Coronavirus: Get your head out of the sand - opinion

Willful disregard for reality doesn't change the truth.

EMS WORKERS bring a patient to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York City, last month. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters) (photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
EMS WORKERS bring a patient to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York City, last month. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
The conversation around our Shabbat dinner table this past weekend was similar to ones we have been having for almost a year now. And I venture to say, it is probably the same conversation that has been taking place at many other tables across the world.
We spoke about COVID-19 and the devastation the pandemic has wrought on our personal lives and on our community. We memorialized those who succumbed to the deadly virus. We spoke about, and in many cases honored, the survivors. And we spoke about the thoughtless many who continue to place our lives and the lives of countless others in jeopardy by blithely – sometimes even intentionally – disregarding simple rules of COVID survival etiquette.
We shook our heads in stunned disbelief after hearing about a hachnasat sefer Torah that was celebrated in South Florida. During the pre-COVID era the welcoming of a newly written Torah scroll into a synagogue or community was much like a wedding. It was a grand celebration, a time of great joy for the community, for the family or donors who were contributing this significant gift. There was dancing and singing through the streets, and there was a special, sumptuous meal, a seudat mitzvah.
All that was, I thought, a thing of the past. During the pandemic, celebrations such as weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs have been muted, celebrated modestly, with proper precautions in place. But not this time. Not this hachnasat sefer Torah. It was an event to remember. Members of multiple synagogues came to participate. Everyone was there to celebrate, and celebrate they did, with few masks, even less social distancing, and a virus that ran rampant.
The virus went home with the participants much like a “goody bag” or a swag bag. And then they brought it into their own synagogues. And now many people are sick and many synagogues have been infected. It was a flagrant violation of COVID protocol.
It was sheer arrogance. It was astounding ignorance.
Too many people, successful in their chosen field or career, are just plain ignorant about the dangers of the coronavirus. They assume that if they do get sick, they’ll simply get a minor case. They calculate that they will be able to live with it. And they never think about the possibility, the real possibility, of infecting a high-risk person who might die because of their willful disregard of medical advice and governmental mandates and rules. They are too self-absorbed to realize or care about the ramification of their actions.
AND THEY’VE never heard of long-haulers. Long-haulers are people who, after having COVID and recovering from it, are suddenly, several weeks later, symptomatic again. Not positive, just symptomatic. With symptoms, often very different symptoms, from what they originally had, that can persist for months and months.
We all know people who lost their taste and smell for a week or two. But long-haulers often still have no sense of taste or smell after four months. We know people who were fatigued or who had brain fog during their bout of COVID, but for long-haulers those symptoms persist and persist and persist: insomnia, nausea, muscle weakness, fatigue. The list goes on.
According to a recent study as described in The Wall Street Journal, there are more than one million long-haulers in the United States suffering from extended complications of COVID.
The phrase is not very medical, it is not Latin. It was coined by a woman named Amy Watson, a preschool teacher from Portland, Oregon. Toward the end of April, Amy plopped on a trucker’s hat with a squirrel on it and went to get a COVID test after having a chronic headache for several weeks. She took a selfie, and then created a Facebook page as a support group for people, like herself, who were still suffering COVID symptoms long after they were no longer COVID-positive.
Long-haul truck drivers, long-haul COVID survivors; the name seemed appropriate, so Amy’s group was called Long Haul COVID Fighters. And it became very popular as more and more people recognized what was happening to their bodies.
Even Dr. Anthony Fauci recognized how appropriate the name was and now uses it to describe those who continue to suffer COVID-like symptoms.
This virus is still a mystery. We are, almost daily, subjected to new and evolving dangers. As hard as it is to face, as hard as it is for many people to accept, we will not be returning to our pre-COVID lives anytime soon, if ever. But every day also brings new information and new hope.
Vigilance is essential. Compliance is essential. Even with vaccinations we must still be careful and play it safe. The rabbis taught, Kol Y’Israel areivim zeh la’zeh, All of Israel is responsible each for the other. In today’s COVID world, we need to expand that. Not just all of Israel, all of humanity.
It’s a new year. Let’s do our best to make it a healthy one.
The writer is a columnist, a social and political commentator, the host of Thinking Out Loud on JBS and author of Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World Through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder. He can also be read online at