How our family is navigating exposure to COVID-19

by Marissa Marangoni

Don’t ask me because I don’t know.

Just kidding. Sort of.

I will preface everything I say here with the disclaimer that I am not a medical professional, and it is very unlikely that I would pass fifth-grade science at this point in my life, so take what I say here for what it’s worth. 

My family is currently locked down. This is the third time, and this time it’s because of possible exposure to COVID. This time around, I don’t feel as in the dark about it—but that’s not thanks to any standards or guidance from the outside world. I want there to be black and white rules on this that everyone—all companies and all people—follow, but those don’t exist, so I’ve had to make my own rules and thought that maybe it’d be helpful to share them here with you in case you haven’t found yourself in this situation yet.

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  1. Do what you want other people to do if they might have or have been exposed to the virus. This rule is simple but challenging. 

I had planned to go to the store today but didn’t, so now we won’t have a few groceries that we could have used for the week. Even though we can arrange our gym visits so that no one else is there when we are, and despite the fact that sweating is my one dependable dopamine booster, no one is going to the gym. The pause in childcare means we’re back to a schedule of little sleep and stressful parenting and working. And yet, here we are. 

When I question following the rule, considering going out for that half-gallon of milk at the gas station for just a minute, I remember I don’t want people who might have COVID in the checkout line behind me or in the gym breathing all over the place, or taking care of my small child. If we might have this virus, then we don’t go anywhere until we know we don’t — which means, typically, tests are involved.

  1. Get tested. Every time we have a symptom associated with COVID or find out that one of us may have been exposed to it, our lives shut down at this house. J stops going to the sitter, I start working at night again, and we stay home until we have negative test results, whether they are ours or a third party’s. 

Back in July, I had a fever, so I got tested. And then in September, my son and I both were sick, and I took one for the team. 

If you’re lucky (not in a happy winner way) enough that an adult or older child is sick in your household at the same time as your younger child, I’d suggest you have the adult/older party get the test. Depending on the test you get, it can either be uncomfortable or extremely painful. I nearly cried the first time I had it done—it truly was that bad. I can’t imagine having to either do this to J or having someone else do it to him and will avoid it as much as possible. Even if it does mean my face will ache for 24 hours after. Pro tip: take some Tylenol prior to your appointment if you are going to a testing place where you will not administer it to yourself. 

  1. If your test result is positive, stay home. Get well. Drink water. Sleep. Try to rest. All three of us in our family here likely had COVID back at the end of February/beginning of March. I’ve never been so tired while sick. My husband and I both were treated for pneumonia and had terrible coughs. He had to get his lungs X-rayed. I lost my senses of taste and smell (and 5 pounds because it’s not fun to eat when you can’t taste or smell anything) for a little while. 

I think it took about six weeks for each of us to recover. J got the virus too, but he fared much better than we did, with his downtime only about five days, which is pretty standard when he is sick with anything. All that to say, and you already know, this virus doesn’t mess around. We were fortunate to come through it OK, but other people are not. It’s not something you want to spread.

  1. If your test result is negative, collect $200 dollars and pass “Go.” You win. Same procedure if the person who was thought to possibly have exposed you to COVID has a negative test result.
  1. If the third party’s results are positive, my course of action is not as clear.

This time around, our possible exposure was through a third party and indirect contact— we would not be considered as having had close contact with this person, and they are being tested and anticipate a result later this week. The individuals with whom we did have contact are asymptomatic, as is the person who was exposed to COVID. We’re asymptomatic over here as well, but we’re shut down until Thursday. If the test is negative, we’re good to return to the few things we do. If it’s positive, I’m not entirely sure what we will do. 

Again, if any of us start having symptoms, then we will get tested. If we stay asymptomatic, we are faced with the same old situation: stay home until our two-week wait is over or get tested knowing that our wait for results may be lengthy and, in the end, not worth the headache — literally and figuratively. 

  1. Expect to wait. The first time I got tested, I called my primary care provider, assuming that a doctor’s request for a test would prioritize the results. This was not the case. While I was able to get an appointment quicker than I could at a drugstore at the time, the result took 10 days to come back. You can do the math there. And with how painful the test was, it might have been worth avoiding it and just staying home for four more days. 

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second time I needed a test, the doctor advised me to go to CVS or RiteAid because the results were coming back quicker. Time was still an issue here — except on the front end. It was hard to find an opening for an appointment, and when I did, I either was going to have to wait three days to do the test or drive 30 minutes away. My negative result came back from CVS in seven days instead of 10. 

No matter what you do, testing or waiting, know that it’s going to feel like it’s taking forever. 

You know what else feels like it takes forever? Being pregnant. Around week 30, I woke up and thought, “I am going to be pregnant and in pain for the rest of my life. This is never going to end.” What got me through those last grueling and painful 10 weeks was the thought that my situation was temporary. It was going to pass. That’s how this COVID waiting is—it’s inconvenient, it can be lengthy, and it is certainly frustrating, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just some time that we are passing.

Expect, accept, and try to embrace the fact that your life will have to be paused if you follow my COVID rule—and it will most likely be paused several times before this is all over. I’ve noticed that this time around in lockdown, because I know what to expect and because I know that all of this is beyond my control, I am able to relax. 

I know I am going to be tired, but I know I can take a nap curled up with my dogs and child in the middle of the day while the TV plays Power Rangers (please, send help—I hate this show). I know I am not going anywhere, so I also know that I am not wearing real clothes until maybe Friday and that our laundry will get folded before it’s a mountain spilling off of the couch. I also know that I will be blowing a lot of bubbles, playing Twister more than anyone over the age of 30 should, and listening to AJR’s “Bang” on repeat because J loves singing—screaming—it as often as I let him. 

If we can, maybe we should look at these forced breaks in our lives as a time for our brains to rest and recover from all the times they can’t. So far, I’m not great at doing this. My brain is a very busy place, but I’m trying my best to slow it down and lean into the pause. The sunshine is helping.

Hang in there, everyone. We’re getting through this.

Marissa is the co-author of Urine Luck, but sometimes she writes about things other than bathrooms. Marissa has been writing for the Devil Strip since August of 2015.