A Novel Virus and Insidious Ice Floes

Sarah K Stricker
5 min readMar 12, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic made our lives rigid and frozen. Now (maybe) those jagged edges will begin to melt.

Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

Before any lockdowns, mask mandates, even before the spread of SARS-CoV-2 was labeled a pandemic, I’d paid attention. From the first mention I came across on Twitter, early in January 2020, describing an epidemic of infections from a mysterious virus, I searched for as much detail as I could find. Having a chronic illness and weakened immune system, I worried that the virus would soon spread to the U.S. My family told me I was too anxious, my mind hyperattentive to a remote danger. I went with friends to a bar for my birthday in early March 2020. I considered canceling entirely or just having people over to my apartment instead of wading into an overcrowded public space, but we ultimately went ahead with our plans. My city had only two confirmed cases at that point: someone who had traveled to Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak, and her husband. Community transmission in Illinois would be confirmed almost a week after that outing, which turned out to be the last time I ventured out into public, the last time I’d be part of a boisterous crowd, and the last time I would be anywhere outside of my apartment without a mask for a year (and counting) afterward.

One detail from the beginning of the pandemic that remains bright in my mind, alluding to the utterly overwhelming presence the virus would have in our collective minds only a few months later, is the browser tab I kept open on my phone showing COVID-19 updates from our local newspaper. It feels quaint that every bit of information about this outbreak could, at one point, be contained in a single live article. It wouldn’t be long before the pandemic would singularly capture our attention, overshadowing almost everything else. Now, even listing the names of people we’ve lost to this disease would take pages and pages and pages.

Because of my chronic illnesses, the same ones that put me at higher risk for severe illness from COVID, I was almost immediately faced with navigating medical care under the blight of the pandemic. When I visited my hospital in May 2020 for an appointment, I was immediately thrown into our “new normal” (a phrase I’ve come to hate.) There were markedly few people around the hospital campus, and driving from one side of the…

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Sarah K Stricker

Writing about disability, chronic illness, & mental health. MS in health communication from @NUHealthComm. Find my work in Invisible Illness & No End in Sight.