I just heard this story, and it is really giving me pause. I’m sharing it now because this is my last chance to reach anyone who may still be waffling on whether to pretend to have a “normal” Thanksgiving.
A young friend of ours went off on a five-day camping trip in a party of ten. They all got tested first, all ten of them. They all tested negative, all ten of them.
Toward the end of the trip, guess what? One of them started feeling sick.
They went home and he tested positive for COVID-19.
But - how did that happen???
This is what seems to be happening. If someone is exposed to coronavirus and then gets a test very shortly afterward, it won’t show up on the test quite yet.
The other problem is accuracy. Even a test that is 99% accurate would still miss one out of a hundred people, right? That’s an A+ grade - it’s just that the consequences of most tests aren’t as high as this one.
What were the consequences?
All ten of the people on the camping trip, the ten who tested responsibly and spent time together out of doors, all ten of them had to quarantine from work for two weeks.
Fortunately, none of the other people on the trip seem to have been infected, which is the best possible result. Did the false-negative guy infect other people, like at the gas station or the grocery store?
Nobody will ever know.
Just like I don’t know if I got anyone sick the time I went to the grocery store while unaware that I already had the coronavirus.
This is a real problem that everyone is obviously quite tired of talking about, and yet I really want to make some points here.
First: The worst feelings I have ever had in my life were thinking I got my husband sick, and having to call two friends to say I might have exposed them. The guilt is absolutely crushing and nauseating. How much worse would it have been if any of them caught it and died? Or... all of them?
Second: I got COVID-19 in a restaurant, in a small group with only six other people. We were extravagantly careful to follow all known rules at the time, including not shaking hands, not hugging, and using hand sanitizer, and we even took megadoses of vitamin C at the table.
(On the way there, my friend asked me, “Do you think we should cancel?” I said, “Nah, it’s a small group, we’ll be fine.”)
Third: It is now well-documented that it’s possible to get COVID-19 twice, even a couple months apart.
Fourth: This “let’s all get tested first and then it will be okay” scenario has been proposed to me by three distinct groups of people. I’m not even all that popular!
It’s not that I think so many people want to hang out with me, specifically, especially since I’ve become so morbid. I think people keep inviting me to “socially distanced” hangouts because I’m the naysayer. I’m the cautious one. I’m the bear in the world of bulls. If Jessica says she’s cool with it, then we’re all immortal, right?
Will you hang out with us if we all sit six feet apart?
NO! I got COVID from ten feet away in a small group, so why would I want to sit six feet apart in a large group?
Will you hang out with us if we all get tested first?
Sorry, no. What if you got infected literally on the way to the testing station? Also, no offense and please don’t take this personally, but I don’t even trust the Pope to tell the truth about the last time he got tested. That’s assuming the tests themselves are 100% reliable, which they obviously can’t be.
What if we all wear masks?
Can we game this out? Do you really think it’s better to sit in a room together in person if we have to wear masks and we can’t hug? What are we going to do when we eat, slink off to various corners of the yard like dogs because we have to take our masks off? Isn’t it more normal to see each other’s faces close up on Zoom?
I’m comfortable saying NO to people over and over again, family, friends, colleagues, our landlord, or whoever. I have never really had an issue with telling people if something won’t work for me, because why should I just blindly obey someone? If they won’t change anything for my convenience, then why should I be the one to change for theirs?
This time, though, it’s life or death. I am actually stunned and shocked that people who know I almost died this year have come to me and petitioned me to come socialize in person. It’s like they were just waiting until I was done talking and they didn’t hear one of the most significant things that ever happened in my life.
People who aren’t over their battle with their car insurance over how a fender-bender was adjudicated. People who aren’t over their grudge with their coworker or their upstairs neighbor. People who know what it’s like to still be stuck on relatively minor grievances are surprised that I’m not over a mortal illness six months later, when I still have a few lingering symptoms.
That’s what COVID is like. You get it and maybe, in some ways, you always have it. It’s like at Hogwarts when not everyone can see the hippogriffs.
I know someone whose Boomer parents are having a *cough* no, I am not making this up, they are having an “open door” Thanksgiving. It’s similar to a progressive dinner party, where each neighbor hosts a course and they all troop up and down the street together. They’re literally inviting their entire neighborhood to come inside their house to eat.
Is this a problem during the coronavirus pandemic? Clearly yes.
Is it a problem that the dad has had a high fever that won’t break for the past several days? That he refuses to get tested because he thinks COVID-19 is a hoax?
I guess we’re all going to find out.
Okay, let’s go over this one more time. I am staying inside my tiny apartment and eating dinner with one other person, my husband. I am not waving at other people, or walking by their house and calling to them from their yard, or driving by to drop off plates or pick up slices of pie. I am not sitting or standing outdoors to socialize with anyone. I am physically not going near any of the 7.8 billion people on Earth, with the single exception of the one wearing my ring on his hand.
Six feet? Too close!
Masks? Yes, but not enough.
Airports? Heck no!
Rapid testing? Only if you get in a big plastic bubble for three weeks first.
Just this one time? No. Wait until next year.
But this might be the last time we see each other! You’re right. And I don’t want that on my conscience.
We all have so much to be grateful for, if we think about it. We have the information we need to protect each other. Back in the Eighties, we used a timer for long-distance calls, and now we can video call for free and talk as long as we like. We can get through this together. We’re almost out of the woods, so let’s keep holding the line and being strong for one another.
We can do this. We can even do this over a slice of pie.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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