out in this way? No. But here we are. That is the voice of adulthood recognizing the inadequacy of earlier narratives to capture reality and moving on.
posted by praemunire at 2:31 PM on December 27, 2021 [21 favorites]

I freaked out about Omicron about a week ago and emailed a colleague who is also a friend who works in this area. She said something that really resonated. I have probably read it before but somehow hearing it from her made me feel different.

Unless you are going to completely isolate from the world for the next however many months it is, there is no way to make the risk zero.

I am vaccinated and boosted. I wear a mask indoors still unless I am with family. Those are the concrete things I can do.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:37 PM on December 27, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I don't share the 'it's inevitable' sensibility but I can talk to the 'what happens if I get it after two years of doing my utmost to avoid it' angle. My husband and I both had it a month ago and honestly I was TERRIFIED because my husband has underlying health conditions and we've understood til now it would be serious for him if he caught it. Well reader, we were both fine. Ill for a week, tired and emotional for another, and then, fine. And I think the reason is we're both double vaxxed and the likelihood of serious illness for either of us is actually considerably less now because of that. People we had physical contact with in the undiagnosed period were not subsequently infected. We followed guidance. It worked out.

Would we rather not have had it? Hell yes! Did we isolate and make damn sure we weren't knowingly risking tranmission to others? Absolutely! But I am way less willing to emotionally max out on 'Avoidance At All Costs, Social or Otherwise' than before. Although I'm absolutely sticking to best practice around social distancing etc, I am considerably less afraid than I was before of catching or transmitting it and I can't help manifesting elements of that in my attitude: I'm grateful for the vaccine, happy to be alive and ready to learn how to live with this virus as it continues to evolve. That's not defeatist - it's hopeful!

So I'm not saying you should just throw caution to the wind, I'm just saying that maybe those people just feel the balance of risk has shifted for them since last year. You can still run your own risk assessment, you can still choose to stay home, we should still follow medically assessed government advice and exercise caution, but it's not a guaranteed death sentence for you or those around you. Things are improving.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:39 PM on December 27, 2021 [24 favorites]

Best answer: A user who wishes to remain anonymous says:
I am one of the “We’re all going to get Covid” crowd. The way I'd like you to deal with me is vaccinated, boosted, and dammit, being kind to yourself.

Two years ago several billion of us worked very, very hard to get the word out that getting this virus was bad and could kill people you love. I was part of that effort and it was right, important, and true. It's inevitable that both a little moral shaming and some deep, animal fear would get mixed into that. We can't avoid it. Those frames (moralizing and fear) don't get disassembled overnight, even if the risks are – to indulge my perspective for a moment – not unreasonably high for fully vaccinated people who aren't of advanced age.

I don't feel that I'm "giving up", or have resignation about it any more than I do at the idea that I'm going to get food poisoning again at some point. Will it suck? Maybe, but a numerate read of the risks doesn't make me suspect it will be that bad, because I'm vaxxed and boosted and I'm your age. I'm honestly more afraid of antivaxxers making it so we can't get back to living normally ASAP.

Do I fear getting Covid? Sure. When I'm trying to fall asleep, I sometimes get a few moments of that March 2020 feeling, when I had a panic attack about the idea of being put on a ventilator. But I treat that like my fear of flying: irrational but understandable. So I remind myself, who cares if I get Covid? My immune system is warned and prepared! The two most likely outcomes, by far, are being asymptomatic or feeling like I have a bad cold.

Anyway, I deeply hope this assuages rather than exacerbates your negative feelings about Covid as it becomes endemic. If I did the opposite, my sincere apologies.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:04 PM on December 27, 2021 [24 favorites]

Yes, at this point planning to never catch COVID is like planning to never catch the flu. You might not catch it this year, won’t catch it every year, and you might be able to delay it until treatments are more sophisticated and less bottlenecked. But it would be unrealistic to avoid it forever.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:28 PM on December 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am also on the "eventually we're going to get Covid" train, but that's because my husband is a teacher and ... I just deleted a wall of text because we all have an idea how that is going.

