Juggling Act: We thought we were safe at a concert that required COVID vaccines. We were wrong

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back — scoop them up and stuff them away like they'd never existed.

It was in early September. Just days before attending our first indoor concert together since the pandemic started, my friend Kim asked if I was nervous about going.

"No, I'm not," I answered, without hesitation. "Everyone has to be vaccinated or test negative so I think it'll be fine."

Concerts are returning with required COVID vaccines or negative PCR tests. But is it enough?

But as soon as I said it, it felt like an omen — something that could completely turn on its head and I'd want to kick myself for it later (like when a colleague asked if I was nervous at all about "this COVID stuff" in early 2020 and I said no. I clearly have an attuned sense of foreboding.)

The concert was a blast. I'd forgotten how fun it is to experience live music with an audience, swaying to the beat and singing together.

But 90% of our fellow concert-goers — all required to either be fully vaccinated or show negative test results before the show — were unmasked. Our group, the four of us, Kim, me, and our husbands, wore masks but you could almost see sweat flying through the air as people danced and jumped around. I was relieved when we left.

Six days later, my husband — who is fully vaccinated — started to get what he thought were allergies. He felt rundown and stuffy. We decided he should get a COVID test to be on safe side. It came back positive.

"I'm so sorry," he said to me in the middle of the night as I stood in the hallway in disbelief and he lay in bed after his results came back.

I was sorry, too — sorry he was sick, sorry we potentially exposed other people to COVID, and sorry that suddenly our kids would have to be out of school for more than a week because we chose to go to a concert. 

My son, the only one in our family not vaccinated yet because he's too young, would have to stay out of middle school for 20 days — 10 for my husband's infection and another 10 to make sure my son didn't get sick. 

"I hate COVID!" he cried when I told him the bad news.

I pivoted into caregiver mode. I made meals, ignored the state of my living room, which looked like a typhoon had struck by 9 a.m. every day, and tried to work while watching my special needs daughter and helping my son with homework.

By day 4 of my husband's quarantine, I started to feel my own congestion. I also wondered about allergies. I sneezed like crazy. Sneezing isn't a COVID symptom, I told myself (it is with the delta variant). I decided to get tested again, even though we'd all tested negative (as did our friends who attended the concert with us) right after my husband's positive test.

Within 24 hours, we had the answer. In big red capital letters on my test results and my son's, it read, "POSITIVE."  

Thankfully, our symptoms have been mild — congestion, a cough, headache, sore throat and some fatigue. On my first day after testing positive, I felt achy, similar to the flu. But luckily that's passed. Symptoms seem to come and go.

We've all lost our sense of smell, so common with COVID. It's very bizarre when you can hold a jug of bleach up to your nose but can't smell a thing. 

My daughter, the only one of the four of us who continues to test negative, was fully vaccinated in late May, which means she likely has better immunity than the rest of us to fight it. I hope it continues.

Studies have shown COVID vaccines decrease in efficacy six months after the second dose and highly infectious variants like delta are an issue. Our breakthrough cases, which I suspect could become the norm the longer the pandemic drags on, are an example of that.

According to heathline.com, data so far suggests the Moderna vaccine is approximately 50 to 95% effective against the delta variant, and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 39 to 96% effective against it. My husband tested positive almost six months to the day after our second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Still, even if we wanted a booster, we couldn't get one because there isn't one available yet for the Moderna vaccine and we don't qualify.

But our symptoms are mild because we are vaccinated at all — period. I can't imagine having the option to only get mildly sick with a vaccine or really sick without one and deciding really sick is the better choice.

So here we are. We took chances. We wore masks but went to an indoor concert. But it could be so much worse.

On Saturday, my 10-day quarantine ends. I'll emerge with a new appreciation for being able to leave my house, health, loved ones and friends,   who've done a ton during the past two weeks to help us with food and other groceries

We're the lucky ones. But will I go to a concert again soon? Unless masks are strictly required, along with vaccines, no way. 

mfeighan@detroitnews.com