I had a COVID-19 test! It was negative, so I can breathe a sigh of relief. But the process of deciding to have the test, alerting people I had been with and the never-ending wait for the results was overwhelming.
An infection and antibiotics led me to experience some side effects similar to COVID-19 symptoms. With some good days mixed in with the more difficult ones, I decided to go have the test. It was the sensible thing to do, and it was easy – drive through at the library, free, no waiting in line. Uncomfortable, to say the least, the way they jabbed that swab up my nose. But the deeper, the more accurate, I thought.
Three to four days for the results, they said. This was a Tuesday, so I asked about weekend results. Yes, they said, the lab will call you on Friday or Saturday. So I went up to the mountains for a walk to figure things out and decide what’s next. The mountain forest always soothes and clarifies things for me.
That afternoon, I called about eight different people I had had some contact with in the past couple of weeks, always with masks or socially distanced. I felt it was my responsibility to alert these people, for their own safety and the safety of others. These people are old! I didn’t want to alarm anyone, but I felt it was the prudent thing to do.
Then I got calls back from a couple of them wanting to know if they had my permission to tell other people they had been with, or were expected to be with. I wanted to do what was safe, so of course I said OK. But then things got even more tangled and complicated – I had shared garden vegetables with other friends. Maybe they should wash everything again? The interconnectedness of all of us was so obvious.
Then, Day 3 came and went with no results. Then Day 4 and no results. Frustrated because I had been quarantining and so had many of these other folks, I saw how the system is failing us. Finally, on Day 6 I got the negative result. Six days, it took! Six days of stress, other people’s stress, canceled plans, “what-ifs,” etc. This is unacceptable. Why can’t we all have the rapid-result tests?
What if I hadn’t notified these other people? What if they had just gone about their business and social plans with no knowledge of being exposed to a possible COVID-19 case? How many more people could have been infected? The whole system is so casual, so inadequate, so unscrupulous.
San Juan Basin Public Health gave me a sheet of information and directions when I had the test. I’m suggesting they add to it the importance of notifying other people we’ve had contact with while waiting for test results and quarantining. This could eliminate one more way of the virus spreading.
Life goes on for many, while the deaths of COVID-19 patients goes up. More than 200,000 in the U.S. as I write this, and many more to come. We are so technologically advanced, it’s difficult to understand why can’t we have more testing, sooner results and a more systematic and efficient way to control this horrible disease that has devastated our lives.
I do know why – mismanagement of a huge pandemic crisis. No leadership at the federal level. Yet, San Juan Basin Public Health has been nothing but impressive, always available to hear my questions and frustrations.
Here we all are, trying to deal with this mysterious pandemic, without any consistent and methodical guidance for the whole country. Cheers to SJBPH. May they continue to do good work amid the chaos around us.
Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at email@example.com.