An Englishman in the US with Covid reflects on some cultural differences…

(Photograph: Alexandra Koch via Pixabay)

Back in November 2018, I wrote a blog about a man I know called Mick Deacon, an Englishman visiting the US; he has a girlfriend there – possibly an ex-girlfriend. 

Back in 2018, he was talking to me about the US mid-term elections. At the time, he was living in the working class heartland of Donald Trump’s America. 

Recently, he went back to the US to re-visit his girlfriend – possibly ex-girlfriend – in the same city.

Donald Trump is no longer President and, replacing him, the Covid-19 pandemic has been getting all the headlines worldwide.

Mick currently has the relatively new Omicron variant of Covid.

We chatted via FaceTime.


TUESDAY 21st DECEMBER

JOHN: You look very healthy.

MICK: I certainly don’t feel it. I feel absolutely awful. It came on really fast. The first day I just thought Oh! I’ve got a cold! That’s weird! because I had not encountered anyone with a cold, I had been wearing my mask and I just thought: Oh, that’s a bit odd! That first day, I just went to bed.

Then it came on at a rate of knots.

The following day I thought: I REALLY don’t feel well! It was like total exhaustion. My legs could barely lift me up. It was like flu times three. My head was pounding; like someone sticking little needles into your head. So I took a lateral flow test – I had brought a box with me from the UK – and it was positive. I had never had a positive test before.

JOHN: Had you had the ‘booster’ jab?

MICK: Yes, but I don’t think my booster had had time to kick in before I got this. It was on day 7 after the booster. 

I got the booster vaccination here in the US which was relatively easy, possibly because my girlfriend had had a chat with a bloke at the clinic and had explained the situation. 

Even so, they started off with the attitude: Ugh! This is gonna be really complicated because you’re English! 

They asked me: “What’s your Insurance Number?’

“I haven’t got an Insurance Number, because I’m English.”

“Oh… uh…”

I thought they weren’t going to give me the injection, but then the guy who my girlfriend had spoken to went: “Right. It’s fine. We’ll just do it.” And there was no charge. I mean, they sometimes pay people to have it here; sometimes they pay you $100 to have the jab. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to us Brits in the US.

Anything you think you have to do like a PCR test, if you go to the testing place as a British person, it’s like: “Can I see your, erm, your card, your ID… Well, that doesn’t look like a…”

“Well, no, I’m English…”

“I’ve never seen one of these before…”

“That’s because I’m English. I’m a tourist. A visitor. You allow visitors now. From across the sea.”

You just don’t want to have that administrative headache unless you have to.

My girlfriend said to me this morning: “I’m going to take you to hospital.”

I told her: “I don’t want to go to the hospital. I am managing it.”

If I suddenly got worse, I would have to. But, as an English person with insurance, you know that, even though you’ve got insurance, it isn’t going to be easy because… I had an accident before where I burnt myself on a kettle in the US… The insurance company took two years to pay out.

You really really really don’t want to have to go to the insurance company because it’s never simple. You have to jump through so many hoops.

People moan about the NHS back in the UK, but it’s always there. It’s horrible being ill abroad because that safety blanket of the NHS is not there. 

JOHN: The medical side of the NHS is wonderful, but the bureaucracy is horrendously incompetent. Like all bureaucracies.

MIKE: I really don’t want to end up in hospital in America.

JOHN: You told me Lateral Flow Tests, which are free in the UK, were $20 for two in the US.

MIKE: Yes. Thank God President Biden is now saying we can have the Lateral Flow home tests for free from today. But, as a British person, I probably can’t get them. 

JOHN: When did you first test positive?

MIKE: It started on Tuesday last week, so it’s a week today.

JOHN: You’re still testing positive…

MIKE: Yeah. As of this morning. I don’t have a very good immune system, which is why I’ve been so careful in the past.

JOHN: I know you reacted badly to the second jab…

MIKE: First and second. I’ve had pneumonia in the past and other stuff and it takes me a while to get better.

JOHN: I’ve always been pretty healthy. Just this calcium/kidney problem for the last two years. At least your mind seems clear.

MIKE: Ha!

JOHN: Someone else I know in the UK has it: Jane Hicks. You know her?

MICK: No.

JOHN: She got it last week. She says she has no energy; she feels like a rag. She also had it early last year – around March 2020 – and her sense of taste and smell hasn’t really recovered from that even now. She’s got it again despite the fact she was triple-jabbed.

MICK: She’s got Omicron this time?

JOHN: Apparently when they do the PCR test, they just say you have the Coronavirus; they don’t tell you which variation.

