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By Jana Hill
Mill Creek Beacon Editor 

Lauding radioactive spiders


Last updated 4/24/2021 at 8am

The time for caution persists, but advancements in medical treatments may be the brightest light at the end of the tunnel.

Radioactive spiders are my main point here.

But first a talk of the hyper-vigilant era we are in; a time where being paranoid and germphobic has actually become a skill-set.

Not everyone is like that. I know this because there were 1,700 new cases of COVID-19 in the county, announced by the Snohomish Health District for the count that ends right on the day that says, "Easter, it's Easter." The officials did not say that. I'm saying it. Because they are polite and pep-talky, knowing that a nudge may work better than a kick. I'm not going to kick you when you're down though. I'm going to talk to you about spiders.

For the Easter bonnet-wearing, and those kicking up their heels already, I am picturing you with visions of normalcy dancing in your heads. Donning a Santa hat. Clutching an Independence Day sparkler. Half-naked, ready for the beach and sunny weather, and poised to run into the streets singing show tunes.

But let's take a minute before you go through all that trouble and energy, making up for lost time.

Take off that Santa hat and put on some glasses. Thick, black frames, please. If you don't usually wear them, then get the ones with no lenses – it's a "look," and we need to really get our heads around this. That's it. I am picturing you looking like a serious scientist. You wear it well.

The loudest alarm throughout this era has been around hospitalization, death, and the ability of medical care to handle waves of people in numbers that outpace the available resources in staff, supplies and hospital-space. We were warned of heart attacks going untreated because health care officials were booked. The warnings are sound. Mill Creek lost 86 people to the virus since January 2020, and while the risk of losing more is a "low percentage," those are real people, and they mattered.

But that's not all there is.

The viral mysteries of this strange era meander past overburdening the medical community's time, energy and supplies. The spikey demon coming after us is a slippery one, messing with our minds when it is sometimes dangerous, sometimes seemingly benign. I have a scientifically relevant fear that is weighted close to death: ongoing illness, unresolved.

The questions about how COVID-19 acts and how it will act is still being determined, as many seek out the only treatment to fight back: vaccines. The unknowns around COVID-19 bring researchers to an assessment of what variants will do next, and there's one more category beyond "variants of concern." More dangerous mutations that are thankfully not yet a reality.

Long COVID, or "lingering illness," impacts a pretty hefty percentage of people, past the 14-day window of expected illness. Some report breathing difficulty and fatigue months later.

Once we get past all this vaccinating and distancing, researchers can pivot to the "why" and the "what."

But it's not all petri dishes and N95s. We have the glorious radioactive spiders. Stay with me. Take off the glasses. Put on Spiderman suit. We're not done yet.

Another burning question around COVID-19 and what it can and can't do relates to a repeat of the virus. A small number of people get it twice: the same strain. It's not clear why.

The optimism now is in the mRNA science that I invited to swim around in my bloodstream. My first Pfizer shot was April 19. I imagine, in a pandemic-inspired dreaminess, that I have been bit by a radioactive spider, at my consent. This dreaminess is not a side-effect, but an occupational hazard. I'm a writer. Put down the phone, do not dial that last "1" – they are busy. Believe me. I am better than ever.

The mRNA science now unveiled in this strange era may be a toolkit we need for this virus, and it is likely to be a bright light once it is over. It is the assist that can pull us out of a pandemic, and it may be the fix to other ailments as well. STAT news says scientists are already looking into mRNA use in treatment of autoimmune disease. The Association of American Medical Colleges mentions possibilities for HIV, influenza, Zika, and rabies; cancer was mentioned too.

Okay, you can get your Santa hat and your sparkler, but get your mask too – our charge now is to keep going. As we soldier-on and march out of this exhausting era, we can look forward to better days ahead. Much better.

Until the vaccination effort hits 80%, health officials will not be ready to assess the risk-benefit ratio of gatherings, celebrations, and crowds. Picture it – that Independence-Day-worthy unmasking. It's worth the wait, and if we buckle down and take all precautions, who knows, maybe we'll make it there by the time the Fourth of July is here.

How perfect would that be?

So, get a shot. Get two if it's the mRNA category you've scheduled. Keep your mask on and your hands clean, and let's get out of this mess.

The Santa hat is fine – you are rocking that look. Usually it looks super weird, but I think people will get it.

It's sunny as I write this. I am going outside for a walk in my yard, where I can be close to the door, because I'm a little tired from the shot. My arm hurts and I love it. I am thankful for my imaginary radioactive spider.

My peripheral vision will be set to tall buildings, so I can dream about what we'll be able to do, once we get through this. In Mill Creek, I am looking forward to writing about the end-game to this pandemic. Its bright spots. Its hard-won lessons. Its successes.

I'll see you there. And probably not on Zoom.


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