Post-COVID mentality has changed how we think about and handle sickness

Enya Eettickal, Staff Writer

It’s almost the end of 2022, and as much as I’d like to pretend that the horrors of the COVID era are over, I’m periodically presented with rude awakenings, and this last week reminded me of that era as I came down with the flu. Although it was the flu and not COVID-19, how my situation was handled was significantly different from how I dealt with the flu my freshman year. 

For one, I reacted differently when I was told I had to be in quarantine. Though the idea of going into quarantine wasn’t as daunting as it’d been in the past, I was thrown by the idea of having to go into quarantine for the flu, not because it doesn’t make sense—I rather think it makes quite a bit of sense given the nature of the sickness—, but because I wasn’t expecting it. 

The way the university handles illness on campus has obviously shifted after the COVID outbreak. But the way the Case Western Reserve University community itself deals with illness is not necessarily consistent, and that may have consequences of its own—especially if another outbreak were to occur. 

The first issue is that we underestimate illness. Quarantine effectively minimizes how much we get sick, which is great, but at the same time it also puts distance between us and the way we remember being sick. When I was told I had the flu, my first reaction was, “at least it’s not COVID.” Still, what I wasn’t prepared for was the flu being way worse than my experience with COVID. I forgot how much pain and constant fatigue paired with other symptoms when it came to the flu, and I was completely out of commission for a few days. So after finally healing, I reflected on how exactly I might have gotten sick. 

That’s when I realized that I, like many others, had gotten relaxed about protocols to prevent illness. Masking is infrequent and parties and gatherings are back at full pace. Furthermore, social distancing and updates on the spread of illnesses aren’t at the forefront of conversations anymore. 

In one way, that’s all great because it shows that we overcame what was generally a horrible and insufferable time period for the majority of the population. But simultaneously, swinging back to “it never happened” is a risky mentality. Rather than staying in a position where we are ready for a potential surge again, we risk scrambling and panicking if we have to adjust to a sudden increase in illness.

The university has done a pretty solid job finding new ways to adapt in post-COVID circumstances. Professors are more understanding of illness, and I’ve seen an increased use of online media to make learning accessible to those who are ill. But in general, some more awareness wouldn’t hurt around campus. If you haven’t gotten your vaccines yet, I recommend going to get them. Be wary of sickness spreading around now, especially with finals on the horizon. And if you do get sick, give yourself the time and opportunity to heal. While it might be scary to miss out on work or social events—especially after having to take a break from them for over a year—your body will thank you for giving it the rest it needs.