I have been fully vaccinated since May 2021, and I just tested positive for Covid-19. I am very symptomatic and not feeling well as I write this piece. My head is pounding. I have a fever. My body aches badly. I can’t eat. I just want to sleep. It’s like a really, really bad flu.
I got infected during our annual family vacation to the shores of South Carolina. In hindsight, I should have known better. And if I had a do-over, I would have cancelled the trip.
The challenge is South Carolina is a highly unvaccinated state, recently topping the nation in new Covid-19 cases. While we vacation in one of the better counties (Charleston), I went against my better judgment and figured that all six of us were safe because we’re all fully vaccinated and healthy. We have spent the past 15 summers here. Plus, I had just taken a Covid-19 test before my trip because of workplace requirements at the university where I teach as an adjunct professor.
After testing positive on Tuesday of this week, I thought long and hard about whether I even wanted to write this piece. Would it embolden anti-vaxxers? Would it hurt the cause to get more people vaccinated? Part of me wanted to keep quiet, the other part screamed “you must share!” After much deliberation, I decided that as a national opinion columnist and TV pundit with a global platform, it’s my social duty to be transparent.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent warning urging unvaccinated Americans not to travel over Labor Day weekend also influenced my decision to share. In doing so, I hope that even just one person doesn’t take an unnecessary risk. The CDC is also urging those who are vaccinated (like myself) to weigh the risks of travel, something I now wish I did.
Health experts say even if you are vaccinated, you should still be considering several variables, including your overall health, where you live or are traveling and the risks you take.
The anti-vax movement is huge and the anti-mask movement in the deep red south is alive and well. I saw it every day I was there. My family that was visiting from California had never been to the south before, and they noted at dinner on their first night, “people do not wear masks here.” Coming from California, where Gov. Newsom may now be recalled, due in part to his pro-mask policies, they took note of the difference quickly.
Let me be direct: those of us who are vaccinated also face risks, particularly when we are in public spaces where there are no mask policies, no social distancing and no mandatory vaccine policies in place.
I went to a wedding in the Bahamas in June 2021 at a resort. It was beautiful and very safe. You had to buy health insurance to enter the country. You had to show proof of full vaccination. You had to take a Covid-19 test on site to leave the resort and return to the U.S. You had to social distance. You had to wear masks at all times in the resort and outside by the pool. People felt safer, and we were safer, because everyone was fully vaccinated. None of this was the case in South Carolina.
What makes this so surreal is that I had Covid-19 in February 2020 before the pandemic was declared a national emergency. I tested positive for antibodies in May 2020. I got it while speaking in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at a huge conference. I was sick, and I have some health-related challenges to this day. Still, I felt grateful to be one of the lucky people who beat the virus.
To have to face this scourge again, while being fully vaccinated leaves me speechless. I thought I was safe from infection.
I’m also worried about my 75-year-old mom, who is vaccinated and was with us on this trip. We’re currently waiting to find out if she (and the rest of the family) is positive for Covid-19.
To have such a great time ending with Covid-19 is discouraging, but it’s also a lesson to be learned. I knew that the state had low vaccination rates. We discussed it as a family. We discussed it with the resort. Fully vaccinated people are led to believe we are safe. But, that depends on a lot of factors, like other people around us being vaccinated too.
Please be safe this Labor Day weekend. The problem is not those of us who are vaccinated. The problem is those who are not. I learned this the hard way.
Sophia A. Nelson, Esq., is an award-winning author of three non-fiction books and a "Corporate Diversity Champion" (2012) award winner for her work in corporate diversity strategies and training for the Fortune 100. She has worked in the Congress, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and at one of the nation's largest law firms in public/government Affairs. Nelson is a frequent guest on NBC News and MSNBC, as well as many other networks, and she has written for various outlets including Essence, Huffington Post, The SGrio, Politico, Politico Magazine, CNN.com and Ebony