Congestion and Confusion

I woke up with some congestion this morning. No fever. No other symptoms.

In the Fall of 2019, I would have labeled it as “a little cold” and just powered through… In the Fall of 2020, I would have labeled it as “concerning symptoms” and shut myself off from society… But it wasn’t as clear to me what the protocol should be for the Fall of 2021.

I actually felt pretty good, except for the congestion. And I’d been looking forward to a day trip to Youngstown with Olivia and some other friends. Still, I felt like I needed to share the situation with everyone else, to see how they felt. One friend said that he was personally fine with hanging out under such circumstances. Another friend suggested that it might be a wise precaution to get a rapid test for COVID-19. A third friend said she was doing her best to avoid knowingly being in close contact with anyone who has any sort of symptoms suggesting sickness (primarily because she’s pregnant), but she was fine with having me meet the group in Youngstown — as long as we shifted around our previous plans for car-pooling.

I ultimately decided that I should try and get a rapid test for COVID-19. Someone had once told me that take-home tests are available at the Kent Free Library, so I drove to their pick-up / drop-off window and asked about it — and within literally fifteen seconds, I had two COVID tests in my hands!

I drove home and followed the instructions on the box. This involved downloading an app and checking in online for a proctored test (via webcam) — but there was no wait-time, once I had all the software and user credentials sorted out. The proctor walked me through step-by-step instructions for how to position the webcam (so she could see the test kit at all times), prepare the disposable testing strip with the reagent liquid, and swab the insides of both nostrils for the test. After everything was settled on the desk in front of the webcam, the proctor started a fifteen-minute timer and told me we would check in again at the end of those fifteen minutes to verify the outcome of the rapid test.

Fortunately, the test results were negative. Really easy-to-read, clear results. Consequently, I felt more confident about keeping my plans for the day. Still, knowing that I didn’t want to pass around any virus (even if it wasn’t the SARS Coronavirus-2), I ended up wearing a mask for most of the day — just to keep my germs to myself.

And honestly, the whole experience made me feel more positive and more prepared for the coming cold and flu season. The steps I took were not hard to take. And I feel good about the way that I was able to make an informed decision and minimize the spread of sickness. So, I’m wondering if we might learn things through our experience with COVID-19 that could be more broadly applicable in years to come. Can we keep testing easy and affordable for the viruses of greatest concern at a given moment? Can masks be a more regular part of our social interaction with viruses of lesser concern? I know there’s plenty of reason to doubt positive answers to these questions. Nevertheless, I choose to hope — and heal from my current (minor) illness.

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