For me, it was healthier to shift from "ohgodohgodohgod I can't get this I don't want this I need to hide" to "I'm vaxxed and boosted and ready for when it comes." Reframing it that way stopped me from breaking down sobbing in grocery stores. For me, it's more optimistic.
posted by kimberussell at 4:33 PM on December 27, 2021 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Nothing is certain, but the best guess of most people who study viruses and pandemics is the Covid will become endemic over time. Meaning that it will be something more like the cold or flu viruses that we currently deal with, that are more or less constantly circulating in the population, probably with certain seasons that have more cases, or another typical cyclical way of circulating constantly through the population.

However, when those waves hit during the endemic stage, it will not necessarily be at all like it is now. Hospitals won't be filling up, people won't be dying in droves, etc. At worst it will be something like flu season (and let's by honest, some tens of thousands of people die in the U.S. annually from the flu, and similar proportions in most every country around the world) and at best, and possibly more likely, it will be about like the common cold. Meaning that it circulates but very few people have really serious cases or die from it.

What is making the Covid pandemic so bad is that the virus is just ripping through a completely naive population. No one has any immune defenses against it at all (or at least, that was the case as of January 2020).

Most any of the cold viruses would likely have the same type of effect if they were released in an entirely immune-naive population.

So why don't the common cold viruses cause mayhem and kill thousands right now?

- Pretty much everyone gets the virus as a young childF, when it is relatively milder, and starts building up immune resistance at that point.

- Everyone is re-exposed to the virus on a regular basis every few years, and each time that happens your immune system is recharged and becomes even more savvy at dealing with the virus. Sometimes when this happens you might have a bad cold or a mild cold. But other times, you might not notice anything much at all.

Another possible future is that we catch Covid really early on an just eradicate it 100%. Obviously, that didn't happen and we are past the point where it could happen.

Yet another possible future is that through inoculation etc we are able to reach actual herd immunity (not just resistance, weak cases, etc, but actual complete immunity by a large-enough percentage of the population) and actually eradicate the virus altogether. This would we awesome if we could do it. But so far we have accomplished that for only two viruses: Smallpox and the closely related Rinderpest. This might be possible in the future but everything we are seeing so far looks like SARS-CoV2 doesn't fit into the category of viruses that are going to be easy to eradicate entirely.

So what we are left with is: Yes, Covid probably will be endemic and probably everyone will get it - and not only once, but periodically every few years. HOWEVER if we play our cards right that initial case and the periodically recurring cases will both be so mild you might not even realize it has happened to you.

So why not just go out to a Covid Party, catch it now, and get it over with?

- As time goes on, we have better and better ways of dealing with Covid. The longer you can delay catching the actual disease, the better - especially if you are immunocompromised, in a higher-risk group, etc. Everyone who has had a vaccine, and now maybe a 3rd dose, is way, way better off catching the disease than they would have been a year or year-and-a-half ago. That will continue to be the case in the future. Just for example, the Covid pill was just announced THIS WEEK. It will not be widely and easily available for a FEW MONTHS (probably). So if you can delay your Covid case at least until then, having that pill available is going to help a lot. Other similar therapies are under development or released but not really widely available enough yet. But give it 6 months or a year or two or four and we'll have more, better, and FAR more widely available therapies.

- Why go catch the disease when you can just get a vaccination or third dose, which gives you the same or better protection at far, far lower risk.

- Reasonable precautions are not nearly as onerous as the yelpers would have you believe. It's just not that onerous to keep wearing masks and avoid large crowds in enclosed spaces for another 6 months or a year.

- Even if you DO catch Covid you are still in the same position as before. You can catch it again two, three, even four times (based on actual examples we have seen - as the years unfold people will catch it even more often than that). So even if you DO get Covid you still have to get vaccinated, take the usual precautions, etc. Because you might get RE-infected and the re-infection might be worse than the original.

