Saturday, January 15, 2022

Greetings from Quarantine

COVID got us. Sort of. Because I think it will feel good to write it all out, here's how it has gone so far:

Wednesday night, after her Zoom ballet class, Petunia said her throat felt scratchy. I said it was probably allergies and we'd see how she felt in the morning. The ballet class had been moved online after the school had three COVID cases in other classes the week before. Smart move from the ballet school.

Thursday morning, Petunia's throat was still scratchy. We checked her temperature. It was normal. We did a rapid test. It was negative. I told her my throat was scratchy, too, so it was probably just allergies and we sent her off to school. Pumpkin, who'd received her booster shot Wednesday afternoon, also headed off to school, hoping for no side effects during the day. She later reported feeling achy during the day, and she went to bed early. As you'll see below, she didn't get as much attention from me as I would have liked Thursday night because I was dealing with Petunia's exposure.

Thursday around lunch time, I got an email from a contact tracer for the district. Petunia was a "close contact in a masked setting" for a covid case. Date of exposure, last Friday. I texted Petunia and told her not to go to her after school activity and to come home instead. I tried to determine from the instructions in the letter from the contact tracer whether or not I needed to take Petunia for an official test somewhere. I called the school to update Petunia's vaccination status with them but got voice mail. After I picked up Pumpkin from her school, I decided that Petunia should get a test and we drove down to the school district's testing site.

It took us an hour to get the test, and it was the same test I had at home. It came back negative. Twenty minutes later, I got an email confirming that no official testing was required because Petunia is fully vaccinated. 

We figured we'd dodged this particular exposure, ordered in for dinner, and went about our evening. Except that by bed time Petunia's throat was now hurting. We told her she might have to stay home from school on Friday because maybe she'd picked up some other bug. I went to bed early because I was feeling tired - but I'd had a long work day, starting with a call with my new boss at 7:30 a.m. (new boss is in the UK), and without a real lunch break. 

Still, to be safe I told Mr. Snarky he should sleep on the sofa, in case my scratchy throat was something other than allergies/asthma. I got out the extra air filter I have from the time that my air filter died during fire season and I desperately needed something but all the brand name filters were back ordered for weeks so I ordered some random Chinese brand off of Amazon. I put the spare air filter in Petunia's room and turned it on low. Then I went to sleep.

At 3 a.m., Petunia came into my room, upset. Her throat really hurt. I put my hand on her forehead and she was very hot. So I went and got my mask and put it on and got her mask and told her to put it on. I checked her temperature - 101.5. I got another rapid test out and started that. I wrestled with the stupid safety seal on the new bottle of liquid Tylenol I'd bought (Petunia won't swallow pills yet) and then struggled to peel back the label to find out the dosage. I gave her the Tylenol and then we waited for the test results. They were still negative. I put her back to bed, turning her air filter to high. I went to the living room and turned our main air filter to high. I cracked a couple of windows and turned the heat on to get air moving. Then I went back to bed.

I set my alarm for 7:30. When it went off, I knew I wouldn't be working at least for the morning. I was exhausted. So I logged on, canceled all my meetings, notified the people who needed to know, and called the school to tell them Petunia wouldn't be coming. Just as I was heading back to bed, Petunia came out. So I opened all the windows, gave her breakfast, and told her to stay in her room and wear a mask if she came out. Then I crashed back into bed and didn't wake up until 11 a.m.

I was thinking maybe I'd work in the afternoon, so I showered, ate something, mixed up the dough for pizza for dinner, and sat outside in the sun for a bit. And then I realized that no, I needed to lie down and went back to bed. When I next came out at about 3 p.m., Petunia was on the sofa with a mask on and looking miserable. Mr. Snarky had gotten her lunch but was back on work calls. (He apparently had a really frustrating work day, but I didn't hear about it until dinner time.) I checked her temperature again - 102. She said the adult liquid Tylenol burned her throat so I looked for any children's stuff we had. I found ibuprofen and gave her that. I got her set up to watch Netflix on my laptop and sent her back to her room. I went back to my room and read/wished I could sleep more.

Around 4:30 p.m., I came out and worked out a plan with Mr. Snarky, both of us masked and standing far apart. He went to pick up Pumpkin. Petunia and I did another rapid test and then I made dinner. We'd eat dinner outside by our fire pit, spaced apart. My test came back negative. Petunia's gave a very faint positive line.

Our first proof covid was in our house. This is after letting it sit for a couple of hours. After 15 minutes the line was so faint that it doesn't really show in the picture. But it was there.

Pumpkin decided not to join us and ate her dinner in her room. Petunia joined us for dinner but then went inside to call her friends and find out about homework. The reason she hates missing school - and wanted to go on Thursday despite the scratchy throat - is that not all of her teachers put good instructions in their online tool but they still expect things to be turned in on time, and so if you miss school you have to call someone to find out what to do and then rush to get it done in the evening. No amount of me telling her I will fix it for her and get her more time to finish things if needed helps. She doesn't want to turn things in late.

