I want to share a COVID story that hits close to home — because it’s mine. I know nobody wants to talk about COVID, but we really should. My situation has made me feel fortunate and blessed but also has me thinking a ton about other employees in the area, our collective perceptions of COVID and how we support each other.

Let’s start with what happened. The wife, the toddler and I flew to Oregon the weekend before last to attend a backyard family wedding and flew back on Monday. (Note to self: Don’t ever take the red-eye with a 13-month-old again). Sleep deprived, we rested when we got home, but on Tuesday morning, my wife was still exhausted. We all tested — only she was positive. She quarantined herself in the bedroom in the basement. Wednesday, our toddler tested positive, and Thursday, I tested positive. We’re still all at home; our son is 100% healthy and full of energy, and my wife and I are recovering slower.

Nobody can adequately describe how tired COVID makes you. I’ve heard it wears you out, but no one specifically told me about the bone-tired, sore-jointed, heavy-armed exhaustion from just cooking breakfast or playing on the floor with our son for a half-hour. The energy gets zapped so quickly. My wife has the cough, while I have the headaches, and our son can’t believe his good fortune that Mom and Dad are both home to play with him every day. He’s ecstatic and only gets frustrated when the parents just can’t keep up with his energy — we do our best.

Through it all, my team has been incredible. My executive team (who are my bosses as a collective), led by the Board Chairperson Nick Favrea, have been overwhelmingly supportive, pushing off meeting dates, covering appointments for me and urging me to just get healthy. So, too, has my colleague in the office — our Chamber Coordinator Claire Papell — who has been outstanding about taking over some projects and working independently to keep the organization going. Both have offered to drop items by the house, too, if needed, as did a few business colleagues who heard.

It’s overwhelming to be so supported. I’m fortunate to have this team of support around me. Yet, it’s led to this thought: How many advantages do I have that others do not in this scenario? It turns out, quite a lot.

For starters, our family is all vaccinated. Our workplaces insisted we take the time off work to do that if we wanted, and we took advantage. Because of this, our symptoms are less harsh. Having the time to do that and being encouraged to get vaccinated was very important and has made a big difference all these months later.


Secondly, my schedule can be adjusted, and I can work remotely because my leadership team and staff give me that flexibility. Also, certain projects can be handed over entirely and appointments postponed. Many hourly employees, shift workers and some salaried employees don’t have that flexibility or have managers who don’t feel empowered offering that.

Another advantage is that we have a two-parent household, with a spare room on a separate floor that my wife could quarantine in, lessening the viral load our son was exposed to. We’ll never know how impactful that was to his recovery. If either of us were the lone caretaker, this would be immeasurably harder, and likely, our recoveries would take longer.

Some of the stories I’ve heard about getting COVID is “It’s like the flu, just sleep it off.” While that may be true for some people, that is not the case for all, and we shouldn’t minimize these effects as “just the flu.” I’ve never been sick for longer than two to three days, and this thing is still knocking me down. Minimizing this for our employees is not helpful or respectful.

Additionally, expecting caretakers to just “sleep it off” and take care of themselves is willingly negligent of their responsibilities to their family. When COVID first hit, I heard people calling those staying home to take care of others as being lazy. Caring for a loved one is a noble thing to do. I know relieving my wife of caretaking burdens when she was in the midst of the worst of it helped her heal. The stress of caretaking on both your physical and mental well-being undoubtedly affects recovery.

The point is this: I know we’re bored with COVID, but COVID isn’t done with us yet. If employees catch it, take it seriously and do all you can to support those who tested positive. Ask your team what duties they can take on for a limited time while that team member recovers. This does mean colleagues may need to step up and do a little extra, but it’s what happens in these times of need that build the bonds of lasting relationships. It’s a difficult ask when we’re all so busy and short-staffed, but it will pay off in loyalty and gratitude for years to come.

Finally, as the patient, the hardest thing for me is to stop and put my health first. I have these responsibilities that I’ve promised to others. I bet there are many of you like me. Here’s the thing, though, and what I need to remind myself of daily: Those who are taking on a little extra to cover for me right now are doing that so I can recover more quickly. It’d be disrespectful and ungrateful not to do all I can to take care of myself. So, if I need a nap or to go to bed early or hydrate more or take extra medicine to get healthy, then I need to do that to show those doing extra for me how I appreciate them. Thanks to those who are watching out for me through all of this — you know who you are.

Cory King is the executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber.

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