- As time goes on, more and more of the population has a higher degree of immunity due to both vaccination drives and previous Covid cases. So this slows the spread and with any luck we will indeed have lower case rates in the future. Keep in mind that the majority of many industrialized nations are now vaccinated but huge swathes of the world have vaccination rates less than 5% or 10%. So there is still huge progress to be made in those areas that will help slow the spread - both of Covid as a whole and of new Covid variants.

- Because of all those reasons there is good reason to think that at some future point the case rates will drop significantly. When you are immunized ****AND**** have low case rates in your area it is suddenly much, much safer to resume normal activities.

One of the things we missed this last spring and summer is everyone announcing, "Just get your vaccination and you can resume life as usual!"

In the areas I lived in this year, I saw Covid rates higher this year than last year - month per month. So sorry, but I don't care to catch Covid right now if I can avoid it - even if I am vaccinated. And if it's spreading faster in my area now than it was last year - well, incautious behavior is likely to lead to Covid, just like it was before.

To resume most of the activities of normal life, we need both individuals (and a large proportion of the overall population) to be vaccinated AND we need low case rates in your area.

Low case rates would be something like less than 5 or 10 cases per 100,000. In my state ZERO counties meet this criterion right now. The U.S. as a whole has about 50 cases per 100,000.

We were briefly there last June and with some luck maybe we'll be there again late next spring or summer.

TL;DR: Covid will probably be with us forever but there is still plenty of hope and plenty of good reasons to avoid catching Covid right now if you can avoid it.

Even if you do in fact catch it eventually you will be a lot better off if that eventually is in a year or two or four or six rather than right now.

Also if you really need to avoid catching it (immunocompromised etc) they are working on techniques like monoclonal antibodies that should be quite effective. Give those treatments a couple of years to become more fully developed - if you can.
posted by flug at 4:50 PM on December 27, 2021 [23 favorites]

Response by poster: I just want to say thank you to all of you. I do tend toward worry and anxiety, and omicron (and all things long Covid) really got me spinning. Anyway your willingness to share your answers and perspectives has made me a little weepy. I just appreciate it so much. Thank you for your kindness and for this community.
posted by fleecy socks at 5:03 PM on December 27, 2021 [24 favorites]

Best answer: So, in March/April/May 2020, Mr. Meat worked in the covid ICU, intubating people (aerosol generating, basically a face full of covid), reusing N95s, etc. He voluntarily took shifts from other coworkers who had 10x the likelihood of bad outcomes than he did.

I was terrified. I couldn't talk about it to my family because it was too scary for me. But I completely supported those decisions.

I accepted that he was going to get covid, that I needed to have a plan for the animals if we both got sick, that we needed a plan for isolating him if/when he tested positive, that I needed a plan for me getting a job with health insurance in case I lost him.

Guess what?

He never tested positive for covid, and he didn't test positive for antibodies until after being vaccinated.

Meaning it is not inevitable.

Yes, omicron is everywhere. Yes, it is quite likely you will be exposed. That doesn't mean you have to get it - masks still work. N95s work better. Distance works. Reducing your exposure budget works.

I haven't given up. I still don't want covid, even if it is "mild"! I've enjoyed not being sick since March 2020 because I wear a mask and wash my hands! So I upgraded my masks to KN95s at all times, I socialize with very few (vaccinated, boostered, cautious) friends in person, I test before I visit family, I got my booster and will continue to get boosters when recommended.

TLDR: you are not alone. Internet stranger hugs if you want them.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:18 PM on December 27, 2021 [23 favorites]

Best answer: The way people are talking about omicron it's easy to get the idea that there's a 100% chance that if you're anywhere near an infected person, you get it. I caught myself having the same defeatist self-talk: "I'm going to get it so I guess may as well get it over with". But my sister was exposed 8 days ago and didn't get it. My husband and two of our kids were on a full flight last Wednesday (this trip was the big reward for our kids for being brave about getting vaccinated; god help me, I didn't have the heart to cancel) and so far they are testing negative too. We're masking in the house so that if they get sick they don't pass it to their unvaccinated younger sister.

