PSA: My Fully Vaccinated COVID Experience

So…I became a COVID statistic this past week…quite unintentionally. Interesting thing, becoming a statistic. And what I have learned from my case is this: The COVID-19 Delta Variant strain is no joke. I know. I tested positive for it yesterday. And let me tell you from personal experience…This virus can, and absolutely will, have an impact on fully vaccinated folks. Although the current events of this virus spread is well documented by the media, I think most vaccinated people believe, as I did, that they will not contract COVID. That they are completely immune and bulletproof. Wrong. I am sharing my experience in the hope it will raise awareness.

Before I discuss my personal experience, let’s take a brief look at the current COVID situation. A major worry right now is Delta, a highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 virus strain, which was first identified in India in December. It swept rapidly through that country and Great Britain before reaching the U.S., where it is now the predominant variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) described Delta as more transmissible than the common cold and influenza, as well as the viruses that cause smallpox, MERS, SARS, and Ebola—and called it as contagious as chickenpox in an internal document, a copy of which was obtained by and reported on in The New York Times. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates, and virtually all hospitalizations and deaths have been among the unvaccinated, the CDC says. But the CDC released data in July that showed vaccinated people also can transmit Delta, which officials did not believe to be the case with other variants, and which led the agency to make a prompt revision to its masking guidelines. The Delta variant currently accounts for 93% of U.S. COVID cases today.

My family and I live in Tampa, Florida…Right on the water. You know, palm trees, pristine beaches (except during the current red tide and subsequent fish-kill episode), and a President Biden-poking Governor who is perhaps posturing for a Presidential or VP bid. And the vast majority of residents/tourists within our state are not wearing masks. Truth. It is as if there is nearly zero COVID concern here…and it has been this way for at least three-six months plus. Unlike NYC and other major metropolitan areas where mask use seems to be more prevalent (if not mandated again), I am suggesting very few Floridians and/or tourists might mask-up in Tampa Bay today, a top ten-fifteen U.S. population metroplex. I am not passing judgement, we have that right. Yes, we are open for business and “getting back to normal.” And before this goes purely political, I identify as an “undecided” moderate who tends to lean to the right. I suspect we are similar to many families living in Florida. We mostly quarantined when asked/instructed to do so, used reasonable common-sense precautions throughout the pandemic, were fully vaccinated as soon as possible, and then became bulletproof. Being bulletproof is liberating, right? We, like many, have been playing by the rules. Receive the vaccine, wait two weeks to become “fully vaccinated” and burst out into the world with a “zero masks given” attitude. Perhaps prematurely…

Why prematurely? We did a family “staycation” this past weekend from Friday-Sunday at the beautiful Don Cesar hotel/resort in St. Pete, Florida. The “Pink Palace” was at near full capacity. Trust me when I say this, COVID was not at the top of the mind for most. Including myself. Imagine literally stuffing yourself into very crowded, relatively small, elevators with other mostly mask-less occupants. Packed restaurants. Packed outdoor pool. Packed outdoor pool bar. Packed indoor bar complete with live music, dancing. Etc. Very few masks seen. Again, my wife and I are fully vaccinated so who cares? My 11 year-old daughter? Not so much. Perhaps a not so smart move on our part at this stage of the game when we are literally all feeling our way through this situation in real-time.

Staycation view from our room.
My “little” human…

So, now that I have COVID…Let’s take a peek at my past week. To be clear, I am not dead. Thankfully. I still have many more media management professionals to place into great new jobs (shameless Carver Talent plug). And I fully realize unvaccinated people who contract this virus are perhaps experiencing much more severe symptoms, including hospitalization in some cases and even death in others. So my case is mild in comparison. With that said, my experience with this virus over the past five plus days has been far worse than any flu-bug or cold I have ever dealt with. For real. The fatigue, fever and loss of energy level alone is what I what I vaguely recall mononucleosis feeling like from my high school days, but worse. In my case, take your worse flu or cold experience and nearly double it. Yep.

My symptoms on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being severe and 1 being slight:

Flulike respiratory problems: Sinus pressure/discomfort (7) and nearly constant over four plus days now. Runny nose/etc. (4) At one point, I stuffed both nostrils with tissues hanging out of them. My wife happened to come check on me in my office at one point from a distance. Her only word…”wow.” Yep.

