Do I Have It? Paranoia in the Time of COVID

Four vaccinations (immune compromised series), habitual mask wearer, and restaurant/theater abstainer—you would think I am protected. I work for the department of public health in the COVID Outreach Unit. I screen and register people every day before we give them a shot. Which ones are actually contagious? No idea.

However, Tuesday morning, I learned that my supervisor was seriously ill with COVID. We had been together at a community vaccination event this past Friday for about four hours. We were mostly in different rooms and both masked. I had been feeling fine until I got the notice that I was exposed—after which I began to experience every symptom in the known universe. I was under attack from an alien invasion.

Monique, one of the clinic’s nurses, took me into a back room of the infirmary and watched as I twisted a long Q-tip up my nostril. “Rotate three times in each nostril,” she instructed. Then she sent me off for fifteen minutes while the Q-tip soaked in some kind of solution. The result was negative. The test kit looks a lot like a pregnancy test—a card with a little window showing the result. I kept the card, which appears to resemble a cupcake decoration!

It took several more hours for all my symptoms to dissipate and for me to calm down. Yesterday, I took a second test to be sure. I’m leaving for Florida next week and couldn’t bear to be Typhoid Mary and spread the virus.

All this reminds me of the waiting room at a mammogram clinic when someone on the staff tells you not to get dressed because the radiologist wants to see you one more time! Deer in the headlights! Irrational fear! No wonder nerves are frayed, tempers are at a boiling point, and tolerance and kindness remain buried ideas beneath all the screaming and anger.

Get vaccinated. My supervisor is out of bed and feeling good. She has underlying conditions, is exposed often, and is at risk of infection. I’m quite convinced that vaccinations saved her life.

Published by Carole J. Garrison

I’m a conversationalist, an observer, a passionate participant in life. And now, in my later years, I’m a recorder of the lessons of my life through essays, stories, and novels. I live in the fourth moment of life, just outside the normal distribution of most people and it is from this place that I write.

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