Updated: Dec 15, 2020
Hi there, family, friends, & new cyberspace people here. I am actually writing to you from my parents' house surprisingly, which is a decision we grappled with for a long time. Let's dive into how we got here...
To start, I am not a medical expert (although I have watched A LOT of Grey's Anatomy), and the health professionals I spoke with are still learning about this virus. We do not fully know the long terms effects of this. These opinions and experiences are all my own or things the San Diego Health Department has told Mark (my boyfriend, whom I live with) and me.
My symptoms all around are virtually gone or improving daily. The only symptom that is still lingering is taste and smell, which I have not gotten back fully. I wake up congested virtually every day and have to blow my nose before I can taste my coffee. I was very sick for a week, having symptoms like fatigue, loss of taste & smell (from my research, about 80% of COVID positive individuals lose their taste and smell), gastrointestinal issues & severe congestion. To me, COVID felt like an intense cold as opposed to the flu. However, from the outpouring of messages I have received, and further research indicates, every single person reacts differently to the virus.
To give you a timeline: Mark and I spent almost this entire month in isolation, beginning November 2nd, after exposure on November 1st. My symptoms started on November 6th and gave me an additional ten-day isolation period on top of my two-week isolation. The San Diego Health Department called us on November 14th to discuss where we went from here. Our two-week isolation ended on November 15th, and my 10-day isolation ended on November 17th. Mark was asked to quarantine for an additional 14 days to ensure he did not develop symptoms, ending November 29th.
Mark was our anomaly in all of this and never showed any symptoms of COVID. Somehow that man has the most robust immune system alive and continued to test negative for COVID. He was tested three times in November, at the beginning & end of the month. We feared he tested too early at the onset of my symptoms, so he waited until November 20th to test again to ensure that he was negative for COVID. Luckily, he tested negative, and we were both cleared to go home for Thanksgiving.
Honestly, the amount of research and connection with health department individuals this month has opened my eyes to this illness. Thank you to everyone who reached out to educate me & ensure all was well, and I am looking at this with entirely new eyes.
Here are a few things I have learned this month:
Immunity: According to the San Diego Health Department, I am immune to COVID for three months, meaning I cannot get the virus again or give it to others. It is 100% possible to get COVID twice but is "rare" from what the health department explained. However, no research has a definitive 'yes' or 'no' to this. We are still learning about the virus, and honestly, they are scratching their heads as well.
Quarantining & Isolation: You should quarantine for two weeks after your initial exposure and an additional ten days from when your symptoms first begin (if you show signs of COVID).
Testing: Honestly, TONS of info out there and a lot of disconnects. I spoke with a physician & did some research via Johns Hopkins researchers that told me that you should not test right after exposure. The reason is that symptoms do not show up right away, which was VERY accurate in my personal experience. Even if you do not have symptoms (which means you are asymptomatic), you can quickly spread the virus as easily as if you have symptoms. This is arguably the most spreadable & dangerous part of COVID, in my opinion.
Long-Hauler & Residual Symptoms: I received incredibly eye-opening information from friends who are registered RN's (Thank you, Shelby & Megan!). Every person is unique, so some individuals recover and go on with daily life. However, some go on to experience "long-hauler" months after their COVID positive result with symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, shortness of breath, & other symptoms. Loss of taste and smell can also last up to 8 weeks, and some individuals still struggle with it months later. The most unfortunate part of the long hauler symptoms is that there are not many ways to help those people right now, making this that much more heartbreaking.
Mask Wearing: Even if you have had COVID, wear a mask. Wear a mask, regardless. It is arguably the most preventable way to stop the spread of COVID-19.
My COVID experience taught me a great deal about the pandemic that I had previously not researched or even thought to research. As the cases continue to rise, my messaging here remains to put others before ourselves, think twice before gathering together & wear a damn mask!