Recently, I joined the ranks of the more than 1 million Floridians who've caught the coronavirus. Throughout the pandemic, I had been strictly adhering to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, especially wearing a mask whenever I stepped out of my house. Then I gave in to the peer pressure of going out to a party.
Last month, a friend celebrating his birthday at a local strip club would not stop blowing up my phone. He kept begging me to come. I told myself I would go in for 15 minutes and duck out. As soon as I walked through the doors, it was like stepping into a coronavirus-spreading chamber.
Everybody was wildin' out and getting drunk. Almost no one was wearing masks. My buddies were all up in my face. Patrons and strippers were walking up to me and asking to take selfies. Of course, I obliged when they asked me to take my mask off. Even though I felt like everyone in the club was an asymptomatic carrier, I stayed late.
A few days later, I started having a dry cough. I chalked it up to seasonal allergies. When I lost my appetite, I told myself it was probably a stomach virus. I didn't want to believe I had COVID-19. When I lost my sense of smell and taste, I knew I had to get tested. I called a home testing service to come by and give me a rapid swab test. I was first told the result was positive, then informed it was a false positive when they called me a few hours later.
I went about my business but started to feel worse. Soon, I had a fever and my temperature spiked to 102 degrees. I went to the hospital, where I had a second PCR test that came back positive. Because I wasn't having trouble breathing, they sent me home and told me to quarantine for two weeks.
I locked myself in a room of my house. Thankfully, I didn't infect anyone — including my son Blake, who knocked on the door every day to make sure I was OK. My personal assistant, Nikki, and my buddy Teach had food and water delivered to me while I rode out the 'rona.
The fevers would come in waves, especially at night. I'd wake up around two, three in the morning in a pool of sweat. I changed shirts three times a night because my body got so hot. Dying didn't cross my mind, but I was worried about my temperature spiking to the point that I would go into shock or I would have a stroke.
I am now feeling better, and I recently tested negative.
The COVID-19 deniers like to point out that less than 2 percent of people who get the virus die and that if you are under the age of 65, you can go about your life because even if you catch it, you won't get extremely sick. But who wants to lie in bed, isolated from your loved ones, dealing with body aches and a spiking fever? It's miserable.
The biggest problem we're facing is peer pressure. Any time you walk into a bar or restaurant where virtually no one is wearing a mask or properly social-distancing and you are the only one wearing a face covering, you are shamed for doing your part. The people who don't take it seriously make you feel like you're not tough enough.
I am not advocating that local governments go back to shutting down nonessential businesses. I think we need to boost the local economy by being able to eat, drink, and be merry. At the same time, everyone bears personal responsibility. If you are a millennial or Gen Z'er, you have to think about the consequences of catching the coronavirus. You don't want to take it home and infect your parents and your grandparents. You don't want to be responsible for killing them.
So if you go out, put your mask on when you are not drinking or eating. You don't have to be all up on each other, either. You can still hang out at a six-foot distance from each other. And if the establishment has too many people not following the protocols, don't be afraid to go home and call it a night.
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