In 1996, Alanis Morissette released her “Ironic” single. She was severely criticized for her misuse of the word and her bad examples. Here is my attempt to do better:
A couple of weeks before the election, patients tried to engage me in an argument about Covid being a political tool and “just a stupid mild flu.” A few weeks later, one called in a panic. He’d been exposed to someone who had worked with someone who had been someone who had Covid and he was terrified. The conversation about this sort of second-hand possible exposure took a long time, but I avoided the obvious question: “Why are you so worried about a stupid mild flu?”
Sometime in September, one patient, in particular, argued vigorously when we insisted he wear a mask in our office. “It’s just a liberal flu! This is just the natural thinning of the herd! What’s the fuss?” A couple of months later, he contacted us in a panic. He had Covid and felt really sick. He was frightened. I stopped everything and set him up for an urgent infusion of Bamlanivimab, the monoclonal Covid therapy. He improved quickly and dramatically. A colleague asked me (jokingly) why I had not simply said: “Consider yourself thinned!”
We find a big chunk of our day is spent with visits from the “Long Haulers” of Covid. They are not dying, but they are experiencing chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, and muddled thinking of the syndrome. Many are rather young and athletic. They can no longer run more than a couple of blocks. A large number had been “Covid Deniers.” Most now feel shame for mocking the disease.
We have now passed the one-year mark of the outbreak. We are tired of people who come into the office with the intent of trying to prove the disease is nonsense. Many have obviously rehearsed their arguments well in advance. I used to try and have a rational even-handed discussion. Now, I just listen and try to move them to another topic. I am not the CDC or the Court of World Viral Covid Opinion. I am a Primary Care Physician trying to do the right thing in a storm of often conflicting information. As someone who finds a certain joy in deranged humor, it is total torture for me to avoid pointing out the irony of so many of these encounters when things go bad weeks or months later. Enter the vaccines: Based on the number of virus deniers, I expected a lot of pushback. Nope! Everyone wants the vaccine and they want it now! EVERYONE!!!
Has that stopped the Covid Deniers? Nope! They still come in, ready with their prepped arguments. I ask the next question: “Then… are you going to get the vaccine?” The answer amazes me: Not only have they gotten both shots, they obviously used their power or political positions to jump the line and get the shot before they should have been able to access the vaccine. Yes, they pushed old and sick people out of the way because they knew how to finagle the system to get the vaccine immediately.
To be fair, I also have at least two patients who stand by their beliefs about Covid and steadfastly refuse to participate in the “charade” of Covid Vaccines. I may disagree, but at least they are consistent and I respect that.