Do your part, take COVID seriously, and try to avoid the ‘long haul’

As we enter the second full month with our children back in school, and COVID continues to spike in South Carolina, it’s a good time to reflect on the lessons we have learned so far.

Today we’re presented with a false choice between people who deny COVID and deny science, and those who want full lockdowns and every mandate possible. There is a serious, measured middle ground we should all look to occupy.

I’ve had COVID. While my case did not require hospitalization, it was nonetheless serious, painful and debilitating. More than a year later, I occasionally have fatigue and shortness of breath. If I overexert myself when exercising, I hyperventilate, something I never experienced before COVID. It’s been more than a year since my diagnosis: They call it “long haul.” About one-third of those who get COVID continue to have symptoms long afterward.

Today, as I type this out, I’m suffering from a lung issue and awaiting diagnosis. I never had a history of respiratory illness before COVID.

I share this because I care about our community. And, like you, I care about the future of our country.

The challenge we face is this: How do we keep our economy running while doing our best to protect each other?

First, for all those who can, I urge you to get vaccinated. I didn’t say we should make you get vaccinated. But you should consult your doctor and get it done, sooner rather than later. Why? Our ICUs and funeral homes are not full of vaccinated people; they are full of unvaccinated people, Democrats and Republicans alike. It’s not one side or the other. Vaccine hesitancy happens on both sides of the aisle, and COVID doesn’t discriminate.

Can you still get COVID after you’re vaccinated? Some small number will, but it will most likely be a mild case because you received the vaccination. I wish our public health officials had been clearer about this from the start. Vaccines aren’t force fields around your body, but they help our immune system better prepare to fight off a virus.

The vaccines, so far, are working as they were intended. It’s not a perfect fix, but it’s the best fix we have during this global pandemic.

If you’ve already had COVID, early studies are now confirming what 100 years of immunology and epidemiology would indicate — natural immunity is at least as good as the vaccine.

I urge our public health and education officials to take natural immunity into account when making policy decisions. For example, in our schools, if your children are exposed to COVID but are vaccinated, they don’t quarantine. But if they have natural immunity from prior illness, they are required to quarantine. This is not following science and is, in fact, harming our kids.

We should follow all the science rather than selectively following some of the science at the whim of public officials.

We should also prioritize early treatments for our immune systems, from prophylactic vitamins to boost our immune system, to exercise and a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, to early monoclonal antibody treatments. We’re running low on the latter because of the spike in the delta variant — all the more reason to get vaccinated.

I’ve heard story after story from Lowcountry doctors who recount the deaths of those in their care. The stories that hit particularly hard are the ones about 20- and 30-year-olds, just starting their careers and young families, who regret not getting the vaccine before they pass away.

When delta started to hit us hard, I began wearing a mask again. This is not an illness I ever want to get again. It’s wreaked havoc on my system. I’ll take the mask off when things settle back down. In the meantime, we should stop judging others who decide to do the same. Going after each other for our personal health care decisions doesn’t defeat COVID.

Here in South Carolina, we are trying to maintain our personal freedom to protect our livelihoods, and I support that idea, but it will only work if we do our part.

I hear a lot about what so and so’s social media post said about COVID. Please avoid making health care decisions based on what is posted on social media. Likewise, we shouldn’t make health care decisions based on whose presidency created the vaccine or whose presidency rolled it out. Talk to your doctor directly.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and this is an extraordinary pandemic. Protecting our freedom bears some responsibility.

Follow the science, do your part as a friend and neighbor, and take COVID seriously.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace is a Republican who represents the 1st Congressional District. 

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

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