I’ve been covering the Covid-19 pandemic for the past 10 months, and I’m embarrassed to say when it hit my own house, I wasn’t prepared.
In my mind, I always thought a Covid-19 diagnosis would come with dramatic and distinctive symptoms, like the loss of taste and smell or breathing struggles. That wasn’t the case for me.
My husband had a mild headache and a scratchy throat. I was exhausted. We were both a little cranky. It could have been any given Monday in our family, and if it had been any other time, we would have simply shrugged it off.
So, when my husband’s rapid test came back positive the day before Thanksgiving, I felt shocked, foolish, scared and most notably, unprepared.
I was shocked because we thought we were taking the test out of a complete abundance of caution. My husband had taken a test (which was negative) a few days prior. It’s something we do regularly because my kids are in school and my husband commutes to work.
We had no known exposure since and had been taking all safety protocols, like wearing masks in public and social distancing. We still don’t know how he got it.
Looking back, I feel foolish that we went in the same car to get tested. We had a hard time finding a testing site with availability. I was making calls and clumsily commandeering tele-doc screenings while he drove around. We went together to be “efficient,” ignoring the obvious risk of infection by sitting in the same car for what turned out to be a 4+ hour ordeal. While we were wearing masks and the windows were open, there’s no such thing as “running out for a quick test.” I tested positive two days later.
I felt scared for what could have happened and grateful for what didn’t. We were a couple days away from potentially spreading Covid-19 to our family, our kids’ schools and our colleagues. And we would have done it while adhering to the current guidelines in our state.
I realize I am lucky to have access to great doctors (which many people don’t). I am also grateful that I was able to get a test (though it was complicated).
What my family did not have was a Covid-19 positive, quarantine plan. I quickly realized the nuts and bolts of effectively isolating are difficult. For example, when you get a positive result, you can’t simply run out to the pharmacy or the grocery store. And you certainly can’t send your kids to a grandparent or a neighbor.
Looking back, I could have been more prepared. My advice? While you are healthy and if you have the financial means, organize a “Covid-19 prep kit” now in case you or someone in your family does get sick.
Put together a resource list: local testing locations (hours, patient requirements, cost, turnaround time). Remember: There are many types of tests and results turn-around time is problematic and inconsistent.
Also include contact information for your family doctor and a list of local grocery stores and pharmacies that deliver.
Stock your house with items you would need and won’t be able to run out and get. This includes:
-Frozen, prepared meals
- Easy comfort food your kids can prepare (make sure they know how to use the microwave and dishwasher)
Your kit should also include the following:
- N-95 masks
- Hepa filters
-Whatever cough suppressant and supplements your doctor recommends
-At home Covid-19 testing kits
Thanks to extended family and neighbors dropping off meals and lots of FaceTime calls with my kids asking “which button turns the heat up,” they got through a week of modified “pirate living.” Teeth weren’t brushed, but I’m proud to say showers were taken, while I was in a separate space over the garage.
I know how rare it is and fortunate I am to have close friends and family nearby to help with supplies, so it’s important to understand what resources you have and what you need. And make a plan on how to get that help if the time comes when you need it.
That may mean relying on your neighbors. Even if you’ve lived in your house for 10 years and barely waved to them, now is the time for a “hey neighbor” Zoom call. Consider organizing contingency meal drop offs if you or they get sick and need support. Do the best you can to create a support network.
While I have not felt great for a few weeks, more than anything, I feel grateful.
Fortunately, my employer provided me with some at home tests, which again is a privilege most people don’t have. All three kids ended up testing positive. They had been isolating for a week and had no symptoms. They would have met the guidelines to return to school. Had they not taken the test, we would have exposed three schools to three positive Covid-19 cases.
I’m so grateful we didn’t.
Now, I also see Covid-19 from a new perspective – one of great frustration and grave concern. Even with the ability to get tested, some results were delayed, some never came and none of it made sense.
We’ve had contradicting results and different types of tests, leaving us even more confused. Nearly 10 months in, our system has failed to provide available, accurate, timely tests. One of the most important elements to manage opening our economy or schools and the spread is information, especially for those who could be spreading Covid-19 and not presenting symptoms.
It’s not reasonable to expect people to wait seven days in quarantine while waiting for test results, especially without more government financial assistance or mandated paid sick leave.
As someone who has those benefits, it has been a wildly frustrating process. Without them, it would have been crippling.
I have grave concerns about this winter, especially given inaction from Congress and denial from our administration.
We remain in the eye of this Covid-19 storm and our most vulnerable communities are in crisis.
A vaccine is coming, but it’s not here today. Today we have Covid-19. And we need to better prepare.