I have spent the past 23 months trying to avoid the plague. Now I’m almost waiting for it to happen. As the winter rain pounds my window, I sit inside pondering the illusion of safety. According to our Ministry of Health, about one third of the country’s population has gotten Omicron already.
So here I sit in my comfortable apartment, safely isolated from humanity and from the storm outside. Winter storms brought snow and ice to Jerusalem and the north of the country. Here in Ramat Gan, all we got was heavy rain and thunderclaps so loud that they set off car alarms throughout the neighborhood. This winter, as every winter, my family in New England have been deluged with snow. But I am snug and warm inside, happy to be able to work from home and lucky to have a refrigerator stocked with food. It’s not just the wintry weather I’m avoiding here inside: Just outside my door there are throngs of people, one third of whom are infected, if the Ministry of Health is to be believed.
That’s not surprising, since studies say that Omicron multiplies 70 times faster than the previous strains of Covid-19 including Delta… But since Omicron seems milder – at least for vaccinated adults – many people are becoming blasé about the virus. There’s also that much-talked-about phenomenon of pandemic fatigue. Even stalwart virus vigilantes like myself have gotten tired of all these safety measures. True, I no longer don latex gloves whenever I go out, nor do I smear hand-sanitizer on myself 10 times a day. Nevertheless, the masks and filters and social distance have taken their toll. Yet, I still take care and follow the rules. Testing myself whenever notified that I’ve been exposed… masking up to step outside… maintaining social distance as much as I can. Truthfully though, at this point my social circle has shrunk so much that these precautions are hardly onerous. I see my few friends one at a time, outside, if at all. We take walks, picnic in the park or sit in an outdoor café. And one week of winter storms here or there is not really a hindrance. Here in Israel we know the sun will come out again soon, enabling our café life.
February 1st marked the start of the lunar new year – the Year of the Tiger. My Chinese friends and I are all hoping that the brave tiger will be the one to beat this pandemic. 2020 was the Year of the Rat – and a ratty year it was indeed, with the onset of the pandemic. How fitting that one of the Rat’s attributes in the Chinese zodiac is its ability to reproduce. Hmm… Then last year, the Year of the Ox seemed to start out on a hopeful note, with vaccines becoming available. The Ox is known for its diligence, strength, honesty and down-to-earth persistence. Well, the part about persistence turned out to be true. 2021 began with an impressive mass vaccination program, at least here in Israel. And yet, that ox-like Covid-19 persists. As 2022 begins, here we are again – or still – battling variant after variant of the virus.
For me the beginning of February is always festive since it’s my birthday month. This one’s a big one. I’ll be turning 70 this year! Unfathomable. Incomprehensible. Like every baby boomer, I remember when my 60-year-old grandparents seemed ancient to me. Turning 70 is especially surprising to me since I have not lived a careful life. Statistically speaking, there was no reason to assume that I would, indeed turn 70. I will spare you all the details, if for no other reason than that my mom will read this blog. Suffice it to say that it is no small feat that I am here today, about to become a septuagenarian.
What does all this have to do with Omicron you ask? Well, just this: Since I’ve gotten this far against all odds, I wonder why I care about a virus that seems to be inescapable. We keep hearing that it’s no worse than the flu, at least for the fully-vaccinated, like me. Getting Omicron may be inevitable. It may be mild and painless. But I am not going looking for it. Fact is, mild or severe, I’d rather not get any variant of that nasty virus. So I’ll continue to mask up and take care, in hopes that I can stick around for another decade or so. Happy birthday to me.