Fever/chills: Overall a (4) with a few episodes into the (7-8) range.

Migraine: (8-9) over five days now and is no joke. Constant sinus pressure and a general sensitivity to light. Basic concentration is difficult at times. Noise? Forget about it…

Muscle ache and fatigue: A solid (7-8) for three solid days. Honestly, laying down and/or taking a nap were the only things that helped. I took two to three naps for three days straight while going to bed before eight at night. Crazy.

Dry cough/shortness of breath: (5-6) and my chest is now extremely sore from four days of nearly constant coughing.

Temporary loss of taste/smell: (9) I have to admit, not being able to taste/smell was the weirdest thing ever. Imagine eating bland oatmeal for a week straight. My wife’s awesome cooking deserves my in-tact taste buds.

Overall discomfort: Solid (7) lasting four to five days. On day six (Saturday), I am finally feeling human again.

Isolation (7). Honestly, there is something to be said about this. Being in nearly complete isolation and in quarantine in a corner of your house mostly away from the family you love is tough. The fear and/or awareness of not wanting to expose them is constant to your mentality and actions. I have now gone the longest time in my life for not kissing my daughter goodnight. I simply cannot fathom if I were hospitalized, on a ventilator, and dealing with this alone. It would be maddening.

To give you a timeline of how quickly this hit, I first started presenting with symptoms this past Monday (8/2), the first day back from our staycation. I was hoping it was merely an allergy attack/hay-fever episode that I am prone to from time to time. By Tuesday, my symptoms quickly ramped-up and I had my first gut instinct notion it could be COVID. But in my mind I am fully vaccinated, so no. I started to isolate from my family just to be cautious. By Wednesday my symptoms peaked to a high moderate to borderline severe scale. I was now feverish and fairly confident I either had a very bad bad summer cold (hopefully) or perhaps COVID. I called my family practice doctor and was lucky to get in early Thursday morning. My symptoms were still moderate to severe. While at my doctor’s office and after discussing my symptoms for less than a minute, my doctor nicely excused herself, left the room, and came back wearing full PPE. I took a rapid COVID test, and it came back positive in less than ten minutes.

While I was in somewhat of a state of shock when the doctor disclosed the test results, a few things she said stood out. She calmly and quite matter-of-factly explained that being fully vaccinated does not make us immune, as many assume. She also said doctors presume all children five and under are COVID positive, and perhaps most children twelve and under. And, she said there are more strains coming down the pike…Including Lambda, soon. When I asked her if it is safe to assume all/most humans will be exposed to this eventually, she just looked at me. I was in the fire service long enough to know the answer.

Luckily, my wife and child are asymptomatic at this point.

So, my point? You see memes on social media asking if anyone ACTUALLY knows anyone personally who has contracted this virus. Honestly…until this point, I had not. So the vaccine (Pfizer for me, both doses) does not keep you from catching it (i.e. immune), it only (hopefully) lessens the severity of the symptoms if you were to contract the virus. If this is less, I can’t imagine being unvaccinated and contracting COVID. Listen folks, I am not being dramatic. If anything, I lowered some of my scores listed above outlining my symptoms just to keep it real. This is the real deal…And I suggest you handle it as such if you have let your guard down recently, as we did.

Yes, I know we need to live our best lives and get out in the real world. And yes, I know there is a percentage of people who are strongly opposed to vaccines. I can honestly see both sides. Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I am not in a position to, nor would I, suggest that another mask mandate and/or lockdown are the answers. I promise you, there is a moderate/middle-of-the-road/non-political side to this where all point of views can, and should, be considered. We are living in a fluid situation in real-time with, like it or not, real media and social media influences and voices tugging from both ends of a supercharged and greatly divided political system. We are literally in a perfect storm of an “everyone is right and everyone is wrong” tunnel vision, which is simply wrong in of itself. Vaccines are being developed, tested, manufactured, and injected into arms at a pace previously unknown to humans. While technology is great, time is typically the great educator during these situations. Our experts are struggling to keep up with the variants, multiple vaccine results, all with short-term…much less, long-term…ramifications.

What I do know, I am fully vaccinated and just felt worse for the past week than at any time in my life. Way worse, actually. And what I have can kill another human should I expose them. Yikes. Take it from me, consider keeping your guard up…even if you are fully vaccinated. And consider reinstating at least some common sense precautions.