The onslaught began the Tuesday morning after the Memorial Day weekend. A sore throat, followed by coughing, a headache, and fatigue.
I attributed these to a cold and resisted taking an at-home COVID-19 test, which may seem odd for someone whose computer has open windows tracking COVID data at the county, state, and national level.
My wife found this attitude ridiculous.
I relented and Tuesday night swabbed my nasal passages. [Thank you to the federal government for the test kits sent in the mail.]
The result: positive for COVID. This being Georgia, I demanded a recount. The second antigen test affirmed the first. Finding no evidence of fraud, I conceded and took to bed.
My wife tested negative and relocated to the bedroom at the opposite end of the hall.
I messaged my doctor, requesting the antiviral drug shown to reduce the severity of the symptoms. The prescription came through on Thursday. Three pills every morning and evening for five days.
By then, my wife wasn’t feeling well. She tested positive on Saturday.
We both lost our senses of taste and smell. The antiviral’s metallic after taste in my mouth made eating something less than a pleasure.
So, how did this happen? I was fully vaccinated, with a first and second booster. My wife was about to schedule her second booster.
We had spent a lovely Memorial Day weekend in Chicago. The weather was beautiful. Thousands of people were walking up and down Michigan Avenue and along the Chicago Riverwalk. My sister said it was the most people she had seen on the Magnificent Mile since the start of the pandemic.
We visited with my 94-year-old mother and enjoyed meals with friends we had not seen in years. [None, thankfully, reported any issues afterward.]
People in the art museums and at the theater were masked. The likely culprit was a loud, crowded blues club.
Assuming that what I contracted was some version of the “milder” Omicron variant, I am thankful for vaccines that limit more serious illness, hospitalization, or worse.
For those who pay little attention to COVID-19 data, in recent weeks the rate of new cases has ticked up in Georgia and in much of the country. That is without counting tests taken at home, which are not included in the Department of Public Health statistics.
We appear to have been part of a post-Memorial Day surge of positive cases. The community transmission map maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks like a forest fire of substantial and high levels, most notably in the eastern and western thirds of the country.
In such areas, “You should assume that you will be exposed, rather than assume things are risk free,” public health researcher Amber Schmidtke, whose COVID data-crunching has been a boon to journalists, wrote in a recent newsletter.
So, there we were, quarantining at home.
I removed the lids from containers of coffee, oregano, and cumin, hoping to have my olfactory sense stimulated. One night, my wife bit into a clove of garlic, seeking its pungent aroma and taste.
After a dozen days, I tested negative. By this timetable, my wife should test negative before you read this.
As I write this, there are hints that we might be regaining a measure of our senses of smell and taste. I trust that my stamina will improve, and a lingering cough will subside.
For our troubles, we may have gained, for however long it lasts, some newfound immunity to the virus.
“Everybody is going to be infected with COVID-19 multiple times in their lifetime,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told the AARP.Org website.
Booster shots and post-COVID immunity will wear off. Much of the public has declared itself “over COVID.” Adherence to basic preventative measures has become lax and vaccination rates have slowed. Roughly 66 percent of eligible Georgians have received at least one dose of vaccine, 55 percent are fully vaccinated, and 21 percent have received at least one booster shot.
“It is a weird thing to navigate this world of alternate realities — one where COVID-19 no longer seems to exist based on the behavior we can observe,” Schmidtke wrote.
The data is clear. We live in a world where COVID still exists. A couple of weeks at home with the virus is convincing enough of that reality.