At this point the big question is whether schools will open next week and if so, whether our kids will attend. It's exhausting still having a child too young to vaccinate as it feels the world has moved on and no longer cares about the people who can't vaccinate and just lumps them in with people who can but won't.

Like many people, I expect that someday I will get covid. My goal for the last year or so has just been to delay that until it's a flu-like illness - that is, one with a working vaccine to lower the severity if I do catch it, and a widely available medication that can be taken in the early days to lower the likelihood it will be a bad bout. We are getting there. But we're not quite there yet. Once Paxlovid's production is ramped up and my youngest is fully vaccinated I'll sleep much easier.
posted by potrzebie at 5:20 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am one of these people. It also turns out that BC's provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is one of these people. We know that it is inevitable now that most of us in the province will be exposed at some point.

However, I don't see this as a defeatist position. We can still decrease transmission by limiting contacts, declining to participate in high-risk activities, and wearing better masks. I now know how transmissible the government thinks this virus is, and I can respond appropriately.

We're all in this together. We'll get through this.
posted by invokeuse at 5:33 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

And, just to add: exposure ≠ infection, of course! The more layers of protection you have (being vaccinated, wearing masks, meeting briefly, meeting outside), the better chance you have of not being infected.
posted by invokeuse at 5:35 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I wouldn’t say I believe that it’s inevitable that I will get Covid, but at this point, I share the mindset of a lot of Covid deniers that “it’s no worse than the flu,” with the crucial additional factor that this is true for me and my loved ones only because we are triple-vaccinated. Everything I’ve read indicates that a Covid infection for the vast majority of the triple vaccinated amounts to a mild to bad cold. As for the inevitability of infection, I have the privilege of living in one of the most vaccinated counties in the US (over 96% have at least one dose) with a widely observed indoor mask mandate in place, and yet in my county we are currently experiencing a surge of new cases. Until this thanksgiving, I knew maybe 5 friends or co-workers who had gotten sick, but since then I now know probably 25-50 people who have gotten infected. But all of them were double or triple vaccinated and none were seriously sick. So while I won’t be surprised if I get infected, I’m following the recommendations of experts to reduce that chance and any bad outcomes.
posted by hhc5 at 5:45 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Answering from quarantine after a boosted and asymptomatic breakthrough infection.

There's been great feedback here. The only angle I would add in terms of getting through this wave is to take a spoonful of "believe in science," as those of us who are maskers and vaxxers and boosters have admonished others over the last couple years. The emerging science, and the consistent reporting over the last month, show that these vaccines are really, really amazing, and are keeping us safe in the face of Delta and Omicron. (I've googled this off and on over the last two weeks and it seems there aren't official numbers yet on how many unvaccinated people have had breakthrough hospitalizations, but the reports I've seen are that vaccinated people are somewhere between 8 times and 19 times less likely to be hospitalized with Covid. I think this means something like 0 to 3 people out of 1,000 vaxxed breakthroughs will end up in hospitalization, but that's just my back of the envelope.)

I just wanted to find space to make this point, of what a blessing these vaccines are. It's a sign of how uncoordinated and incompetent state and Federal government response in the U.S. has been for fully two years now that we haven't had the breathing room to take a collective moment to soak in some wonder and some awe over this.

And of course, we have to recognize that there are a proportionally small number of people who have not been able to be vaccinated for legitimate reasons (age, mostly), that some vaccinated people remain at a higher risk level, and yes, that we probably bear some completely frustrating responsibility toward those who refused to get vaccinated. So, the same precautions as always apply to avoid infecting a vulnerable person, or someone two or three or ten people down the infection chain from us. For a lot of people, recognizing and taking the precautions has been the most effective coping mechanism. Mask, vax, test often, quarantine if you're infected. Limit in person interactions to the extent your economic situation and mental well being allow.

