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Lessons Learned From A COVID Scare

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“You’re potentially threatening the wellness of those around you.” The phrase hypnotized me into a trance of worry as I hung up the phone with a CVS pharmacy representative. Of all the words that I imagined could describe me, I never thought dangerous would be one of them.

After learning I had been exposed to COVID-19, I called a CVS pharmacy to better assess my situation. I had been, unknowingly, a consistent participant in an environment that was transforming into an active cluster of the virus, an outbreak. I had been warned by peers in that environment, many of whom had tested positive. Others, including me, felt no symptoms.

The CVS representative explained that showing no symptoms of the virus could still yield a positive test result. Such cases are common, as the Centers for Disease Control recently reported that over 50% of COVID-19 cases are passed by asymptomatic people. By calling CVS, I comprehended why getting tested is vital, whether I exhibited symptoms or not. More importantly, she explained that I should immediately remove myself from the cluster where I was exposed, and self-isolate until I got tested and received results, since asymptomatic cases are particularly hazardous.

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My mind traced my activity over the preceding days; working with college students and coworkers, drinks at a bar with my friends, a visit with my grandparents. I began to realize the reverberations of the hidden nature of transmission. Now, I did feel sick.

What would happen if I was sick? My mom who sells bridal dresses, making people’s dreams come true, would have to stay home. My brother wouldn’t be able to attend the small pool of permitted in-person extracurricular activities during his already tarnished senior year. And me? My best friend’s birthday celebration, another date with a great new guy, a holiday dinner. What’s the best way to tell loved ones you can’t gather because of something in your veins, something you can’t feel but is controlling your every move?

If you know me, you know the anxiety of the virus would destroy me more than feeling symptoms. I know the trepidation of dealing with asymptomatic disease. When I was eight years old, I had strep throat habitually over several months. I distinctly remember several times, walking home from elementary school with my mom, squinting up at her in the brazen sun, saying, “Mommy, my throat hurts again,” shortly after finishing antibiotics.

Puzzled, my mom would take me back to the doctor, and I would test positive for strep throat, take medicine and feel better for a few days, until symptoms reappeared. This pattern turned into a vicious cycle that dumbfounded our doctors. They referred us to specialists and finally, after extensive testing, we found out that my brother was a carrier. He was an asymptomatic patient of strep throat who had been spreading his symptoms onto me, and who knows how many other classmates, friends, or relatives he passed it onto, too. We quarantined, taking strong antibiotics to rid our home of strep throat, the two of us as bookends lying on the sofa.

Although this is the best I can relate, the devastation of COVID-19 puts strep to shame. During this pandemic, there is no cure or vaccine–yet–to reduce the severity of COVID-19. From my childhood experience, I learned early on that a so-called healthy kid is just as susceptible to unintentionally spread illness as the next person. Since March, I thought I was doing my part to social distance, but now, I can attest that dealing with the effects of exposure to COVID-19 is a slippery slope into peril. Anyone like me could fall through the cracks of lackluster efforts to keep apart not just to protect oneself, but those around us.

In the end, I was one of the lucky ones. I did not test positive for COVID-19. But I am very aware that many others in Verona have–333 as of Sunday morning–and 15 Veronans have died from the virus.

I now realize that social distancing is not a series of guidelines tailored to my individuality, but to the influence of my actions. COVID-19 is a mosaic of individual germs, ferociously spreading across the human race. I am just one person, but my decisions to merely follow or avoid rules produces a ripple effect that I may never fully grasp. From my COVID-19 scare, I learned the critical role of social distancing to prevent both potentially spreading the virus or being exposed to someone who has it, with symptoms or not, and I plan to better follow guidelines in the future to safeguard those around me.

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

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