My Week with Covid…Maybe
Eight months into this pandemic and the testing still isn't optimal.
Early in October I started feeling sick with a sore throat, headache, fatigue and nausea. So to be responsible, I got a rapid Covid test right away to make sure that I didn’t have it—at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night, at Arlington Urgent Care.
An hour later, the doctor came to my car window in the Lee Harrison parking lot, and, to my surprise, announced “You’re positive.”
I started asking questions right away. “OK, what happens now? What do I do? What about my family?”
He very curtly told me to quarantine for 10 days and isolate from my family. No other advice or context. But he did get my husband and boys in for testing the next morning. They were all negative!
Relief washed over me upon hearing that news, but I also had a sense that this was, well…weird. I was the least “exposed” person in my family. They had been in grocery stores, at school, swim practice and a restaurant job, too. I had bought a car a week before and guessed maybe it was there that I caught the virus, although my son had been with me and he was negative.
A flurry of events happened after that, with no guidance and no call from any county or state authorities. I did my own contact tracing, talking to my primary care doctor and trying to enter my positive test on the Covidwise app, but failing, as it required a PIN that I didn’t have and didn’t know how to get, even with a call to Arlington County. The county didn’t even have a record of my test result from Arlington Urgent Care.
I cleared my schedule, taking a listing off the market (I’m a Realtor) and cancelling plans to attend a friend’s small birthday celebration.
Stuck in my bedroom, I reached out to friends. Several recommended I get a follow up PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test at a CVS drive-through. The first test had been a rapid antigen test, which detects proteins associated with the virus. PCR tests, by comparison, detect the virus’s actual genetic material (RNA) and are considered more reliable, but the results take 2-3 days.
Our whole family got the PCR test. We all came back negative.
So did I ever have the coronavirus? I called my doctor’s office again. They told me to get a second PCR test and continue to isolate. That test also came back negative.
I’ve since concluded that I never actually had Covid-19. My first antigen test was a false positive.
My advice to anyone who has cold symptoms? Just get the PCR and wait for the results in quarantine. We need a consistent strategy, contact tracing and doctors to give us clear advice on what to do when we get a positive result.
In my experience, my friends turned out to be more helpful than doctors.