COVID-19

Our COVID-19 scare

Margaret came home from work the Friday before last with news: one of the people on her team was COVID-positive. Worse, before the young woman got tested she worked several days not feeling well without telling anyone. Worse still, Margaret was feeling run down and achy.

We immediately quarantined Margaret to our bedroom and she called off work. I gathered toiletries and commandeered the downstairs bathroom, and figured out the sleeper sofa in the family room.

Margaret got tested Monday morning, by which time she was running a low-grade fever. I felt sure she was positive. Margaret wasn’t as certain. “This could just be a cold or the flu,” she said.

She was right. Thursday she got her test results: negative. But by Wednesday night she figured that would be the result, as she had been feeling better and better all day. By Thursday morning she felt mostly normal.

I’ve been worried about the two kids who still live with us, who want so much to hang out with their friends as they used to. I’ve feared that they would bring the virus into our home. We keep having to remind them to stay out of their friends’ homes, out of restaurants, out of any place where people aren’t wearing masks.

It’s been easy to forget that our biggest risk factor is Margaret’s workplace. She works in retail facility management, a job that must be done on site. Her staff is mostly in their 20s and 30s, and they live up to the news reports that this age group puts themselves at risk of the virus more than any other. The young woman who tested positive has a second job in a restaurant and freely hangs out with her friends, both strong risk factors.

Last week another young woman on Margaret’s staff tested positive. She may have become infected in the workplace. Now that Margaret is back to work, she’ll have to work long hours six days a week to cover the short staff.

Look at today’s new-case graph from the Indiana State Department of Health. We had 6,825 newly reported cases yesterday. I’m trying not to overreact to the spike.

ZOMG IT’S OUT OF CONTROL!!!!!1! Except that Indiana has 6,732,219 residents (U.S. Census Bureau estimate). Yesterday’s new cases affected one tenth of one percent of all Hoosiers. 251,597 Hoosiers have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 — 3.7 percent of us.

Further, let’s say that 5,000 Hoosiers tested positive over each of the last 14 days, and that they’re all still contagious. (When you look at the actual new cases per day since Nov. 1, 5,000 per day is a reasonable working number.) That’s 70,000 people, one percent of all Hoosiers, who could infect you.

Meijer sign

Let’s say every Hoosier who has or ever had COVID-19 are uniformly distributed across the state. Let’s also say that 1,000 random people in my county are currently shopping at the Meijer (big-box store) near my home, and I’m one of them.

37 of them have had had COVID-19 at some point. 10 of them currently have the virus. But in reality, many of those 10 are home in bed.

A young, healthy woman on my team at work got it and was laid up for two solid weeks. She said that just getting up to use the bathroom exhausted her for hours. I’ve heard of cases that went more easily, and cases that were much harder. But it sounds like few people get through this illness without some need to rest and recover, which means not shopping at Meijer or doing other things in the world.

I’m unlikely to get sick at Meijer, especially if everybody’s masked and I don’t linger.

I’m writing this to walk myself through it as much as to share it with you. This is still an illness I wish my whole family to avoid. We will continue to avoid places where people we don’t currently live with are unmasked. It’s prudent to do so. Here’s hoping a good vaccine comes soon. But there’s no need to freak out, not yet.

Last updated on 15 November 2020 by Jim Grey

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28 thoughts on “Our COVID-19 scare

  1. Trying not to panic is an excellent idea. There is an excess of fear spread about something that is serious, but not 1918 or the Bubonic Plague. I’m loving the book. Any author that can use the word ‘schadenfreude’ gets double bonus points IMHOP

  2. It’s when people think “it’s not a big deal” and let their guard down and stop taking precautions that things go haywire. Example: here in BC our daily new cases were down into the single digits. They started “opening up” and people decided it was all over. We had 617 new cases on Friday, the highest ever for the province. The rest of Canada is doing equally poorly.
    When you pretend it isn’t serious it will soon become so. The USA should have learned this lesson as under your recently deposed dictator who downplayed the seriousness at every turn it has become the most infected country in the world.
    It’s a delicate balance between staying safe and becoming paranoid.

  3. The ‘number of cases’ number is incredibly uninformative and very easily manipulated (in either direction). Politicization was I suppose, almost inevitable, but it makes it hard to get an unbiased view of what is going on.

    • I think the ISDH has done a careful job counting positive tests, and I’m not aware of significant politicization of these counts even in this very red state. This number leaves out untested cases, obviously. It’s impossible to know how many of those there are. But let’s say it’s another quarter million Hoosiers. My analysis still holds.

  4. Roger Meade says:

    An interesting take on what to do about Covid-19 was just published in “Imprimis” a conservative publication of Hillsdale College in Michigan. The article is by an MD/PhD, Jay Bhattacharya. He argues that the shut down is worse than the disease. It makes sense to me after reading it, something I would not have agreed with previously. To be clear, my wife and I are both very vulnerable healthwise.

