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The Pandemic Is Over but the Sickness Has Just Begun


The pandemic is over.

How do I know?

Not because COVID has gone away -- no, I realize that many are still getting sick and even dying from the virus -- and not because we no longer mask up or get booster shots (in fact, I just wore a mask at the doctor's office today and am scheduling family boosters for next month).

No, I know the pandemic is over because fall has, once again, become an unbroken string of sicknesses working its way through the inhabitants of our house for months on end.

These minor but annoying illnesses disappeared for years. After all, we were mostly isolated, only venturing out when everyone was masked, vaccinated, outside or (during the worst of the pandemic) all three. During those halcyon days, the kids didn't have so much as a sniffle, let alone the parade of weirdo childhood illnesses like roseola and fifth disease.

Now we're back to explaining to the grandparents that, no, hand, foot and mouth disease isn't something farm animals get but is instead one of those childhood illnesses that they and everyone else probably had by the time they were 2.


For the last couple of years, kids have mostly been sheltered from other kids, who carry germs home the same way they transport leaves and rocks from the park.

But I'm remembering now what it was like in the Before Days, when our oldest went to day care for the first time. I'm remembering how he was sick, almost nonstop, from November to April, one time even simultaneously getting strep throat and hand, foot and mouth, and I'm dreading something similar this year.

We've already been through a metric ton of COVID tests (all negative), popsicles and children's Tylenol. We've been to urgent care and the pediatrician's office and (during one particularly rough night) the ER at the children's hospital.

We get messages from school and where they used to only warn of COVID outbreaks, now they talk of strep and RSV and flu -- even lice (shudder). In the spring of 2020, the chances that your kids would get close enough to a non-family member to catch something like lice were nil to none.


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Darrin Bell Dennis the Menace Family Circus David Fitzsimmons Heathcliff Andy Marlette