We're staring down the barrel of something incredibly frustrating and genuinely costly in terms of human lives, but so far there's not an indication that we're staring down the barrel of The Worst It's Ever Been. I don't think we're going to see another 800,000 dead in the U.S., or even another 200, 000, which is at once equally sad, sobering, and hopeful.
posted by kensington314 at 6:50 PM on December 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: So.

I'm one of the first people to get "unofficial" Covid in the United States, in very early March, 2020, in Seattle. I don't even know where I picked it up - I checked in with friends who had been in the same places as me, and none of them became ill. It was before masking, it was before lockdown, it was before any other restrictions, and I couldn't get a test because I hadn't been to Wuhan, China. I was able to get a test nearly a month later, even though the acute symptoms were gone for three weeks, because I still had breathing problems. That took about 2-3 more months to recover, and even now? I still have symptoms of Long Covid. That got officially diagnosed, even though I couldn't definitely prove that I had, uh, short Covid in the first place.

Is Covid now probably endemic by now? Maybe. Am I still taking every precaution that I possibly can? Oh yes. I wear N95s, got my first two Pfizer doses as soon as I possibly can, and same with my Pfizer booster dose. And with Omicron? I'm staying back indoors. Because I've had it once; I don't want it again.

The longer that I can put off getting Covid again means that there's more time for scientists and researchers to analyze the virus, and experiment and develop more treatments for it. There's more time for Epidemiologists to study it, and also to tweak the guidelines on what we need to do best to protect ourselves. There's more time for the medical establishment to catch up in terms of treating the virus, and to hopefully lessen the curve. And there's time to study Long Covid, and other long term effects of this virus, so hopefully soon I don't have to spend 75% of my life in bed.

I'm AOK in hunkering back down, and waiting this virus out. I have that luxury, so I'm taking it.
posted by spinifex23 at 7:07 PM on December 27, 2021 [9 favorites]

After getting a breakthrough infection over Thanksgiving despite being extremely cautious as well as both boosted and vaccinated, I’m increasingly in the “we’re all probably going to get it” camp, although IMO that’s been clear since September.

That hasn’t made me stop being careful, masking pretty much everywhere, or encouraging folks to get boosted. I still have a tiny pod of people. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant or gone to a bar since that brief downturn over the summer. In fact I view my breakthrough as a success story - my symptoms were extremely mild and I apparently didn’t manage to infect anyone else despite at least one repeated exposure.

I’m not resigned to it, but I’m no longer convinced that there’s any chance we reach herd immunity. That’s not fatalism, but seems to be the medical consensus. At this point the goal is keeping people out of the hospital and protecting as well as possible those people who can’t afford to get sick, period. So.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:26 PM on December 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm in South Africa. My husband is a frontline worker in a place where Covid precautions are being essentially ignored.
He's had Covid twice. I've had it once. There is a good chance that we might have Omicron now, waiting to see. We are both vaccinated but booster shots have only become available this week, so not boosted yet.
We have always been both extremely careful and have been doing everything we can not to be vectors to spread what we've been exposed to via my husband's work to others.
I have moved from being terrified of getting Covid to being able to live with the idea.
I had severe anxiety, losing weight, unable to go out of the house.
I have gradually worked through my fear, confronting it where I can. I had therapy. Recently I started to take a SSRI which has been profoundly helpful.
I'm OK now. I have learned to be OK.
The fundamental shift that helped me live with my anxiety was being curious about it,instead of being scared of it. Seeing every episode of fear as another chance to gather data, like a scientist conducting an experiment, or an artist studying the model they are sketching.
I don't think that I will inevitably get Covid. But I have realized that if I get it, I will probably be OK. And if I am not, I will deal with it then.
A large part of my anxiety comes from trying to control what I cannot. I deal with Covid by knowing that I am already doing everything that is in my control.
I used to console myself with "this too shall pass". Now I have realized that no, the world will not go back to the way it was before.
I don't know what the future brings, and that is OK. I have gone through fire and I am still here. I will be around to see what the future will be be. It's not my job to make my future safe. My job is to be there to experience it.
posted by Zumbador at 7:32 PM on December 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Some news that recently made me feel better, recently submitted results that Omicron infection (generally milder) leads to pretty good immunity to Delta (and hopefully this trend continues): tweet
posted by stoneandstar at 7:34 PM on December 27, 2021

