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Mask on? Mask off? Mask on!

This is my third article covering my experiences of the impact of COVID-19 on my personal life. I believe it is important that I am transparent about these experiences as a means to enlightening others and provide more awareness of the reality of this monster virus! The COVID-19 pandemic draws attention to the connections across gender, race, and class. The well-advised and ill-advised. In any event, COVID-19 is genuine and it’s time that the ill-advised and those who just don’t care listen and heed to just how real and serious this pandemic is. I definitely take it more seriously than ever!

No, I don’t have heart or lung disease, but yes, I do fall into the category of an older adult and a person who has underlying medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. And yes, I seem to be at a higher risk of being infected and developing serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Am I scared? After hearing so many people getting the virus and dying as a result, I was not only scared, but so scared to the extent that every cough, sneeze, or ache I experience freaks me out!

So here we go. Around the second week of March, I had gotten sick accompanied by a fever. I went to Urgent Care for treatment. When I got there, my temperature was 101.4. Of course, I was asked the questions, Have I traveled out f the country? Have I been in contact with anyone who was infected with COVID? Do I have shortness of breath? My answer to all three questions was no. At that time, those particular Urgent Care facilities were not testing for COVID-19. However, I was tested for the flu. The result was negative. The doctor prescribed antibiotics, told me to take Tylenol for the fever which lasted for way over a week and sent me home. I returned to work, but still wasn’t feeling up to par. Around the third week of March, my Agency ordered staff to begin working remotely. Thinking I just might have had a cold, I was glad to be working from home. I monitored my temperature daily and began to feel better each day as I practiced staying safe.

Now, let me fast-forward to June 14th. I got sick. It felt like I had gastritis or food poisoning. I was throwing up violently to the point where I was totally dehydrated. I passed out from weakness and unknowingly hit my head. When I was able to get to my bed, I took my temperature. I had a low-grade fever. I related what I was experiencing to eating bad McDonald’s sausage or the Chinese food I ate the night before. I had an appointment with my primary physician for the next day. In advance, I asked her to put in lab work for me since I hadn’t seen her since January. That office was finally administering tests for COVID SARS-CoV-2 Serology. I requested that be added to my blood work as well. I was advised that if the test came back positive, I should continue to take precautions that kept me safe. I was advised to rest and informed that it probably was something I ate.

The following day, I got a notification that I had test results ready. I logged into my records online. As I scrolled and viewed the results of my RBC count, A1C number, etc., low and behold there were the words:  COVID antibody testing is positive! Yes. With an exclamation point! I heard myself saying “What? No way! I take precautions. This is really real.” Just a few weeks ago, my husband had taken the test and it was negative.

Two kinds of tests are available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests. According to the CDC, an antibody test might tell you if you had a past infection. An antibody test might not show if you have a current infection because it can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and can protect against getting that disease again (immunity). It is thought that having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 might protect from getting infected with the virus again. If it does, not much is known about how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.

Faced with the fear of not knowing when I could have been exposed or who I could have infected, I frantically tried retracing my steps! Oh my goodness! I went to my mother’s house after I came from the doctor. My husband and I celebrated our anniversary, just a few days before. I was here and there. When did this happen? Perhaps it was when I was sick back in March. I don’t know. I made an appointment for my husband to get tested again. And again, the result was negative. With no way of pinpointing the time of exposure, I had no choice but to continue practicing safety precautions and informing others.

We don’t know yet if people who recover from COVID-19 can get infected again. Scientists are working to understand this. As researchers work at unprecedented speed to produce new treatments and vaccines, I implore you to stay safe, wash your hands constantly, wear a mask, and practice social distance if you must go outdoors. Get tested! Even if you test positive for COVID-19 on a viral or an antibody test, you still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others! Mask on? Mask off? Mask on!


June Coxson

June Coxson

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