During Covid, Year 4: Coronavirus Chronicles, Part 82

During Covid

Often, I will be talking about something that happened “during covid” and then I will have to stop and correct myself, because I know it’s not over. People are still getting and dying of it, but the numbers are way down. The official U.S. death toll stands at 1,184,376, as of March 9, which is only about 60,000 more than a year ago. That’s still about three times the number of people the flu killed in the 2022-23 season, but nothing like it used to be.

When I say something happened during covid, I’m not even sure what span of time I mean. My first instinct was to say March 2020 to August 2021, because that’s the month both kids returned to full-time, in-person school. That felt like a clear end point after almost a year and a half of mostly living in our bubble of four, socializing only outdoors with some exceptions at the end to visit family.

But then I remember what a shitshow that first semester back was for our school district. Buses would sometimes stop running for weeks at a time because so many bus drivers were sick and so many teachers were out that they couldn’t find subs for them, and North’s classes were often left completely unsupervised. Thanksgiving break started a day early because of the teacher shortage and by January it was so bad I was sure they’d go back to remote school, but they didn’t and then things gradually started getting better. So maybe “during covid” was March 2020 to January 2022.

But then again, none of us even got covid until November 2022 when Beth, North, and I all came down with it. And then North got it again in August 2023. (Noah has managed to dodge it completely unless he had an asymptomatic case.)

Despite all that, in its fourth year covid has touched us less and less. (I’ve even stopped reading pandemic novels, which I was doing compulsively earlier, though Noah and I did watch the last two seasons of The Strain this year.) It was almost to the point that I thought of skipping this yearly update until I remembered covid did send North home from camp two days early in August, so it has still affected us directly this year.

It’s ironic that North is the only one to have had covid twice because they are the most careful of all of us.  They still mask at school and on public transportation and any time they’re inside in public. None of the rest of us do that. I only consistently mask in Lyfts and at medical or therapy appointments that I am attending with North. I wore a mask to Beauty and the Beast and again to Grease, but that kind of event is hit-or-miss for me. My mental calculus went like this. Reasons to mask: 1) large number of people, 2) some quite close to us, 3) for a few hours. Reasons not to mask: 1) a large airy auditorium with a high ceiling. I could have easily gone the other way and I did in similar conditions at the admitted students’ days at Johnson and Wales and St. Mary’s. I wish I could tell you there was a logical reason for this discrepancy, but there isn’t really. I am still more generous when tipping masked baristas or Lyft drivers, just because the mask signals to me that they still consider their work more dangerous than it was four years ago and I want to respect that.

Even if it’s a shifting frame of reference, covid is still a marker of time. I often note that things have changed since covid, or that we haven’t done something since before covid, or that it happened during covid:


In describing a campus tour at Towson University: Beth and I both feel that campus tours don’t show you the inside of the facilities as extensively they did five years ago. She speculated it was a covid-era change that was never reversed.


The big thing we did after Noah got home and before North left for camp was to go to the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair on Saturday afternoon. We used to go every year, but we haven’t been since 2019, first because of covid and then because of schedule conflicts, often with North’s camp.


On Saturday afternoon Noah and I made pumpkin ravioli from scratch. He has a pasta machine and ravioli cutting tools he hasn’t used in a while (the last time might have been three years ago, when he was home for covid).

Some things have changed for good since covid. Beth’s office never required people to return to the office and most days she works at home.

Testing for Covid

And because it’s still with us, testing is now routine, when anyone starts to feel sick.


Darryl was feeling ill, so he didn’t come. His symptoms (fatigue and body aches) seemed like they could be covid, but Peggy got him a test and it was negative.


Friday morning, the day before our rescheduled pumpkin outing, having had a sore throat and some congestion for a couple days, I decided to take a covid test. I was wondering if it would derail the expedition a second time. Would it have? I honestly don’t know. We were going to be outside for all the planned activities and maybe if I stayed away from the pumpkin stand, allowing others to go up to it and if I didn’t go inside the restaurant to pick up the food… I was already trying to talk myself into it, even though I was simultaneously thinking I probably shouldn’t be in a car with the whole family for a non-essential activity. But the test was negative, to my relief. That’s a very specific kind of relief that exists now, isn’t it? The, oh it’s just a cold relief.

Just the other day, North brought some covid tests home from school because they’d noticed we were running low on non-expired tests. They wanted to test because a member of the Beauty and the Beast cast had been performing sick for a week and had tested for covid, but only once. North’s test was negative.

Having Covid

And as I mentioned, people still get covid, including North.


Friday morning we found out that North had tested positive for covid and had to come home, missing the last two days of camp and a field trip to Hershey Park.


North was one of two campers sent home that day. The camp reported that three more tested positive at home after camp was over. Over the next few days, North was sick, but not too sick, with a sore throat and some congestion and fatigue. While we were waiting for Beth and North to get home, Noah prepared for their return by consulting the FDA web site that has revised expiration dates for covid tests and he separated our stockpile of tests into expired (4) and non-expired (6) boxes.

We didn’t make North isolate, as that’s just not good for them. We masked when we were in the same room with them and on the first night they ate dinner in the living room, one room over from the rest of us. There’s no door between those two rooms, so conversation was possible. On Sunday North had a headache and didn’t want dinner, then on Monday we all ate dinner on the porch together and Tuesday they had a headache again. For the first couple days we had the A/C off and all the windows of the house open, for air circulation, until both kids requested that we turn in on Monday morning when the weather got hotter and stickier…

Beth, who had the closest contact with North (on the ride home) tested on Saturday and again on Monday and Tuesday, each time negative. Even so, she decided not to go into the office Monday or Tuesday, although partly that was because she had a lot of work to do before our upcoming beach trip and she didn’t want to waste time commuting. Beth and I started masking again when inside stores and places of business, which we had only stopped doing last month. (Ironically, North never stopped.) North didn’t leave the house until Wednesday…

North took a covid test and it was negative, which was cause for celebration. Meanwhile, Noah, who had seemed sluggish all day, decided he’d better take a covid test before we left, just in case. Also, negative. Beth, Noah, and I immediately shed our masks for the remainder of the trip, though North still wore theirs in public most of the time.

I can’t predict what the next year of covid will be like, for the world, the country, or our family, but I’m hoping it recedes more and more into the range of serious, but ordinary contagious diseases. (Recent research on long covid may make this more likely.) And if it does, maybe I won’t have anything to write about next year.

What do you mean when you say “during covid”?