this isn't some kind of spirit of the age arising spontaneously from the populace, it is a few dozen people who wrote the same propaganda piece in the atlantic and even worse places over the last month, and everyone else picked it up from there and started repeating those headlines and phrases verbatim a week later to feel & sound wise. with or without knowing they're doing it.

the flow of media thought-leading has worked like this for a while and it happens a lot. sometimes it's no more than irritating when everyone is expressing the same thought in the same way at the same time, but it's more jarring when the phrase-of-the-day is one you know to be damaging and wrong.

if and when everybody reverses course all at once, they will not remember that they previously said this shit. whether this aspect of it makes you feel better or even worse I don't know, but it's not suddenly happening for no reason. it's suddenly happening for a stupid reason.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:34 PM on December 27, 2021 [9 favorites]

I really don’t think so; many many doctors and scientists, virologists, immunologists, vaccine researchers, etc. have been saying this for ages, including ones who have been very proactive about mitigating spread. The fact that The Atlantic published it and it caught on doesn’t make it any less true. Obviously the super contagious nature of Omicron made it more obviously inevitable.

I have no idea how we could reverse course on this; possibly if a worse more deadly variant comes along, that would be treated as a specific emergency, but not evidence that COVID endemnicity is suddenly not inevitable.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:40 PM on December 27, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: In the specific case of Omicron, and those who say "we are all going to get it" - I think it is useful to explain that we need to be clear about what is understood by "get". There are various levels:
Level 1: Those who have been exposed to the virus.
Level 2: People who have been infected by the virus but who are asymptomatic.
Level 3: Infected people who are pseudo asymptomatic (minor symptoms they they don't report or notice)
Level 4: Infected people who have minor symptoms.
Level 5: Infected people with serious symptoms.

Looking at the way the infection has been playing out here in the UK - it seems true to say "We are all going to be exposed to this, probably". The prevalence and levels of infectiousness of Omicron are such that pretty much anybody who has been in a public place, a reasonable sized gathering (like a family Christmas dinner) or who lives with somebody else who has been to such a place - faces a high chance of being exposed to the virus.

But the levels are structured like a pyramid: very many people getting exposed but most not getting infected, many being infected but not getting ill - merely acting as spreaders, many also getting symptomatically infected but few getting seriously infected - so far. Dr John Campbell has been making videos about Covid 19 pretty much daily for couple of years - here is his latest on Omicron - he has been suggesting "we are all going to get exposed to this" since the outbreak was reported in South Africa.
posted by rongorongo at 10:51 PM on December 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A couple deleted; please stick to answering the question, thanks.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:51 AM on December 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a serious problem with people who use this idea as a justification for behaving in ways that put other people at risk ("We're all going to get it anyway, and it's not a big deal, because my cousin had it and it was just a cold, so stop bumming me out by complaining about my reckless behaviour!") and honestly that was my kneejerk reaction coming into this thread. My parents were almost certainly infected by someone who had a very mild case of Omicron and immediately afterwards (while he was still infectious) decided that it was NBD and he could completely stop taking precautions, and told anyone who would listen that it was probably good for people to get it and get it over with.

But it's clear to me now that a lot of people use this language as a realistic assessment of their own risk, or as a long-term prediction of the course of the pandemic, and it doesn't mean that they've stopped being careful or that they're "giving up". So in future I will listen more carefully to determine people's motivations before getting mad about this.
posted by confluency at 4:16 AM on December 28, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: One mental model that I have found useful in thinking about this issue is the "circle of concern / circle of control" idea. (I think I first read about it in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.)