Also a friend’s 10-year-old daughter had it about a couple of weeks ago. She got over it but, as of about an hour ago, her stepmother has it. But her mother hasn’t got it – and the kid slept with her mother for all of her 10 days of isolation. 

MICK: Her mother was triple-jabbed with the vaccine?

JOHN: Yes but so was Jane Hicks and the 10-year-old’s stepmother.

MICK: My girlfriend refuses to take a lateral flow test. She says: “I’m OK because I’ve had three jabs.” But, then, so have I. And I got it. 

I took two tests this morning. My girlfriend says she has no symptoms so doesn’t need to take the test.

JOHN: But there are asymptomatic people roaming about possibly infecting people.

MICK: Absolutely. I’ve told her she could be carrying it. But she says: “No, I’ve got loads to do. I’ll just get on with it.”

She doesn’t take any tests. She thinks she’s invincible because she’s jabbed.

She’s just going round doing what she wants to do as normal. She’s going to the Capitol today because she’s buying a plot of land to build a house on. She wanted me to go with her. 

I said: “It’s not fair is it, if I go and somebody catches it off me, because I definitely have it.”

There are hardly any precautions here. A blissful sense of Oh! It’s not happening here!… and then it is and then it isn’t… It depends who you listen to. You listen to the News and it’s Omicron is coming! Omicron is coming! It’s like…

JOHN: …a Coca-Cola commercial.

MICK: Everything that happens in Britain happens here but a bit later… when you realise it. But they don’t seem to realise it until way after the horse has bolted.

JOHN: The British News yesterday was saying that, in America, the sudden announcement had been made that Omicron was all over America, as if from nowhere.

MICK: Yeah, that’s what it was like. They said: “Oh, we’ve found one Omicron case” and then…

JOHN: So what’s your downmarket neighbourhood like? Are they anti-vaxxers?

MICK: Errr… It’s kinda like… It’s kinda kept like a bit of a secret, I think, as to whether you are or you aren’t.

I am 100% certain I caught this from the bar that me and my girlfriend go to every Sunday. She insisted I go. I said to her: “It’s terrifying in here, because there’s at least 70 people here and only six of us with masks on and people are sweating all over me, dancing behind me. The sweat was flying past me. People came up and just grabbed and hugged her – and me.” 

JOHN: Very un-British.

MICK: I remember thinking last Sunday: Right! Which one of these is going to give me Covid? When I came down with it on the Tuesday, my girlfriend said to me: “It’s when you’re out on your bike, cycling to the park. That’s when you’ve caught it. The virus is airborne.”

I said: “I didn’t catch it outdoors when there’s just me cycling along alone.”

JOHN: She thinks out in the fresh air you’re going to catch it but in a crowded bar you’re not?

MICK: Yes. In a crowded bar with sweat flying through the air. She thinks that’s fine. You won’t catch it if you’re vaccinated. People of all ages… no masks on. In Britain, at least we step back a bit from other people. I always just air-hug friends in Britain. I mean, they’re still gonna have Mardi Gras in New Orleans!

JOHN: When’s that?

MICK: This coming March. They were talking about it on the TV this morning and I thought: Is everyone here mad? Because Omicron is well-and-truly on its way. Last year there were really high numbers after Mardi Gras. People come from all over and from different countries. It spread like wildfire last year. New Orleans was one of the worst places.

JOHN: Scotland has just cancelled Hogmanay in Edinburgh. The Scottish government didn’t like the thought of 20,000 people hugging each other.

MICK: Well, all that hugging – it’s very un-Scottish.


That conversation took place on 21st December.

It is now New Year’s Eve, 31st December.

I got in touch with Mick again last night to see how he currently is. It is now 17 days since he first tested positive. 

He told me: “The last four days, I keep getting bouts of nausea and coughing fits and lots of fatigue.”

In the ten days since we had the blog conversation above, the 10-year-old’s father has tested positive for Covid; the 10-year-old’s mother has tested positive; and, on the morning of Christmas Day, I tested positive for Covid. All three of us had been triple-jabbed. I am currently in self-isolation, as required under the current rules.

… CONTUNUED HERE

4 Comments

Filed under Medical

4 responses to “An Englishman in the US with Covid reflects on some cultural differences…

  1. Marianne Velvart

    Bl**dy hell that was depressing. But enlightening too. Thanks John and a happy but above all healthy NY to you!

  2. Get well soon to you and your friends. The vaccine is not very protective it seems, so people who want to avoid the illness need to continue to live cautiously, avoiding gatherings and wearing masks. This may go on for years

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