The U.S. reached a staggering milestone in early May — more than one million people have died from Covid. And around the same time, I tested positive for the virus.
After evading Covid for more than two years, I had started to think I might be one of the lucky ones. I’ve been vaccinated and twice boosted. I still wear a mask indoors, and my husband and I have led a relatively quiet life, occasionally socializing with a couple of friends, going for long walks on the beach or trails. Since the spring of 2020, we had limited our travel to a weekend at Martha’s Vineyard and a week in Arizona.
Then we went to New York for Mother’s Day weekend to celebrate our daughter’s birthday. On Saturday, we had brunch in one of those famous sidewalk pods. On Saturday night, we ate at a Korean restaurant in Brooklyn. Our table was well spaced apart from others, and the servers were masked. The next morning, we went to my daughter’s apartment for brunch. It was a perfect celebration of her birthday and Mother’s Day.
We hugged and kissed goodbye as in pre-pandemic times, and then we drove back to Wellfleet, feeling grateful for the precious time with our kids, relieved that we’re all healthy.
At 6:45 Monday morning, my daughter called to say that she’d tested positive.
I was supposed to attend an all-day strategic planning session that day. I took an at-home test, and the result was negative. I emailed my board chair to notify her, and she suggested that I come but keep my face mask on. I went, wore my mask all day, walked into another room to take a sip of water, and dashed home for lunch. I felt fine all day.
On Tuesday I woke up with a dry, scratchy throat. Again, I tested negative. By afternoon, I had the chills. By 8 o’clock that night, I was under the covers, shivering.
On Wednesday, I could barely peel myself off the couch. I napped in the morning, and again in the afternoon. Because at-home tests are somewhat unreliable, I thought I should get a PCR test. I called Quest Diagnostics in Wellfleet to set up an appointment. The recording informed me that if I have symptoms or an active case, I should not come in. This seemed absurd. Last summer, I was exposed to someone who later tested positive, and I got a PCR test in Provincetown with no questions asked.
I still didn’t have a positive test result, but my throat was sore, I was exhausted, and I had developed a hacking cough. Either the at-home test was unreliable or I didn’t have enough virus to register on the test. On Thursday, I decided to take another at-home test and got a positive result. No surprise — I had all the telltale symptoms.
I’ve been puzzling through many unanswered questions. Why is it so difficult to get a PCR test now? With another surge in cases, why is there so much resistance to wearing masks? Why doesn’t the town of Wellfleet gather data from at-home tests? I called town hall to ask whether I should report my positive case and learned that the town is not collecting information from at-home tests. I’m left wondering about this method of collecting data, and whether it’s an accurate reflection of what’s going on in the community? Brookline now offers a self-reporting feature on its website. Maybe Wellfleet and the other Outer Cape towns should do the same.
With the Cape on the cusp of another busy summer season, it seems that good data are critical so that public health officials can transmit the message that people still need to take precautions. We may be exhausted from living with Covid, but this relentless pandemic is still here.
Lauren Kaufmann lives in Wellfleet and serves on the board of Friends of Herring River.