The idea is that each of us have a "circle of concern" which is about matters that concern us. We also have a "circle of control" which is about matters that we can actually influence in some way. For everyone, the circle of concern is typically greater than the circle of control: most people want to change and influence more things than they actually can.

This breaks down into a 2x2 matrix:

(1) inside circle of concern / outside circle of control: "Fear" - Sources of anxiety and distress. I want to influence something and I am frustrated that I can't.

(2) outside circle of concern / outside circle of control: "Who cares?" - I don't control it and I don't mind that I don't control it. So I don't need to think about it at all, and that's fine with me.

(3) inside circle of concern / inside circle of control: "Actionable" - It is best to focus most of my attention and effort here because I both care about it and can do something about it.

(4) outside circle of concern / inside circle of control: "Distraction" - Even though I can do something about it, it doesn't matter. Therefore any effort I spend taking action here is wasted.

Unsurprisingly, I've found the best feelings about the whole covid situation have arisen when I've been operating in (3): making plans, getting supplies, working on physical and mental health (exercise, self-care), connecting with family and friends.

The worst feelings have arisen when I've operated in (1): complaning about distant government or corporate decisions, ranting about the insanity of the world or specific people in it, endlessly doomscrolling statistics, reading sad "human interest" stories that don't deliver any actionable information, etc.

Regarding the specific question, "is it inevitable that 'everyone' will get covid?": it feels to me like operating in (3) about this question would involve taking appropriate actions to reduce or mitigate risk or increase resilience and well-being. Focusing too hard on answering the question (which is effectively unanswerable) seems more like a (1) activity: existential rumination without any satisfying conclusion.

To put this into effect, asking "am I concerned about this?" and "do I control this?" about any issue or situation will slot the issue into one of these four categories. Learning which category something fits into can determine what action is needed (if any).
posted by theorique at 5:50 AM on December 28, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I think it has been clear for a very long time now that the trajectory of the disease is towards being "endemic," such that it is in constant circulation. That isn't quite the same as saying that everyone will get it, but over time it would mean being exposed for sure and likely catching (hopefully mild) cases every so often.

The key thing, though, is that the meaning of "everyone will get it" has drastically changed. Pre-vaccines and pre-effective treatments, "everyone will get it" was a really dire statement to make, because it meant that an awful lot of "everyone" was doomed to have serious symptoms or even death.

Now, with available vaccines (at least in richer countries...), increasingly available treatments, and with a fairly large percent of the population having some level of resistance from already having caught covid, "everyone will get it" has a much less dire connotation.

I also agree with the people saying that this isn't something that is helpful to stress about since so much (like, implementation of national policies) is outside of each of our control. The parts you can control, like if you go to the packed indoor New Years party or if you stay home with a small group, continue to matter and will do so for as long as hospitals are stretched so thin; these things matter regardless of whether or not "everyone will get it".
posted by Dip Flash at 6:50 AM on December 28, 2021 [10 favorites]

I just came here to say I hard agree with you. As a mother of 1 unvaxxed kid with another on the way, and living in NYC right now where child hospitalizations have doubled, I've been incredibly frustrated with friends of mine saying, "we're all gonna get it!" and then head out to indoor bars unmasked, as if there's nothing more they can do.

For me, confluency has it above. There's a contingent, like the friend I mentioned, and then there's the contingent who are still doing all of the preventative work possible but are mentally preparing themselves. They're not the same, so doing the work to separate these out in your mind is really key.

Take care of you and yours, and those who can't survive even a 'mild' case. I'm right there with you. :)
posted by knownassociate at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

I show them the surrendermonkey meme
posted by kschang at 3:53 PM on December 28, 2021

I mean, I have two (vaccinated) elementary school aged children; I am probably going to get Omicron within the next month. Why? Because I’m not willing (or able) to pull my children out of school. Here inn MA, TEN THOUSAND children tested positive through the school testing program the week before winter break.

