Maybe I have Covid19. I spent four months in Italy when infection rates were the highest in the world. Most of that time I was in Sicily. In quarantine, like everyone else in Italy. Unable to leave my apartment except for necessities. And since Sicilians eat food fresh (unlike Americans who stock our freezers full of preservatives), that meant about every five days I needed to go shopping for more produce. With a legal form in hand, completed with my personal information and stating my reason for being outside. No restaurants were open. No take-out, no pizza. Not even gelato for nine weeks! (To my American friends, I really don’t think you can fathom how restrictive it was.)
I was alone. I wore a mask. I wore gloves. I washed everything that I brought into the apartment. I even sprayed down my shoes and washed my clothes and showered when I returned home. Those were scary days. The virus could be anywhere. It could be on anything.
When restrictions eased a bit, I ventured out, one toe at a time. Longer walks. The beach. The countryside. I rented a car. I rented a cabin and a cottage. Always alone. Always in a mask. Always avoiding crowds.
But then I went back to the mainland. I visited Florence. I mingled with crowds at the Uffizi and Academia Galleries. I was a tourist in Sienna, Orvieto, and Civita di Bagnoregio before taking 4 flights home through 5 airports over 3 days.
There’s a reasonable chance I might have Covid19.
My arrival back into the States was surprising. No temperature check. No questions about where I had been. No instructions – either verbal or written – to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Nothing. All of these things had happened in Germany and Canada. But not in the U.S.
After three days of resting and unpacking, I decided I should get tested. Seems like a responsible thing to do, considering my recent travel. And it should be easy, or so I thought. After all, our President claims test are available everywhere, to anyone who wants one.
Except that they’re not.
I checked online. CVS offers free testing and there’s a CVS two blocks from me. Convenient. An appointment is required and an online screening. I answered honestly (or “positively” as our President would say), and I failed. I didn’t pass the screening. I’m not in a high-risk category and I don’t have any symptoms. At least, not the symptoms listed. But if you’ve been keeping up on your Covid reading, you know there are a LOT of symptoms. More than the obvious. Things that seems, well, basically normal if you’ve been traveling. Or living through a pandemic.
So again, maybe I have Covid. Maybe I don’t have symptoms. I decided to look for other options.
I called Access Urgent Care, a franchise with facilities all over this area, and which is listed as having free drive-up testing. It took a long time to get through and when I did, I was told they were out of tests. At all locations. NO tests. Zero. And no idea when they would be getting more.
According to the internet, the Wal-Mart down on 91st and Lewis had a drive-thru test site that was open. So I drove down there. It was closed.
Finally, I got ahold of my primary care provider. She told me testing is backed up everywhere in the area by at least 3 days. But she gave me numbers to call. Meanwhile, she told me to quarantine. I had been back in the States five days and this was the first time I was told to quarantine. “Is that a state or city requirement?” I asked. “No, but it’s our recommended protocol” she responded. Because she’s a healthcare provider. A physician’s assistant. Because she understands the danger better than our politicians do.
Anyway, I finally reached the Tulsa Department of Health. I have an appointment for Monday. I’m told results will take 3 – 5 days. Which would be Friday, fourteen days after I returned to Tulsa.
My phone rang at 8:25 this morning. “This is a call from the Canadian government. You have just completed 11 days of quarantine and have 3 more days to go. These next three days are just as important as the first 11. Please stay home. This is very important. The people of Canada, especially those on the front lines, appreciate your efforts to contain this virus. Thank you.” The message was also in French and I might have forgotten parts of it. But suffice to say, it was direct. It was polite. It was appreciative and encouraging. I’m not even in Canada but they are still checking up on me. Reminding me to do the right thing.
The truth is, I was committed to quarantining, even if our government wasn’t. I had a friend shop for me. I had no intention of leaving my home. Until I needed to get a test. And then… well… it’s hard to stay committed to something when everywhere around me appears to be life as normal. Carrying on as if there’s not a deadly pandemic that’s only getting worse. As if the numbers of infection and deaths are not going up every single day.
The truth is – and I’m embarrassed to say this – I broke quarantine. It was for a really good reason and I’ll tell you in the next installment. Yes, I wore a mask. I kept as much distance as I could. And the reason, I think, was really good. Almost a necessity. But then, that’s my opinion. My justification. When I tell you next time, you can be the judge.
But the other truth is, it freaked me out. Too many folks without masks. Even in the office where the signs clearly say masks are required. Even the doctor wasn’t wearing one.
But it wasn’t my doctor. It was Mazie’s.
Meanwhile, I’m back at home, waiting to take my test tomorrow. Meanwhile, I pray I don’t have Covid19. I really, really, hope I didn’t put anyone else’s health in jeopardy. If only our government felt the same way.