Covid hits home

We are Covid-positive. Fortunately the illness has been minimal but we have had the strangest week of our lives. Last friday evening Jeanne got an alert on her phone that her test result was in. She stared in disbelief at the result: “SARS-CoV-2: DETECTED“. It was real, she had Covid and the global pandemic had entered our home. It led to us leaving our kids home alone for days, all of us testing positive, and fortunately no more than mild symptoms.

Here is a recap of our strange week:

Wednesday September 1st

Jeanne started to have symptoms of a cold. She had a runny nose and sore throat but we didn’t think much of it. She had been on a flight home from Denver the week before but didn’t really consider Covid. She is vaccinated and we had all been cautious for so long that the idea that Covid could enter our lives at this point seemed so unrealistic.

Thursday, September 2nd

One week until school starts. The girls enjoyed the last full week of vacation by hanging out around the house and playing with friends. Jeanne logged in to work for the morning but felt worse as the day went on.

I slept on the couch Thursday night to try to avoid getting sick. It wasn’t clear what she had, but whatever it was, we’ve certainly learned that staying away from sick people is advisable.

Friday, September 3rd

Jeanne knew things were more serious when she couldn’t smell her morning coffee. It was such a strange feeling for her to not be able to smell anything at all. She cancelled meetings, took the day off from work, and scheduled a Covid test for later that morning. Hannah finished her second week of high school soccer and Caroline enjoyed the end of the final week of summer.

We had reservations to go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the holiday weekend but the way Jeanne was feeling it was clear that we might need to adjust plans. I didn’t really think that Jeanne had Covid but she clearly had something and whatever it was, sharing a hotel room with her didn’t seem like a good idea.

Caroline spent the afternoon baking me a birthday cake and we had a family dinner (outdoors) to celebrate my 42nd birthday. It wasn’t exactly a celebratory evening with her feeling sick and our weekend plans up in the air, but we did the best we could.

That evening Jeanne got an alert on her phone that her test result was in. She stared in disbelief at the result “SARS-CoV-2: DETECTED“. It was real, she had Covid and the global pandemic and entered our home.

We cancelled our hotel reservation (they were very understanding and waived any cancellations fees), we put on masks, and we kicked Jeanne out of the house.

We had discussed contingency plans and decided that if she was positive she would move to my mom’s house up the street. The house was unoccupied (my mom is out of town for the month visiting my sister and her new baby) and it allowed her to have a separate bathroom and kitchen and not share space with us. She was sad to be isolated but understood it was our best chance to keep the rest of us negative.

Saturday, September 4th

I scheduled tests for the girls at the pediatrician’s office and tried to schedule an appointment for myself (but unfortunately a scheduling mixup meant I wasn’t able to get my test that day). The girls and I spent the day around the house knowing we couldn’t see anyone else until we had test results. We all felt fine – although I had a tickle of a sore throat starting that I tried to ignore.

That evening I took a rapid antigen home test which came back negative. And then we got the girls’ PCR results that were also negative. So we felt like we might be in the clear. Jeanne would have to live apart from us for a week which wouldn’t be fun but we could handle it. It turned out to be a false sense of security.

We contacted friends whom the girls had seen and a few of them got tested as well and fortunately everyone came back negative. I was starting to getting a stuffy nose but I was still hopeful that we could stay separated while Jeanne recovered and we’d stay healthy.

Sunday, September 5th

I was clearly coming down with something, but I was in denial that it could be Covid. I had tested negative (rapid antigen), the girls had been negative (PCR) and I was hopeful it might be something else.

But Sunday night I got my PCR result back: “SARS-CoV-2: DETECTED“. I was positive too.

And now we had an issue. We could manage if one of us was sick, and we could manage if all four of us were positive, but what to do when the adults were positive but the kids were negative? We went through so many scenarios and ideas but nothing was ideal. The goal was to keep the kids healthy, especially Caroline as the only unvaccinated one. We decided that I would also move out of the house and we would leave the kids (and dog) home alone to hopefully stay healthy. I spent the night at home, but first thing in the morning, got up, packed a bag, and moved out.

Monday, September 6th

Our girls are 14 and 10 and while they are mature and relatively independent it wasn’t clear it was the best parenting idea to leave them home alone for days. But we did it, and they managed amazingly well.

