This post was originally published on St. Louis American

By Reginald J. Cline

I believed, like many people, that the pandemic was over, and I let my guard down. I had been vaccinated and received one booster shot. After flying to the Washington, D.C., area on three occasions, I did not get sick. This was during the period when everyone had to wear a mask in the airport and on the plane.

More recently, I flew to the island of Grenada, where my father’s family is from, for a cousin’s funeral. Most people wore masks during the service, but no one did during the reception. We were required to undergo a COVID test prior to flying back to the states, and my wife and I were among the few to wear masks on the plane.

On the day of our return, I had a cough and runny nose and noticed that I had lost my sense of taste. I used my government-provided home test kit and tested positive. For the next 2 1/2 weeks, I was home sick and quarantining. While I didn’t end up in the hospital, I did have a terrible cough for days and felt miserable.

I am a living testament to the fact that COVID is still out there and write this commentary to warn people to remain vigilant.

But my COVID symptoms were mild compared to many, which I attribute to the vaccine and because I had the omicron variant. When I got sick, no one was talking about COVID; it was as if the pandemic had passed us by and there was no more chance of getting sick. I’d stopped using my mask, except when I traveled.

I am a living testament to the fact that COVID is still out there and write this commentary to warn people to remain vigilant.

Yet the CDC is still advising people to wear masks in public, especially where COVID rates are above 5%. In Miami-Dade and Broward counties, we are in the 20% range. Yes, COVID-19 is back, and it’s spreading quickly. We are experiencing contagion rates not seen since the height of the pandemic.

What is different is the omicron variant. While it spreads easily, it’s not as deadly if you’re outside the high-risk groups and vaccinated. Although fewer people are dying, hospital ICUs are filling up again.

One of my daughter’s classmates went on a school trip that led to 600 people contracting COVID. One child brought the virus home and his father died. The boy feels terrible, and now his family is without a father. My mother-in-law is 89. My secretary has bronchitis and asthma. I don’t want to make anyone else sick, especially when I think my lack of caution caused me to catch this highly contagious virus.

One of the unintended consequences of my COVID diagnosis was that it caused everyone in my household to quarantine. My daughter works at Baptist Hospital, and she lost all her vacation time quarantining to make sure she did not bring the virus to her workplace. So did my son. My wife also caught COVID and was sick with me.

A lot of myths surround COVID-19.

A lot of myths surround COVID-19. One fact I learned was that one can test positive for months after no longer being contagious. Some symptoms can also linger for a long time. My wife is still habitually coughing. Yes, there is a memory fog. You can also be fatigued for months after the illness.

Finally, while you can develop antibodies during a bout with the illness, these antibodies do not ensure that you won’t contract the virus again. I have three friends who have each had COVID three times. One of my friends was in ICU during his first bout with the virus, but during the second and third he recovered at home.

So, do not let your guard down. If you have not been vaccinated, get vaccinated now.

Reginald J. Clyne is a trial attorney who shared his COVID-19 experience with the Miami Times