Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post
This is a weird year. I found myself sticking my nose in candles, bottles of vinegar, my stinky boots — just to make sure I can still smell. I have to ponder questions I never could have imagined before: Is it more rude to not hold the door open or to possibly invade someone’s six-foot personal bubble while holding it?
Like most of us, I’ve spent the year trying to do my part not to get or spread COVID. But I also knew there was a decent chance I eventually would, and last month it happened. In mid-November, I was exposed to someone who didn’t realize they were positive at the time. Fortunately, that person had just happened to take a test as a precaution, and they quickly alerted me to the situation. I was able to start quarantining right away. Then, like clockwork, seven days from my exposure, I tested positive. Amazingly, the entire time I was infected, I had no symptoms — absolutely zero. Because I had no symptoms, per the CDC guidelines, I remained in isolation until 10 days after my test.
I’m glad I didn’t get seriously sick, and I’m so, so grateful I was warned about my exposure. Otherwise, I would have been walking around with no clue, potentially infecting other people. Being cooped up in my tiny apartment for two-plus weeks wasn’t fun, and it’s not how I imagined spending my first weeks as editor, but honestly, my experience with COVID went just about as smoothly as possible. I found out right away that I was exposed. I was in quarantine and isolation the entire time. I’m lucky to be young and healthy during this pandemic, and, as fate would have, I was completely fine. I am fortunate to have a job, much more so to have one that I could do from home while quarantining.
Not everyone is so lucky.
This is a weird disease. As Dr. Anthony Fauci said in June, “I’ve never seen a single virus … have a range from 20-40 percent of the people have no symptoms, to some get mild symptoms, to some get symptoms enough to put them at home for a few days, some are in bed for weeks and have symptoms even after they recover, others go to the hospital, some require oxygen, some require intensive care, some get intubated, and some die.” It’s hard for humans to hold two realities in our minds at the same time. I’ve personally talked to local people who have been seriously sick — including friends my age — and the families of some of the 42 Winona County residents who have died so far this year. I’ve also talked to local people who are barely scrapping by or watching the small businesses they spent years building on the verge of crumbling because of this pandemic.
Honestly, my experience with COVID isn’t all that exciting, but I figure if I’m going to ask others to share theirs, I might as well share mine. It does underscore for me how important testing and quarantine are — even if you feel fine — and it reminds me of how remarkably differently this disease affects different people.
In a year when this virus is exposing and exacerbating so many inequalities — both health-related and economic — it’s important to remember that while we’re in this together, we’re not all going through the same thing.
In this and last week’s papers, we have a stories on local nonprofits and volunteers offering help and ways for people to pitch in. My hat goes off to all the volunteers and staff who have worked all year long to keep Winonans from going hungry. For people who are struggling, if there was ever a time to ask for help, this is it. If you’re doing fine this winter, don’t forget your neighbors who aren’t.