The dreaded phone call arrived last Wednesday, July 15th. “Someone I have been in contact with has tested positive for Covid-19,” a colleague told my husband Peter. “I have been told to quarantine, watch for symptoms, possibly get tested… So I’ve been calling everyone that I’ve come into contact with this past week.”
Peter immediately called me and used a profanity to describe our situation. Suddenly all the other problems in our life—finances, the launch and branding of my husband’s newly independent Insurance agency, postponed family celebrations, the social inequities of the country where we live (USA , home of democracy)—became small. Survival. Staying healthy took center stage. What if? What if he’d been infected? What if he’d passed the virus to me? What if we had exposed our son and two small grandchildren who had visited the previous weekend to the virus? What if my son had brought the virus home to his wife?
“Think logically,” I said. “When were you last in contact?”
Already five days had elapsed, since my husband had supposedly been exposed to someone who “might” have contracted the virus. “Okay so that means that worst case scenario we quarantine for nine more days. In the meantime, get a test,” I said.
In Anne Arundel County Maryland, the Department of Health offers free drive-in testing . He called them for an appointment, and got on their schedule for Friday morning July 17th.
“It will take about five days for results,” the technician told my husband.
“Five days!” I said. “How can we contain this thing without 24-hour testing results. No wonder our country has so many cases.”
I tried to keep my distance while living in the same household. I stopped drinking from the same bottle of seltzer water, holding hands, picking up his phone. After two days, too many “Oh I forgot” and no symptoms, I got a little more relaxed while we kept waiting for his results. We both petted the dog. ‘You know, pets can be carriers of the disease,” Peter reminded me, “and if one us was infected we’d give the other coronavirus.” We both love to pet our big white fluffy Labradoodle. Stroking her is a big stress reducer. We let her sit between us on the couch.
If we were not vigilant and we were carriers, we could infect more people. This meant staying home and always wearing a mask when going out to walk the dog, even at 7:00 a.m. in the morning.
The tickle in the throat. Could it be? Yes, but I’ve had that tickle and scratch for four months now—allergies. The heavy pollen count.
Restlessness and fatigue? Could it be? Yes, but since I usually wake up several times during the night, laying beneath my sheets trying to tell myself not to worry about the future of just about everything—the famines, the overcrowded hospitals, the homeless, selfishness, unkindness and the dying planet— of course I’m exhausted. Isn’t everyone else exhausted too?
Wednesday morning July 22, my husband got a call from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health. “Your test came back negative.” The previous evening he’d heard from the first phone caller, his colleague, that her test was also negative.
The good news is that here in Maryland, it is relatively easy to get a test. The Governor’s goal was to test ten percent of the population and that goal has been exceeded. The bad news is that if we don’t have a rapid result test. Trying to contain the virus without rapid testing results is like trying to fight someone with one hand tied behind your back. Yes, we know if you are running a fever to stay home and quarantine, but what about all those people that have the virus and are asymptomatic?
I continue to see people who refuse to wear masks as well as people who wear masks improperly ( not fully covering their nose and mouth). According to the latest posting on the CDC website, the current best scenario estimate is that 40% of coronavirus infections are asymptomatic. They are estimating in their best case scenario there is a 50% chance of transmission by someone who has not yet exhibited the symptoms of Covid-19, but has the virus, when they interact with others.
Maybe there are just a lot of people out there who think if everything looks okay, the world is fine. I’m not one of those people. And watching the change in public policy, as more and more of the population falls ill, shows me I have reason to worry.
This weekend, the county where I live is rolling back some previously granted freedoms. Restaurants, Bars and Food service establishments must close at 10:00 p.m. No indoor social gatherings of more than 25 and outdoor social gathering of 50 people are allowed. Businesses that violate the order will be fined $500 upon the first violation. In my opinion I’d like to see the general citizenry take more responsibility for following the rules than just businesses. Reports of patrons punching and abusing workers who simply state, “You’ll need to put on a mask,” has shown that some individuals are resistive of following directions and thinking of others.
Fear and anger means sometimes people behave badly. I’d like to think we all have the potential for compassion. If you think you’re having a hard time, start imagining what everyone else feels like.