Positive but Not

Richard Quinn

MY EXPERIENCE WITH COVID-19 began on March 4, 2020. That morning, I got off a plane in Buenos Aries. While standing in line with my passport, I noticed several people wearing masks, so I put one on as well. Back then, we were being told to go about our business. “It’s like a bad cold.” If only.

We boarded our ship for a 30-day cruise, which I documented in five articles for HumbleDollar. On that cruise, the real nature of COVID became clear as they announced a new death among the passengers every few days.

My wife and I got through those 30 days unscathed, despite eating and traveling by bus and plane with a friend who, after returning home, went on to spend two weeks in the ICU.

We got vaccinated as soon we could. Having taken every vaccine available during my lifetime, and experienced childhood diseases now rare, I have no tolerance for the anti-vaccine crowd or even those who claim personal choice over the common good. But that’s another story.

Having been fully vaccinated against COVID, I had confidence in my immunity. I may even have picked up a few antibodies on the ship. Or maybe not.

A month or so ago, my daughter was having a family gathering. I had a runny nose and a cough, but no fever. I really didn’t feel bad. My daughter and my wife ganged up and insisted that I get tested. Confident in my immunity, I went to a local testing site.

They took the swab and left me sitting alone in the room. “I will be back in 10 minutes,” the technician told me. All the while, I was watching the testing device tick away. Then it made a noise and I looked at the screen. “Positive,” it read. I was shocked. How could it be? I’ve been playing by the rules for the past year and a half.

When the technician returned, despite the protocol, I convinced her to do another test with a different machine. Ten minutes later, she returned and said, “Bad news, it’s positive.” I was shaken.

The good news is—because I was vaccinated—my breakthrough case was indeed mild, like a bad cold. I was lucky. But the state health department called to be sure I quarantined for 10 days. I’m making progress. Last time, after the cruise, it was 14 days of quarantine. By the way, my wife tested negative.

But now, I feel vulnerable like never before in my life. Could it happen again, but maybe worse? Leaving the house without my mask has become as traumatic as forgetting my phone.

My stress grew after I told a few friends—with whom I’d had contact—about my test results. The word got out, triggering an email alert—in red text—from our condo association. It said there was a COVID-positive person in the complex. No name was given, but I felt shunned nevertheless.

We received our booster shots three weeks after I tested positive. But even that hasn’t diminished my feeling of vulnerability. I’m on edge when shopping or in a restaurant. Every time one of my grandchildren doesn’t feel well, I worry. It seems nothing will be the same again.

The good news—I suppose—is that my new concerns have gotten me to take action. I’ve better organized my finances and papers. I’ve also updated my final instructions, thinking more about what my children need to know. I’m ashamed to admit it took a global pandemic to motivate me to act.

I have a $10,000 credit from our ill-fated cruise that must be used in 2022. I’m thinking that it will go in the loss column, despite my yearning to travel again.

My outlook on life and my retirement are forever changed. I suspect that’s true for many people, especially those less fortunate than me.

Richard Quinn blogs at Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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