Uh-oh. When I home-tested positive for Covid after a few casual lunches with different friends over the holidays, I knew I had to tell them about my infection.
I had accumulated four Covid home tests to use between Christmas and New Years and self-tested before each gathering of five to seven people—not exactly a crowd, but I worried. After a rousing lunch of laughs and stories at the History Museum atrium Cafe, I went home and used my last home test. Gulp. Positive.
Immobilization glued me to my bed. What do I do? The slight cough and runny nose I’d had for a few days was seasonal allergies, according to the doctor. One friend told me the self-tests are not accurate. Really? Is she right? Is the CDC wrong? How do I report it? Do I tell people? Will they panic? Am I responsible if they get it? Will they blame me?
Fortunately I wasn’t with the friends who panic, blame, and generally indulge in open disapproval and silent scorn. That crowd is busy interrogating their other friends with positive Covid tests: Where did you get it? Who were you with? Were they wearing masks? Were you? Were they boostered?
There are so many cases of Covid now that it’s impossible to trace the source of who, what, where, how, when. Last week people talked about their friends and relatives having Covid. This week they’re talking about themselves having it.
My course of action was 1) text Mark with the news and ask if he’d walk the dog for two days. Two days. That’s what I gave myself to be symptom-free. I was right. And really, how much dog-walking can you ask of your friends in the first snowstorm of the winter? 2) Turn on the kitchen exhaust fan to move the Covid air out. 3) Wipe all the surfaces with bleach, and 4) close myself off in the bedroom with Tylenol, electrolytes and Kleenex. Mark ran in and out with Henry. No lingering. No chit-chat.
The Northwestern Medicine patient portal has no apparent section for reporting Covid. I wrote my doctor through the online messaging system (who reads those?). “I tested positive for Covid. What should I do?” Twenty-four hours later my symptoms had subsided. I’d read the CDC stuff and thought I knew all I had to know. But no. Northwestern has a lengthy standard reply, some of which surprised me:
Retesting is not recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because you may continue to test positive for three months or more without being contagious to others.
What? For the first time in almost two years, the weight I didn’t know was so heavy, lifted from my mind, body and soul! No more frantically scouring shelves for Covid tests? No more fear of infection, the ER, hospital, death? No more worry that I might give it to you!
It’s like June 2021!