I dodged the COVID bullet this weekend and it was a bullet with my name on it.
After a weekend away at Christmas camp with cadets one cadet (unmasked and unvaxxed due to medical issues) tested positive for COVID-19, they were in my group for the entire weekend and while I was masked for 99% of the time there was a point where I had unmask so I could talk to said cadet and be understood with the instructions I was giving. It would be enough time for me to be potentially infected.
I am double jabbed and boosted so I wasn’t worried too much, but because I am diabetic and in the clinically extremely vulnerable group there was still that little worry in the back of my mind. Then on Tuesday I started to display symptoms, coughing, slight temperature and generally feeling really lousy. My work place packed me off to the PCR test centre faster than you can unload and reload an SA80.
Test done and I just have to sit and wait for the result. By 3PM the next day I had my result back, I was negative. Bullet dodged. However in the middle of a worldwide pandemic with an especially virulent strain of COVID now doing the rounds in the UK and with social distancing and masking being a thing again, I somehow managed to get a common cold, a cold that could fell an elephant! One that is rendering me a snot goblin with the cough of a 60 a day smoker. How it isn’t COVID I don’t know, but there it is.
To be on the safe side work have told me to stay away because the last thing they need is a nasty cold to start going around so all I am doing it sitting at home sweating profusely, coughing and blowing my nose with gusto while watching YouTube history videos and feeling guilty that I’m not in work because of a simple cold.
But then I guess one good thing is coming out of this all. My workplace and many other small businesses are realising the dangers of presenteeism, that phenomena of workers still going into work when they are obviously ill and infectious to others. They are realising that having employees show up sick isn’t a sign of dedication and loyalty, it’s a sign that they are so afraid they will lose their jobs that they would rather infect an entire workforce rather than take time to get well.
Of course there will always be companies who demand your presence 100% of the time no matter what and who will dismiss you for the first signs of weakness, but even if just a few companies sit down and rethink their sickness policy then this pandemic may actually do some good for workers rights in the long term. What’s more, when people realise that they are working for one of the poor companies they will pack their bags and leave for one of the companies which actually cares about their staff, the Great Resignation could become very real to some.
Even though staying at home is the right thing to do I still feel guilty, capitalist societies have conditioned us to believe that unless we are working or being productive in one way or another that we are being lazy and that sickness is just another form of laziness and that we should ‘just work through it.’ We are never trained to believe that self care, time to heal and that just doing nothing can be good things.
Although we are being told to be kind to ourselves, take wellbeing courses etc it’s always with the aim of being a ‘productive member of society’, i.e being useful to the money making machine. There is no true way within our existing societal structures for workers to put themselves and their health first, and that is at every level of the economic chain, from the manual worker on the coal face right through to the CEOs, we are all being pressured to produce and produce more on finite emotional and physical resources. We are running out of spoons.
Will it change? Most likely it won’t, because as we have seen already the Tory government have pleaded with people to return to their offices so that Pret can sell a few more sandwiches and their office block owning mates can rake in a few more million for the party funds via rents. But also we know it won’t happen because those who hold the power have no interest in upsetting the status quo. Why change anything when you benefit heavily from the current system?
There will be a few companies here and there who will institute change, but they will be in the minority and they will most likely be smaller local companies where the impact will be negligible.
In the long run we will learn nothing from this pandemic and the deaths of 5.5 million people worldwide will have been for nothing. Presenteeism will once again be encouraged and hustle culture will once again become king.
In the meantime I am going to take advantage of this hiatus and shake off this god damn cold!