I tested positive for Covid-19 not long ago.
It wasn’t a worried-well test, or even a test I got because I had recently traveled to Italy or China, or had been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19.
I got tested because I felt awful.
Covid-19 didn’t hit me like I expected after having read so many news stories about the new coronavirus as part of my job. I was on the lookout for a dry cough or a slow-onset fever.
Instead, I suddenly developed chills, aches, a mild fever, a sore throat, and a terrible headache — sort of like the flu on steroids. Even then I assumed I didn’t have Covid-19 because the symptoms didn’t match what I’d been reading about. I got tested the next day. Within three days I was much better. Now I’m just extremely tired and, because of a history of pneumonia, trying to force myself to sleep.
I’m now relatively fine; lucky, even.
Officials in the Bay Area, where I live, had been preparing so much that I was able to get a test when I needed it. Facebook, where I work, sent us home a few weeks ago, so it’s unlikely I affected a big group of colleagues. I had gone shopping for home supplies weeks ago. Maybe now I’ll have immunity and be able to go help others.
Here’s what I wasn’t prepared for: asking my school-age kids to back away from me and telling them that this scary thing that was keeping them out of school and upending the entire planet is now inside our house. Inside their mom.
My daughter cried and asked if I will get better. I couldn’t hug her as I reassured her that I would. My son wrote an account of it for our home newspaper. “Anne Kornblut has the coronavirus but do not worry it is not the bad kind,” he wrote on the front page. “Please note that you should not be within ten feet of Anne.”
The health department called to inform me to stay away from everyone, including my husband and children. Who should take care of them if my husband tests positive, too, I asked the public health nurse? “We haven’t had that scenario yet,” he said, offering to call me back.
As I waited for the result of my coronavirus test to come back, I wondered if I knew anyone who had Covid-19. It’s one reason why I am sharing this now: so you know someone with it. You probably know other people, only you and they don’t know they’ve been infected with the coronavirus. The only reason I know is because my county had tests. Many of my friends and co-workers need tests but now probably can’t get them.
Now that I’m feeling better, I sent my son over to play with a friend. I cooked my kids a meal. I’m being careful — washing my hands constantly — but in hindsight, even my relatively high caution wasn’t enough to keep me from catching Covid-19.
I’d like to assume that everyone reading this is taking seriously all the Covid-19 precautions: being good about social distancing, washing your hands often, following the recommendations to stay home and not gather, even if it feels safe. If you aren’t, I beg you to start.
My employer has gone above and beyond the call of duty in deploying remote work strategies, compensating affected employees and contractors, and looking for ways to help the staff and the community. I’m proud to work at Facebook. I’m also wracked with guilt as I think of all the people whose employers won’t or can’t do as much. So many businesses are closing. So many people are sick without care.
And above all so many people are dying. My family is bracing for it to be someone we know. My problem — of not being able to hug my husband or my kids for a while — is an easy one to have by comparison.
It’s not completely clear when or how I will be declared 100% well, when I can safely hug my husband and kids, when I can leave my room without a mask. An emergency physician I trust, who is working on the Covid-19 response effort, told me it’s seven days after the onset of symptoms or 72 hours after my last fever.
A brilliant science reporter friend, who is covering the coronavirus outbreak, sent me a quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci who recommended two negative coronavirus tests, spaced 24 hours apart. Perhaps other friends of mine, with other expertise, will weigh in.
And my own wise doctor? She called me from home, with the sounds of her children squawking in the background, and cautioned me how little anyone really knows for sure about all of it.
Anne Kornblut is the head of news curation at Facebook. This essay is adapted from her Facebook post.