I Tested Positive for Covid-19 and I’m Asymptomatic – Or am I?

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I’m Irene. I’m Covid-19 positive. I was one of those people who thought the coronavirus couldn’t happen to me. I’m also asymptomatic… or I thought I was.

Oh, you’re thinking. You’re one of those people who thought it was a hoax. One of the ones we see on TV crowded up with their friends at a bar or large social gathering. One of those people who protest over being asked to wear a mask.

Not so much.

What did I do to protect myself? Pretty much everything. My family has been isolating since the first week of March. We cancelled social engagements, began picking our groceries up curbside, and wore masks when we couldn’t avoid being in a public place. We stopped eating out completely and only occasionally splurged on take-out. I haven’t touched a public door handle with my hands in months. (Did you know you can open most doors with your elbow?) We wiped our groceries down with a bleach solution when we brought them home.

My husband, Bones, closed his retail shop when lock-down orders were put in place. When he re-opened he enforced strict mask and social distancing requirements even before our state did. Okay, we’re in Texas. He pretty much had to act on his own in that regard.

I was fortunate. My workplace instituted a work-from-home rotation that meant when I did go into the office I was often completely alone in my department.  If I touched anything outside my personal desk area, I was conscientious about hand washing. The company instituted extra housekeeping rounds to sanitize common areas and provided us with hand sanitizer and extra disinfectant.

My daughter, an early childhood educator, was furloughed. She took up chicken raising and stayed home. (I’m not making that chicken bit up.)

So how did you wind up with Covid? I don’t know!

Next question: If you were so careful, why did you get tested? I almost didn’t.

Several people who worked for my company tested positive. Although I hadn’t had any direct contact with them, Kiddo and Bones encouraged me to get a test. On June 30, I gave in and made an appointment with my doctor. Then I waited ten days to get the results back.

While I waited, I joked to myself it was a good thing I was negative. If I had been positive I would be dead already. Ha. Ha. Ha.

On TV, I watched my fellow Texans who weren’t lucky enough to have insurance queue for hours to get tested, often being turned away. Positivity rates soared over 25% in some areas. Texas hospitals were filling up. No laughing about that.

On July 10, while still waiting for results, I found out a co-worker in my department at work had tested positive. We hadn’t seen much of each other lately due to work-from-home rotations, but it was still a shock. Her husband was also positive.

Then my phone rang.

I had to re-confirm what I was told. “You mean I’m positive? I have coronavirus?”

Yes. Or at least I did ten days ago.

Well, I consoled myself. I was asymptomatic. I’m probably cured by now.

Except….

Kiddo and Bones immediately made appointments for testing. After a phone screening, Kiddo’s doctor told her she was considered symptomatic. Her “symptoms” were exactly the same as mine – a lot of minor complaints we had brushed off. Let’s go through them.

The CDC has put out a handy list:

  • Fever or chills – Nope. No fever. I know, because my company required us to self-monitor by taking our temperatures every day. We were to report anything over 100. Except… well, okay. The thing I noticed while self-monitoring was that my temps generally run lower than 98.6 Right before I got tested though, I had had some days that were higher, a few over 99. Still within “normal” range, I told myself. No need to even report.
  • Cough – Okay I had this one. But here’s the thing – we had this Saharan Dust storm move into the area at the time and I have allergies. It was on the news and everything. And the cough was… nothing. You ever seen Zoolander? That’s the kind I’m talking about. So mild it sounds like you’re faking it. I’VE GOT THE BLACK LUNG, POP.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing – No. Well, not really. I mean… I recently closed my business and I’m still cleaning out the building, which has no running A/C. Texas temps were running in the upper 90s. An hour or so of that and anyone would have a little trouble, right?
  • Fatigue – See above. It’s natural I was tired. Not only was I working in the heat (after 8 hours at the office job), but the whole closed-business thing is emotionally stressful. Going to bed a little early and having trouble waking up in the morning would be perfectly normal. Same with a few days of brain fog and trouble concentrating at work. (Sorry, boss)
  • Muscle or body aches – Yes. But, I mean, I’ve been complaining to the doc I sometimes ache all over for about five years now. Apparently it’s a thing that happens to …errr… “women of a certain age”. (We’re all of some certain age, right? WTF, doc? You’re straining my faith in modern medicine.)
  • Headache – Dust. Stress. Heat. I took an aspirin. It went away.
  • New loss of taste or smell – No. Well… okay, there were those mornings I complained to Bones that something was wrong with the new bag of coffee. It didn’t taste right. He told me I was crazy. Probably the allergies.
  • Sore throat – I had a minor sore throat I reported to my doc when I tested. He confirmed my throat was red, so not hypochondria (my own diagnosis). Probably that Saharan dust, though.
  • Congestion or runny nose – Allergies. Easier to pick days I don’t have this. It’s not a symptom, it’s a feature.
  • Nausea or vomiting – No. Okay, my stomach felt a little off a few days. Maybe I kept that fresh corn in the fridge a little too long before I cooked it.
  • Diarrhea – Yep. But you know, that was July 5 (Hey, this was specific enough I actually remember the date). Bones cooked and he made this amazing casserole with pork sausage and a bunch of fresh peppers. While he was cooking I sat at the island and sipped a grapefruit spritzer. I mean…grapefruit, peppers, and pork. That was bound to end badly, amirite?

