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.
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.