Saturday, February 19, 2022

Mobile, Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: I Got Caught


Coronavirus image. Credit: WHO
Coronavirus image. Credit: WHO


I caught COVID.


In the wee hours of Monday morning, I felt it. A scratchy throat. A bit of a sniffly nose. A hint of a headache. Later, when I arose, it was definitive. I clearly I had sumthin'-sumthin'.

Well, I rationalized, there are still plain ol' colds out there. Nevertheless, this is the time of COVID ......... AND ........ even if I had caught "just" a cold, it meant that my routine safety protocols had failed. 

In retrospect, I think there were earlier signs. On Sunday, I'd felt sleepy. A tickle in my nose had prompted several sneezes late Sunday afternoon. I'd noticed puffy bags under my eyes which I'd felt curious about when I saw them, as I usually don't get these unless I've indulged in richer-than-usual foods. But none of these early presentations, alone or as a group, sounded any COVID alarms to me. 

Testing: A cautionary tale

In an unbelievable stroke of bad luck, I expected a Tucson friend to visit Mobile for two nights, arriving that very afternoon. I also had a dentist appointment scheduled, which I hated to have to cancel.

I informed my friend of the possibility of my COVID infection and then I set about getting tested. 

By 1:15 p.m. on Monday I had taken three tests: 

  1. Rapid response administered via CVS pharmacy drive-through
  2. PCR administered via Walgreen's pharmacy drive-through
  3. At-home rapid test bought at CVS

Both of the rapid response tests came back negative. Yay! 

It was not until Wednesday afternoon that I received the results of the PCR: Positive

My current understanding of the rapid tests is that:

  • If the results are positive, then you can be confident you are positive
  • If the results are negative, well, who the fuck knows [my own interpretation]

Thus, in my mind, the only purpose of having folks get a same-day COVID test before being allowed entry to an event is to weed out the folks who test positive. That is helpful. 

But it's just security theater for all of the rapid test takers who test negative. The negatives don't signify a goddamn thing. 

And remember, I had already exhibited symptoms, so it wasn't as if I were only getting tested because I had been exposed to an infected person, and I hadn't yet presented any symptoms.


How I'm doing

My presenting symptoms are mild. Tuesday was my most uncomfortable day, but even then, it was limited to feeling a little draggy, with that scratchy throat, an occasional cough that wasn't dry, yet wasn't wet, either. 

Today, five days after the onset of the cold-like symptoms (versus the possible precursor symptoms), there is a bit of a tickle in my throat on occasion, with a responding small cough + a bit of stuffiness in my nose, and that's it. If we were in normal times, I wouldn't hesitate to get out and about as usual. 

How's my visiting friend doing? 

My Tucson friend left on Wednesday morning. I just checked in with her. So far, no sign of infection from exposure to me. 

But as with negative rapid tests, this may signify nothing. She could be infected, but asymptomatic. Or tomorrow will be the day her symptoms appear. She could have been left unscathed by me, but infected yesterday by a passerby, and the symptoms won't appear until .... when? 

I've asked her to let me know if she does present with symptoms so that I can note the number of days that have passed between our last contact and the onset of symptoms. 

Note: She is fully vaxxed and wears a mask. Obviously, these are not magic shields, but I note this to identify her as a prudent person who gives COVID its due respect.


How did I get infected? 

My best guess is that I got too close to a COVID carrier at last weekend's Mardi Gras parades. Having said that, my symptoms would have appeared awfully fast if that's the case: Within 48-72 hours. 

Although I invariably wear a mask at indoor venues, except on the extremely rare occasions when I dine indoors, I don't typically wear a mask outdoors unless I'm in a crowded situation. About that crowded situation. I got complacent last weekend. I did not wear a mask while watching the parades, even when I snaked my way through a crush of humanity. 

Since my diagnosis, I've been looking at Mobile's new-case rates to see if there's been a spike following the first full Mardi Gras parade weekend. A spike is not yet evident in the stats. There is, however, a 30% positive test result rate. 

But maybe that wasn't it. 

Maybe I entered my building's elevator too soon after an infected person had occupied it, and their droplets hadn't had time to sink to the floor. 

Maybe I didn't sanitize my hands carefully enough after touching the door knobs in my building's entrances. 

To a large extent, I surrender to Dr. Fauci's recent statement that COVID is going to find most of us. 


I'm grateful that my presenting symptoms are mild, as I write this. 

I have concerns about future effects, however, as heightened risks for cardio-vascular and neurological troubles exist for up to a year following a bout with COVID, irrespective of its severity. 

I don't assume that just because my thus-far mild symptoms are on a waning trajectory today, there won't suddenly be a plot twist in which things go to hell tomorrow (Sunday). I'll feel more confident if tomorrow is another good day.


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