My guess is most of us have heard enough of 2020, its widespread social and economic impacts, and all the dramas of a standstill world. I am not here to present you the same labyrinth of research, data or the emotional toll COVID-19 has taken on humanity; I am rather here to narrate my secondary-victim experience of COVID, and my eventual metamorphosis from a Covidiot- the one who takes this infectious agent lightly- to a ‘believer-by-the-book.’
'Fear-Appeal' Yes, I was a ‘Covidiot’ until my world turned upside down until my dad died from the virus. The magnitude of my Covidiocy has declined ever since my dad’s demise, to super-duper-unduly-cautious level, and the bottom line purpose of this draft is to apply ‘fear appeal’ on all competent humans to follow my current level of ‘Covid Precaution Guidelines’ for one last time, perhaps to lessen the number of deaths. The vaccines are, after all, on the move now and you may not have to follow my advice or the protocols a few months later. But, if you are one of those Covidiots planning for imminent superspreader parties, or political melees, or even if you handle this plague with ‘I know better’ syndrome, my past Covidiocy may help you understand your current Covidiocy. Covidiot is a colloquial blanket term used for those who partially or fully deny the coronavirus. Or, to a certain extent that is my understanding of this now, lexicon added portmanteau: Covid plus Idiot. Partial Covidiots are the ones who believe in the existence of the virus but at the same time may also align with the conspiracy theorist to propagate other unverified virus-related rumours. A Partial Covidiot may believe conspiracy theories against the authorities for its ubiquity (that the Chinese government, for instance, is spreading the virus intentionally), or may follow limited mask usage to satiate his/her political position and cognitive dissonance, or may simply resist masks for uneasiness and anxiety. The thought process is kind of like ‘i believe the pandemic and I want to stop the spread but I am not wearing the mask for how difficult it is to breathe with one on’. A Full-Fledged Covidiot, not in high contrast to the Partial, has added features like he/she does not believe the virus or the pandemic at all, may have low science literacy, is anti-masker, anti-vacciner, and adamant to give zero damn on virus mitigation guidelines and mandated rules. During the early months of the outbreak, or even until my dad’s death, I was kind of a Partial Covidiot! One hemisphere of my mind would debate the other hemisphere on the fundament of a pandemic: one would believe the media, the doctors, and the disease control officers while the other hemisphere blatantly cared less to physically act on set virus diminution guidelines.
Deadly Plague While the plague was oozing into every nook of the United States, I, on my centre of Covdiocy, was sporadically picking up super-spreader events like local soccer matches and was ignoring six-feet distance practices at grocery stores despite the gut belief on the existence of virus per se. The same partially believing mechanism is prevalent among many Nepalese (that’s what I experienced during my nearly-two- months stay in Nepal). Many Nepalese I saw were Partial Covidiots- like me- and a few Full Fledged ones! I asked a few whether they believed the virus’ existence, most of them nodded positive, but maybe because of the fatigue of wearing masks for months with no positive news around, or because of the confusing daily updates on the guidelines, people seem to have given up on the masks, eventually transforming themselves into Partial Covidiots. But, regardless of Partial or Full, Covidiots are prone to transfer viruses to others. That must have happened to my father! A Covidiot must have relayed him the virus and he succumbed to it! Or, at least I think that must have happened given the fact that dad, obliged by his underlying conditions, was not a Covidiot and he personally followed most of the guidelines he knew to stave off the virus. For me, my Covidiocy changed once the virus hit home! Opposite to my past Covidiocy, I am currently in a colossal state of a believer, a believer-by-the book. The wake-up call for me, unfortunately, had to be my dad’s death. It took me my dad’s life to avert crowds sincerely, wear masks every bit and sanitize myself frequently. Too late, but I did understand that the defence against the virus is to amplify my healthy habits and prudently follow the guidelines of medical experts. But albeit my preceding Covidiocy, I am lucky enough to not yet get infected and do know If I were to be, before my dad’s death, I would unwittingly have sinned of transferring viruses to many other humans. In hindsight, I wish I had not been stunningly careless to plausibly get infected and spread the virus. The entire realisation came after I saw my dad gasping for air; after I saw his unsuccessful desire to beat the virus after I saw my plight of not being able to do anything other than just watching him breathe his last from an ICU’s glass door. We understand Dad had underlying conditions, Leukemia being one, but my family never saw this Covid thing coming. In his final moments, I could tell dad had the feeling he was not going to make it alive, I reckoned his trepidation that the Nepal military would confiscate his lifeless body.
Traumatic Dad’s final Covid test fortuitously ended up negative and we were able to honour his body the final rituals at home. Whatsoever, he will never know what happened to his body, but with this experience, I am now living with enduring trauma of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): my normalcy and stress levels fluctuate so bad; my good and bad feelings oscillate every couple of minutes, and my mood swings are not less frequent. My dad died on Nov 2nd, 2020 after battling coronavirus for eighteen days. I flew to Nepal, from the US, to help dad emotionally, psychologically and even financially fight the virus; and stayed there for one and a half months. Dad did not make it but he sure helped me terminate my Covidiocy and hope I could help efface yours if you are living with one. Whether you are a Partial or a Full Covidiot and do not want to experience what I did, stop attending super-spreader events, stop organizing overcrowded welcome sessions to movie stars and cricketers at Airports, and stop any other cramped social or political event. The pandemic has not ended. Follow the experts’ mandate strictly to help others, especially the older folks with underlying conditions, survive. Or you may have to live with the guilt of being a Covidiot!
(Khanal is a current residence Of North Carolina, USA)