While we spent the day resting, reading, watching TV, and generally recuperating, they spent the day doing…whatever they wanted. That meant a lot of screen time, but we couldn’t really complain.

We checked in with them throughout the day, we ordered them Panera delivered for lunch and vegetable sushi for dinner. It made me realize that most of what I offer them is food service and if we can keep them fed they were capable of most of the rest of life.

At bedtime, Caroline and I transferred our reading routine to virtual by getting on a call together while I read the book I’m reading to her and she lay in bed listening. After each chapter I would ask if she was still awake and when I didn’t get a response, I hung up. It was weird, but it worked.

Tuesday, September 7th

Sunday I would have said I had a cold, Monday I had a bad cold, but Tuesday I turned a corner and got better. I spent less of the day in bed, blew my nose fewer times, and felt a lot better. But I was still super foggy and had a hard time concentrating for extended periods of time. Jeanne was still coughing pretty bad and feeling short of breath. It never got to the point of being worried about needing further treatment, but it was worrisome to see her wheezing.

We had both informed our work about the situation and they were understanding and accommodating. Initially I thought I might take only Tuesday and Wednesday off (Monday had been Labor Day) based on how I felt late in the week.

The girls continued to manage – maybe even thrive. They certainly got bored, and they were a little worried about how long this situation would have to go on – we had said we would reevaluate each day, but they did great. They played a lot of Zelda (the version on Nintendo Switch is our game of choice these days and they got a lot better while they were home alone), they watched TikTok (Hannah) and YouTube (Caroline), they talked to their friends online, they read (at least a little), and they took care of the dog (even though she didn’t know what was going on, Daisy was happy to sleep in Caroline’s bed instead of our floor).

Our neighbor dropped off dinner for them, another friend dropped off matzah ball soup for us and we got on FaceTime and had what counted as our first Family Dinner this week:

Wednesday, September 8th

We made an appointment to take the girls back for another Covid test. The idea being that if they were positive we could move back in together, and if they were negative we could confirm that the earlier test was correct and the isolation was working. I double-masked, put the car windows down, and picked up the girls for the 15 minute drive. It was tense because it was the first time any of us had left the house in days and the first time we had been together.

I sent them into the doctor’s office alone (if they can live alone, they might as well handle their healthcare independently too 😃) and waited outside. They got a rapid test which meant we didn’t have to wait all day for the results. And sure enough, they were both positive. Our whole family had Covid.

That was both good and bad news. Good because we could move back in together and because we could start the clock for their quarantine, but bad because we were worried they might get sick. Most kids develop mild symptoms, but we had already been unlucky the odds of breakthrough cases and were hoping our luck would be better with the kids.

If one of the girls had been negative and one positive, it’s not clear what we would have done. Realtistly having Hannah live alone could work but it would be miserable for her and it only would have bought her a few days. Fortunately we didn’t have to make that decision.

Picking up Jeanne and reuniting the family at home felt so good. The past 18 months had been hard but we had always been able to hug each other and share any anxiety together. The days we had to separate were a reminder of how much harder this pandemic has been for those without loved ones around.

Thursday, September 9th

On what should have been the first day of school our girls slept in and stay in pajamas all day. It was a drizzly gray day and it fit our mood. We were bummed to be missing the start of school and soccer practices and knew we had at least another week ahead of us.

Friday, September 10th

Jeanne and I both took the full week off from work while we recovered, physically and mentally. I am just about back to full health, just a periodic nagging cough. Jeanne still has a bad-sounding cough, but is getting her energy back more each day. Caroline continues to have a stuffy nose and be a little low on energy. Hannah has stayed pretty much symptom-free the whole time.

The week ahead

One week after this ordeal became real for us, we have figured out how to manage. We have been so fortunate to have friends that have helped out, thank you to everyone who has offered, we really appreciate it!

Assuming all continues to progress and no one gets more sick, the girls are cleared to return to school and activities on Thursday (10 days post exposure/symptoms). The girls have been in touch with teachers and they will happily jump back into classes and soccer. I’m sure we’ll have some adjustment to getting up earlier, being around people, and have more full days, but if we’ve managed this week we’ll manage the week ahead.

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