Okay so that’s it. I have (or had) the coronavirus and I’m either asymptomatic or I ignored all the symptoms.

The worst thing about this is trying to figure out if I might still be contagious. I read articles. Mostly, which convinced me no one really knows. If I was truly asymptomatic, ten days out from the test I ought to be fine. Except as I write this (day 11), I have a sore throat. I’m tired. My temp is over 98.6.

No. The very worst thing is worrying about who I may have infected. Bones and Kiddo are waiting on results. They’ve been told to expect them to be positive. Bones closed the shop again. I’ve tried to remember everyone I’ve come in contact with so I can self-contact trace (I’m not expecting a call from the state health department to do this for me). Fortunately, I have been social distancing. The list is manageable. I’ve worn a mask.

I watch the numbers going up on the news. The United States leads the world in infections. Texas is close to the top of the lists of states (everything’s bigger in Texas). I wonder how many other people don’t know they’ve been infected. Won’t get tested. Won’t ever know.

Please wear a mask. Get tested, even if you think your “symptoms” can’t possibly be coronavirus. Social distance when you can. Wash your hands.

No matter how careful you are, you can’t be sure you haven’t been exposed.

07/21/20 Update: For everyone (including me), who wondered if the test might have been a false positive – I just got a positive antibody test back (it was quicker, but I waited to test since antibodies take 1-3 weeks to show up). My next step will be to see if I have a high enough count to donate plasma.

 

Wear a Mask

Please wear a mask.

12 Comments

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12 Responses to I Tested Positive for Covid-19 and I’m Asymptomatic – Or am I?

  1. Leslie P Garcia

    Wow, Irene. I’m so sorry and pray you recover completely, and that your family does as well if those tests come back as you expect. Thanks for sharing your personal experience–hopefully it will hit home with those who need to hear it. All my best.

  2. Julie

    You’ve nailed the problem with COVID. Mild and asymptomatic cases hide behind other things. Like you, my nose reacts to everything. I live with a packet of tissues in my purse. When rain is coming in or I haven’t slept enough, I’m prone to pressure headaches that go away with an aspirin. I’m on a medication with a side effect of joint aches.

    I’ve had all of these things since before COVID, so it’s not likely I’ve had the disease for going on four months now. But I could have had it or might have it in the future, and it will look like the way I’ve felt for years.

    How in the world do you sort all this out? Staying locked in my house for a year or more also isn’t a viable solution.

    Glad to read about your experience! I’m not crazy…

  3. I wonder how accurate the tests are. I’ve been experiencing several of the items you ticked off, and yes, some of them like allergies, aches, tiredness, fogginess (you know that woman of a certain age thing) I’ve had for years. But I was concerned and I had the test done. Got the results in less than 48 hours and I was negative. So was my test defective? Or yours? I live in Ohio which has managed to keep our numbers down until recently. Our county is now one of the 7 in the state that mandates mask wearing in any public area. I’ve been wearing one since day one. Still, I wonder do “those in the know” really know anything at all. Hope you feel better soon Irene and that your family is okay.

    • CJ – I’ve done a lot of reading. Yes, both false positives and false negatives are a thing. My doctor tells me false negatives are MUCH more common. A lot of it has to do with timing. If you test too early or too late you are more likely to get a negative.

      I’m now waiting for an antibody test to come back. Antibodies form 1-3 weeks after symptoms. Some studies show the start fading after about 3-4 months (Tom Hanks is currently experiencing this.) If I come back positive, it will help confirm my positive result. However if I come back negative, it may be because my case was so mild I didn’t produce enough antibodies to be detected.

      Confused yet?

      All I really know is that it is too early for us to know much of anything about this virus.

      I’m hoping the antibody test comes back positive. If it is, I will donate plasma, which may benefit others. At least I will FEEL like I am doing something positive.

  4. Susanne Matthews

    Hugs, Irene. So many of the symptoms you describe have been part of my life for more than twenty years–yes years now. Allergies, asthma, serious arthritis, tiredness some days that sends me to bed at nine. I wear a mask and avoid social situations, keeping to my ten person bubble and visit my mom through a window with a phone. I’ll be 70 in two weeks. Guess I’ll get tested for my birthday. Wishing you all a speedy recovery.

    • Susanne – I’m so glad you are taking precautions. And I understand… we are already worried if we will be able to see the MIL in person for Christmas. {hugs}

  5. Irene, like you, I’ve been in isolation since March 9th. I have had every symptom you mentioned multiple times. We have been so cautious just like you with care of everything that’s brought into our home. What so heartbreaking, I just lost my dear sister last week, and I can’t…won’t hug my grown kids who live in their own households.

    You did everything right. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. Dottie

    Irene, I’m sorry you’re having to go through this. And at this time of year, I bet a lot of people are saying, allergies. I have them. My kids do too. But thankfully, no fevers. It’s about the only we don’t have with allergies raging. We’ve been checking. Something I never thought I’d have to do.