    The argument is basically that the vulnerable need to do everything they can to keep safe. Others need to go about their business while doing everything they reasonably can to avoid infection, while also helping the at risk to stay safe. Common sense, but pie-in-the-sky in our current political climate. Seems like many of us are all in, on one side or the other.

    • That’s an approach that would work, with the cost of some people who are not classically vulnerable who are unlucky and have a very bad time with it. I’m thinking about a woman I know who is a “long hauler,” months and not fully recovered. And the occasional not-classically-vulnerable person might die. If societally we are willing to take that hit, if individually we are willing to take that risk, then yes, this will work.

    • The problem is that without executive orders the vulnerable will be dead. If the boss says “everyone needs to be at the office breathing COVID air unless they prove they are vulnerable” then what? Without executive orders will the grocery stores and pharmacies enforce mask wearing and social distancing? If mask wearing isn’t enforced then the vulnerable can’t go grocery shopping or get medicine.

      So what I’m hearing is “Khürt, so sorry you’re in a vulnerable group and at risk, but my life is more important than yours.”

  5. Jim,
    I’ve done a lot of the same kind of analyses and agree with you. Denominators are important but not often included in the news since they often and usually lessen the emotional impact of the numerator. Considering the population at the time, the 1918 flu was an order of magnitude worse than Covid19, people were locked down and quarantined, even relocated to camps. Yet the economy didn’t collapse and civility did not cease.
    Of course, those were different times….I’m guessing that a greater value was placed on sober and rational thought than in our current entertainment-driven society.

    • It’s hard to know what 1918 was like. I think people are much the same whether now or 100 years ago or 400 years ago — it’s social norms and institutions, and the behavior of our leadership, that holds us together I think.

  6. Victor Villaseñor says:

    Yikes! Glad to hear your family is ok! But do test again, unless the test was pcr ( and then there is some failure rate at those) antibody testing has a gap where you can test negative…. First hand knowledge. We had a scare some months ago, I believe we escaped by a very narrow margin, but had to test 10 days later to be sure. Stay safe, things are really worrisome on the US.

    • Margaret did the PCR, she didn’t want to mess around with the antibody test. But she’s 100% now. If there was a failure in her test, then she had the shortest case of COVID ever!

  7. Darts and Letters says:

    I’m glad Margaret is doing fine and didn’t have Covid 19. thanks for sharing some of the recent data, Jim. One of my little sisters is a ICU nurse up in MI a few hundred miles from you and she’s working exclusively with COVID patients right now and the hospital is nearing a breaking point. Last week an experienced nurse walked off the job because she was so overwhelmed. They’re trying to get the National Guard to help out with additional staffing to deal with critically ill people. Masking and social distancing are more critical than ever. These are two things I know you have been vigilant about. Thanks for continuing reasonable dialogue and sharing personal experience about the pandemic.

    • In Indiana, the governor this week announced new restrictions on a county-by-county basis based on a numeric score that takes a bunch of factors into account. I think what he’s trying to do is manage hospital admissions. That appears to be Indiana’s entire strategy: we are open only to the extent the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with COVID cases.

  8. Glad everything worked out ok. As you know I have had it, probably twice. Luckily neither time so serious that I was in risk of hospital. I stayed in my bedroom most of the time and wore a mask when out of it. Plus I used disinfectant wipes in my hands if I touched anything. Thankfully, my elderly father didn’t get it.

  9. Olli Thomson says:

    Pleased to hear everything worked out all right. We’re in the middle of our own upsurge here in Bulgaria and just gained the dubious honour of the world’s highest per capita death rate. We’ve had our first cases in work and are back to only one day in three on the office. Can’t wait for that vaccine! Stay safe.

  10. Jim, I’m pleased that your wife is better.

    Some friends of mine have survived COVID-19 and would not wish the experience on their worst enemy. They were both infected by family members who were infected by people who were at an indoor wedding.

    One other friend, a doctor, had her college kid come home infected with COVID-19. Her kid didn’t think it would be a big deal and attended a party. My wife’s coworker quit after her college kid came home from college and infected her brother. Her husband is 70 and she quit because she can’t handle the stress.

    Happy thanksgiving. Be safe.

    • A young woman on my team, maybe 30, got it and it laid her out flat for two solid weeks. This healthy and in-shape young woman said that one trip to the bathroom knocked her out for the rest of the day.

      No thanks.

  11. Kurt Ingham says:

    I had the Hong Kong flu and was prostrated for 10 days. Covid 19 is terrible, but I it is a mistake to dismiss some of the ‘seasonal flu’ as a kind of ‘super cold’ . It has and will killed hundreds of thousands.

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