I have Covid-19. I got the positive test result last Thursday evening, a full four days after I visited an urgent care center for a PCR test. I’d been having mild cold symptoms for a week when I opened a jar of Vicks Vapor Rub and couldn’t smell a whiff of it. Damn. They aren’t kidding about that loss of smell thing.
Although hundreds of thousands of Americans regrettably have already died due to the virus, experts estimate as few as 1 in 10 of us have contracted it. With that in mind, I thought I would share my experience with it.
The most commonly listed symptoms of Covid-19 are fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, and sore throat. I didn’t have any of these symptoms, which is why I believed I had simply caught your basic, garden-variety cold after Denver had a 50+ degree temperature drop in less than 24 hours. There was no reason to suspect it might be Covid. The county I live in had, at that point, some of the lowest case numbers in the Denver metro area. And since the beginning of March, I haven’t eaten in a restaurant or visited a bar. I’ve not been to a wedding or a party. I haven’t spent time in crowded places, indoors or out. Although I often have groceries delivered, if I have to visit a store I have done so at off-peak hours staying more than 6 feet from others, turning around and exiting aisles when other people enter them. I use hand sanitizer when I go out and wash my hands and disinfect my phone as soon as I get home. I have taken, according to the experts, all the necessary precautions to stay healthy along with the other three members of my household, and yet here we are. Two positive cases and two presumptive positive cases. What can you do?
Fortunately, my family and I have no comorbidity issues. Overall, we are in generally good health, and I think that has helped us keep our viral load at a level where our immune systems are able to work as they should. It’s been over two weeks since the onset of my stuffy head, my taste and smell have returned, and I am confident that when my quarantine ends on Friday I will be feeling 100% healthy again. My family and I are still checking our temperatures and conducting daily pulse ox readings to be sure we are on the right track, but so far so good.
The most difficult thing about our mild Covid cases has been the stigma of having it. Our youngest was Patient 0 in his junior class, the one who caused in-person classes to be cancelled for two weeks. Friends and family ask us daily how we are feeling, as if they are expecting us to take a turn for the worst, and their fear has made me more uncomfortable than my symptoms. I keep wondering if I am missing something and if the other shoe is about to drop and I will be in the hospital tomorrow. Others inquire as to where we think we got it, as if it matters and as if we had been irresponsible somehow, and I have to shrug because I have no clue. We had been with no one who had symptoms or had tested positive. We just came in contact with it somewhere at some point. Covid-19 is like the honey badger. It doesn’t care. It goes where it wants and does what it wants.
Given how case numbers are exploding across the country and no one seems to be going into forced lockdown, I trust the scientists who expect 40-70% of our population will have contracted this before a vaccine is readily available to all. As each day passes, I hear more and more about new cases among friends and their families. After my experience with Covid, this is my advice. Wear a mask in public. Take care of yourself. Make sleep a priority. Stay hydrated. Take Vitamins D3 and C. If you get any symptoms that seem like cold or flu, pay attention to them and record when they start. And get tested if you aren’t feeling well, even if you have only mild symptoms. This virus has become politicized, but it is not political. It doesn’t care if you are liberal or conservative. It doesn’t care if you think you are being careful. I know people who have thumbed their nose at its existence and haven’t contracted it yet, but they could and might yet still. We were taking legitimate precautions and that might have helped reduce our exposure and keep our symptoms our mild. I’m glad we are not huge risk takers by nature and heeded the science. And I’m grateful now that we are coming out on the other end with at least some immunity to it, no matter how short-lived it might be.
Hospitals across the country are becoming overcrowded, and healthcare workers are struggling and also getting sick. Some areas are nearing the time when doctors will have to make hard decisions about who is favored to receive potentially life-saving care. Some areas are running out of healthy care workers to staff hospitals. The bottom line is that this is serious, whether or not you want it to be, and the situation is only getting worse. And you just don’t know if you will be one of the unlucky ones who becomes an unfortunate statistic of this pandemic. I know we all have limited time on this planet, but if you take any precautions at all in your life, be it seat belt or bike helmet or flu vaccine, be careful out there now. Covid-19 is a pathogen. It doesn’t care what you believe about it.
Please, look out for others even if it seems like a bother or a burden. We’re in this together, and our common enemy thrives when we pretend it doesn’t exist.