I’m not saying “I’m probably going to catch Covid” because I’m quitting, I’m saying because to think otherwise, for my family, feels like magical thinking. I mean, we might not catch Covid. Those who can be boosted are, kids have two doses, we mask everywhere. We might also just get lucky.

But I’m done beating myself up over having children in school when, for OUR family, the risks of Covid now that we are vaccinated are much smaller than the risks of social isolation for my children. I don’t judge people who are more conservative, at all, but I cannot continue living a sustainable existence without acknowledging that it unfortunately exposes us all to omicron.
posted by lydhre at 4:30 PM on December 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I alternate between OHMYGOD and "eh." I'm in NYC and I' m 71 years old and my partner is 76 years old and we have some (currently) mild "conditions" under control (currently) (like hypertension).

I don't think we're all going to get it. I think a lot of us are going to be exposed to it, but, as so many people have posted above, it's probably going to be quite okay (for some value of "okay"). It is possible that, if I or my husband get it, we're going to get really sick and/or die or have awful symptoms for the rest of our lives or for some long period of time BUT from what I'm reading, I don't think that's REALLY likely, since we are triple-vaxxed (which currently = "vaxxed")(as you know). We ALWAYS wear our N95s when we go out. We very rarely do anything indoors (but for Christmas our son and his girlfriend came over -- and she had just been traveling. They took about a million tests! (PCR days before and some home antigen tests I'd bought, including in our hallway before we let them in our apartment! I was concerned because the antigen tests were considered about 95% accurate for Delta but, apparently they're only about 80% accurate for Omicron) . However, nobody got sick!)

ANYWAY that's not what I wanted to say! What I wanted to say is that, in the next X # of months we are going to be getting shipments of Paxlovid, which brings down the probability of hospitalization if you are infected and high-risk for serious illness, by 89%. THAT IS A BIG BIG DEAL. (4 pills twice a day for 5 days within 3-5 days of symptom emergence - big deal, I think we can handle that!)

So it is not just a VAGUE thing in some abstract future of "Better treatments coming!" There is an EXCELLENT TREATMENT right on the horizon. I tell myself that I'm going to hunker down as much as I can (and I am a very lucky person in that I mostly CAN hunker down; I work at home, etc.) for the next few months (and I"m reading tonight that the Omicron wave is not going to last all that long -- and I have a friend who is a pathologist at a major medical center in NYC and he says this is what they're thinking now, about Omicron) and probably be just FINE and that this new antiviral (I"m not discussing the Merck one which I think maybe should'nt even have been authorized, but I don't know, it's not my field) is coming and it has really been DOWNPLAYED in my opinion! (because "they" don't want us to avoid vaccination? I don't know - just a thought) --

and this is just the beginning of these treatments, and I think a pan-Coronavirus vaccine is on the horizon too, AND there are vaccines coming like the one just authorized that came out of a children's hospital in the US but is going to be manufactured I think in India --- patent free!! --- for wide international distribution---

etc etc, there are just a lot of things happening!

So yeah --- my strategy is stay as safe as I can manage for the next 3-6 months, but if I get infected I will mostly likely be FINE because of these MIRACLE vaccines (and I might try to wrangle a 4th shot along the way too), and then the GREAT treatments are almost here, and I think it is very very highly likely that the vast vast majority of us will get through this in one piece (though not all of us (I have to say that or else somebody is going to be mad at me -- yes I know there are high-risk people -- I AM ONE OF THEM --- and I know plenty of others!)))

Oh and I quit Twitter, because it was giving me HORRIBLE ANXIETY. Cull your "news" sources. Allow yourself to own your own life, your own experiences, you're still allowed to be happy or just "Okay" if that's your thing. Sorry to go on.
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:02 PM on December 30, 2021 [3 favorites]

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