Last week, Lady Rona called my name. The lateral flow test lit up like a fucking Christmas tree in seconds. The confirmatory PCR came through positive the next morning.
I’m a high risk person. I’ve spent the last two years being fairly terrified of catching the virus because I’m aware it could be very bad for me. Even though I’m fully vaccinated and boostered, and got in early on that because of my high risk, I’ve still been, basically, fucking terrified of catching it. One of the first things I thought when the test came up positive was that I should start planning my funeral and pack a bag to take to the hospital.
I suppose this post is especially for people like me, who feel like I felt. It’s also for everyone. These are the things I learned from my brush with Miss Rona.
Sometimes mild really does mean mild
“Mild” as defined by governments is taken to mean cases which don’t need urgent medical attention. This can be a level of ill which is Pretty Fucking Sick, and much worse than a horrible flu. But for me, it really was mild. It was so mild I’m not sure I’d have noticed it had I not taken that test when I did.
I had two symptoms, if you can really call it symptoms. One was doing gigantic sneezes. Not even sneezing more frequently, possibly slightly above the average amount of sneezing I do at this time of year. They were huge sneezes though. Body-wracking intense. The world flying out of my nose intense. Whenever I sneezed into my elbow, it would be absolutely coated with sneeze like a nasal bukkake. That was pretty unpleasant. Also, for the first day or so, I constantly felt like I might sneeze at minimal provocation (I didn’t, usually).
The other one was a runny nose. A really, really runny nose that came in fits and starts, and when it was running I’d have to check the tissue to make sure it wasn’t a nosebleed. My snot was very watery, and any tissue it touched would immediately disintegrate. Most of the time my nose wasn’t running, and it wasn’t blocked up at all. It would just occasionally run like all fuck.
And that was it. It was annoying. It was also less bad than any cold I’ve ever had, and most of my seasonal allergies are nastier too. And the symptoms were gone after about three days.
I credit my actually really really fucking mild case of coronavirus to public health measures. I received my booster in early November, which trained my body to throw any little spiky round boys out of my nose so quickly it was a bit too speedy for my liking. The public health measures in place also meant that even though I was sufficiently exposed to be infected, I didn’t receive a particularly high viral load. Research suggests the amount you’re exposed makes a difference to how sick you get, and I caught it at a time where masking indoors is mandatory. I’ve also been wearing an FFP2 mask out and about, offering me a greater degree of protection, and prefer to socialise outdoors. All of this helped me to have a coronavirus experience which was mostly lounging around receiving gifts, being waited on, and eating grapes like an indolent classical princeling.
I don’t know where the fuck I caught it
I initially suspected I’d picked up my rona from a trip to Borough Market, where it was pretty crowded, followed by a couple of pints in a beer garden which was also crowded and fairly covered. But nobody I was with that day picked it up. In fact, nobody I’d seen at all in the week or so preceding my positive test had got it – I advised literally everyone to check!
So I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities, having ruled out the more obvious suspects. I might have caught it off a coke can, but this seems unlikely as it would have entailed someone with absolutely filthy hands they’d just sneezed in giving that can a good rub down. I might have picked it up the one time I took public transport on my own, sitting in an empty train carriage for a 15 minute journey while wearing an FFP2 mask, but that seems unlikely too, on account of all of the mitigations. So my best working assumption is I caught it outside, specifically from an awful child on a scooter who coughed directly in my face.
Unfortunately, my partner and I had been operating on the assumption that we’d been exposed together, probably at that Borough Market trip, so we didn’t take any steps to avoid me giving it to her once my case was confirmed. She tested positive on Monday. She’s doing fine, she’s even less sniffly than I was. Still, oops.
The lateral flow tests actually work
I’ll admit it. I’ve been incredibly sceptical of the value of lateral flow tests. I was never sure if they were especially accurate, or if I was doing it right… until I tested positive.
The test I took last week turned red literally immediately. The test line appeared even before the control one. It was bright fucking red. It was so quick I assumed it had gone horribly wrong, so I took another. It did the exact same thing. I cannot emphasise enough how quick the reaction was. It was cartoonish.
Two days later, I took another test and I really fucking half arsed it, out of sheer curiosity to see if it would pick up anything. I poked the swab a little bit up my nose, gave a cursory little rub to each nostril and then swirled it in the liquid for a couple of seconds. It still showed a positive result as soon as the drops went in.
By day 5, when I could take my first test to get out of isolation, it was taking longer than mere heartbeats to show a positive result – I think it was about five minutes, and the line was fainter. Day 6, it was negative and today it was too, so I’m free as a bird and feeling a lot better about the sensitivity of lateral flows when you’re riddled with rona.
I didn’t kill my girlfriend’s dad
My other worst case scenario with covid was infecting someone else. And all right, I did, but my partner healthy and it’s sitting fine on her. The bigger worry was, the day before I tested positive, we’d gone for a drink with her dad. And he had taken a sip from my glass to try my beer. And I’d sneezed intensely a couple of times that day, so was probably already infected.
Was I about to have committed the crime of girlfriend’s-dad-icide?
Once again, it was fine. I am apparently not very good at infecting others with the coronavirus. He’s not even sniffing a little bit.
Nevertheless, I don’t think I could live with myself if I did manage to make someone seriously ill. Even though I’m officially allowed to leave the house, I’m being more meticulous than I had been about taking steps not to infect others. I am in a relationship with hand sanitiser. The big guns masks, even for just stepping into the Nisa to buy some crisps. My future plans are all very well ventilated and ideally outdoors, because I do not want to have that panic again.
Self isolating in a small flat sucks
Unfortunately, I live in London. This means I live somewhere incredibly poky (or, as an estate agent would put it, cosy). It was just about all right when I tested positive but my partner was negative and able to go out, do the shopping, take herself for a solo pint and all around give ourselves space.
It was not so good when she tested positive and we were on top of each other. We’ve been treating ourselves to taking long baths for some alone time. I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of getting to take myself to a beer garden to sit on my own with a pint and book now I’m out of covid jail.
The regulations are shit. We all deserve better.
The equation has shifted and for all of us, even the most at risk, the risk of a really boring week is much higher than the risk of getting seriously ill. That’s thanks to mitigations and public health measures.
But the thing is, living with the virus doesn’t have to mean an endless parade of catching it and streaming snot everywhere. We just don’t have to do that. Something different is possible.
The risks of covid, in conjunction with other winter diseases, are still unacceptable, even if the vast majority of us – even the at-risk – will be just fine. And measures like masking and adequate ventilation don’t just reduce transmission of coronavirus. They also drastically reduce the other pesky bugs like flu. Wouldn’t it be great if flu season was much smaller?
And these last couple of years of the pandemic have demostrated just how we can do that. What we need is a cultural shift towards valuing disabled lives. A culture of consideration, being polite enough to wear a bit of paper over your face when you’re in crowded places or staying at home when you’ve got a cold. A culture where lives are valued over presenteeism
And more than ever we need to fucking dismantle capitalism. Lots of benefits to that. In terms of immediate public health measures, there’s moves the state could easily make as transitional demands: better building standards for ventilation, retrofitting schools, supporting people to be vaccinated, liveable sick pay and sanctions for employers who are not prioritising their workers’ safety.
They won’t do that. Which is why we have to demand it, and keep demanding it. It’s achievable with collective action.
Unfortunately for those in power, Lady Rona didn’t carry me away. And I’m damn well going to yell about how shit they are.