Photo by Dasha Pats

“It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations
with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself.” -Scarlett Letter

My son and husband have COVID. By the time you read this, “had” will be more apropos. Not to worry, they are physically okay, and I am COVID-free.

The fascinating thing about COVID is not the physical ramifications but the mental. There is a Scarlet Letter C for COVID. For the first time in my life, I can relate to the character Hester Pryne from The Scarlet Letter. We have not hung a scarlet C in front of our house, but it feels as if we
might have one.

The Love-Hate Relationship with COVID Statistics
Every night for months, the evening news covers the daily statistics of COVID. The number infected, tested, active cases, deaths, and the list goes on. These numbers are people. They are not numbers, and there is a difference. There have been over 140,000 people in the United States who have died in this writing. According to the LA Times, Floridians over 65 are dying every eight minutes due to this horrific pandemic.

Before I begin my observations on the mental health of COVID, please note that I am in NO way stating in ANY way that being seriously ill or death is a comparison to the mental health aspects of this virus. It most obviously is not. What has been fascinating to observe is how people react and how people treat you when they know there is an active COVID case in your home.

The Human Experience and COVID
When you hear that people are all over the map with their thoughts about COVID. Pro-mask, Anti-masks, Pro-school-Anti-School. That is true. People are emotionally all over the place when it comes to COVID. Wherever you are, this is okay. I am not here to judge but here to tell you what this feels like on the receiving end. Every day for the past 12 days, we have felt like we are in the middle of a bad psychology experiment. When you tell someone your child has COVID and is safely quarantined (as are we), the reactions run the gamut. It doesn’t matter if is your family, dear friends, neighbors, or co-workers. I haven’t tried with strangers yet, but maybe their reactions are better?

Our first encounter was with our neighbor, who was walking his dog. My husband and I saw him from about thirty feet apart, and we spoke, telling him that our son has COVID. He literally ran away while suggesting a podcast for useful information. His fear was real. It was understandable, but we had never had anyone run away from us before, so that was a first.

The Scarlet C
Dear friends have reacted with anger, shock, shamed us, questioned us, and rejected us. The anger, “How could you let your son go on a father-son boating trip in a pandemic? What did you expect would happen? You are an idiot!” Every person on that trip has tested negative twice for the record, so the source is still a mystery. Can you get COVID from a gas pump? Think we know the answer.

Shock and awe. Many friends are stunned and curious. Our son is the first
person they have known, and they have a million questions about exposure, symptoms, how we keep ourselves safe from him, quarantine, testing, and protocol. That is a whole different post on the misinformation of COVID that I will spare you all.

Shame and Shunned
To be told that we are not welcome regardless of testing, quarantine, following CDC, and doctor’s guidelines. Well, I have to admit that one stung a bit. We have been very honest and open about the situation. Our medical advice has been excellent, all of which we have followed to the letter. Who knew that Zinc and a thousand milligrams of Vitamin C helps keep you COVID free?

However, being banned/shunned made me wonder if we had a Scarlet C on our home or caller ID? It made me wonder about Hester Pyrene and truly understand how she felt. Just as the book said, “It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself.” It is bad enough to be away from your other children, your family, friends, and the world for 14 days. It is not fun. It is sad, lonely, depressing, and isolating. That is for us that are “healthy” and without symptoms. I can’t imagine adding being severely ill to how people with COVID must feel?

Kindness and Compassion
To end on a positive note, we have had more than a handful of amazing friends who offered to get groceries, run errands, or bring anything we needed. We had one friend drop off beautiful vegetables from her garden. One family has facetimed our son every night to check in on him, and it was honestly the highlight of his day. All of these gestures of kindness were the best medicine.

Feeling loved, connected, and cared for is what we all genuinely crave in life. I have to confess that I struggled with sharing these observations. Knowing that I am opening myself up to a million more opinions and emotions that, honestly, I’m not sure I can handle after the past two weeks. However, with the complete overload of information out there, I could not find anything about the human reaction to COVID. These are our experiences, perhaps not everyone’s. I hope that when you know someone who is quarantined (and chances are you do), you reach out with kindness, compassion, and empathy.

Charity Matters

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