Pannell: Do Not Underestimate COVID

The Old Man of Anacostia

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Phil Pannell

On Oct. 23, there was a statehood rally at the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon.  I attended, talked with friends, listened to speeches and remember feeling weak and dizzy.   I also remember being in an ambulance and being told that I had fallen on the ground and hit my head.  I was taken to Howard University Hospital and two hours into my emergency room treatment I was told that I had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

When the doctor told me I had COVID, I felt the blood rush from my head.  The news shocked and shook me because I was fully vaccinated.  I had taken my two Moderna shots in February and March.   I was the victim of a COVID breakthrough infection and these cases are on the rise with the frequency of the delta variant.  No vaccine is 100% effective and I can now give personal testimony to that.

After being informed of my infection, I kept straining my memory trying to figure out how I could have gotten infected.  I worked from home and rarely ventured out.  Whenever I was indoors with other people I always wore my mask and made efforts to socially distance. However, there were a few occasions when I was at outdoor events where I did not wear my mask and was around others who did likewise.

I spent the weekend in the hospital and returned home to isolate for two weeks.  Because I was fully vaccinated my COVID symptoms were mild: chills and mostly fatigue. Being fully vaccinated kept me from becoming seriously ill.  After my isolation, I immediately made an appointment at the Alabama Avenue Safeway to get my booster shot.  However, having become a COIVD-19 breakthrough statistic has made me more wary about going outside and being around people.  I want to return to a normal or “new normal” life, but the virus keeps interfering.

Getting vaccinated was never a question for me.  At the start of the pandemic, I became a town crier for a vaccine and could not wait to get my shots.  I have listened to the anti-vaxers and strongly feel that they are doing the community a major disservice.  What is really frightening are the people who refuse to get vaccinated, wear no masks and do not socially distance.  These people are truly showing that no lives matter except their own.

According to the recent statistics, still nearly half of the adults east of the river are not vaccinated.   Ward 8 has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths and the lowest vaccination rate. The latest statistics show that most people who are being hospitalized with COVID-19 are the unvaccinated.   What will it take for people to wake up?

Ward 8 has the highest number of COVID-19 deaths, the highest number of homicides and the highest number of drug-related deaths.  It is easy for joy to drown in the quicksand of COVID, opioids and murders.  But the challenge is to continue to generate hope in and for our community.  And, yes, we must add a dose of faith.  I had faith in the COVID-19 vaccine, took it and still became infected. Yet, my advocacy for taking the vaccine is more intense than ever.  If I had not been fully vaccinated, my COVID-19 infection may have extinguished my hope and faith.

Long-time Ward 8 community activist Philip Pannell can be contacted at philippannell@comcast.net.