Mr. Snarky and I sat by the fire until it got too cold for me, even with my blanket. We came in and I disappeared back into the bedroom so that Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin could do something fun on Friday night. I think they played Mario Kart.  I read and went to bed early again.

I woke up this morning feeling fine. Petunia still has a sore throat but no fever. Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin still feel fine. We're still isolating in our rooms. I wish I had room for a chair in here. I am tired of sitting in bed! Petunia is happily playing Roblox in her room. Mr. Snarky and I are trying to figure out our testing strategy. We have six tests left. I have six more on their way, two of which say they are arriving tonight.  We can afford to buy more so I will. So I guess since we are "test rich" we will test Petunia and me at some point today and if I'm still negative maybe I will be allowed out of my room. I think it will depend a bit on what Petunia's test shows, since she is using the bathroom in here and I'm doing most of the care for her right now, so presumably if she's still infectious I could still be getting exposed. We're all wearing our KF94s, though, so maybe it would be OK. 

So that's where we're at. From what Petunia tells me, she was probably exposed for several class periods for several days to several people who were COVID positive and wearing surgical masks at best. I also learned that she was taking her mask off, holding her breath, and drinking water throughout the day. I told her it would be better to go outside to drink water but she says she is in the back of the class and doesn't want to walk through the class and disrupt everyone. So I told her she should only drink during passing periods. She is incredulous at this idea, even when Mr. Snarky and I explained that when we were kids we didn't have water bottles and our only option was to drink from the water fountain during passing period. So I send a hearty "eff you" to the "health influencers" and their bogus info about how much water we need to drink. I'll have to get more insistent on the water thing when she goes back to school and explain how just holding her breath isn't really keeping her safe.

But was the exposure at school? It is hard to say. It is a little odd that my throat was scratchy and I was fatigued on Friday. Was Petunia shedding virus earlier in the week and I got exposed from her? Did we both get exposed somewhere? There was that unmasked lady who stood next to us at Barnes and Noble last weekend. My theory is that anyone willing to ignore the big "masks required" signs right now is probably also unvaccinated. Did I pick it up while grocery shopping and then expose Petunia and am testing negative now because my infectious period was earlier? There's no way to know!

I really wish I'd kept Petunia home on Thursday. I wish the school had a set up that didn't make kids feel like they are falling behind if they stay home for a day or two. I wish I could convince my kids that it won't matter much in the grand scheme of things if they flub a test or miss an assignment right now. I wish I'd found a way to get Pumpkin her booster last weekend instead of Wednesday afternoon.  I wish Petunia and I didn't have allergies and asthma so that we'd have known the scratchy throat was something to worry about and not just our immune systems usual shenanigans. But none of those things are true so oh well. I emailed the parents of Petunia's friends that she eats lunch with (the only prolonged period of masks off during the day) and told them their daughters had been exposed.  My advice to anyone else with kids going to school right now: Don't shrug off a sore or scratchy throat.

We've canceled all of our plans for the weekend and will order our groceries for delivery instead of going to the store.

On the bright side, if this is the worse of our COVID experience, we're getting off really lucky. I felt worse yesterday than I did after my booster but nowhere near as bad as I did after my second shot. Petunia seems to be on the mend already. Hooray for vaccines!


  1. Alexicographer12:04 PM

    Thank you for writing about your experiences. I'm so sorry to hear about you and Petunia getting sick and glad to know you are feeling better -- and yes, hooray especially for vaccines (but also masks, and your knowing the benefits of filtration and ventilation). I hope Mr. Snarky and Pumpkin will escape infection. I have a sibling whose family is similarly situated and recently had a similar experience, and am hoping the same for them.

    And yes, the water thing is a problem. I should touch base with my kid, who I think is about Pumpkin's age, on that. I know he is able to eat (and is eating) school lunch outside (some days in 40-degree weather, bless his heart) but am not sure how often his mask comes off inside to drink water.

    1. Yeah, I was so happy it was staying dry so the kids would be eating outside and didn't realize the extent of the "mask off to drink water" activity going on. I don't want to make too much of a fuss about it because the poor kid feels bad for getting sick. But at the same time... I need her to be more careful about that when she goes back to school. Definitely don't want to go through this again!

    2. Alexicographer10:10 AM

      Yeah ... could you frame it as part of a "well, we've been really careful but still got sick, having gotten through that let's (as a family) look at whether there are changes we can make to be even safer moving forward?" kind of thing? I agree, it's really hard, even (maybe especially) at the nuts-and-bolts decision-level. I'm currently refusing multiple requests from my son to take him to get a haircut (I can cut it for him, but I don't do a good job, he & I are in agreement on that) and he's aggravated with me.

    3. That's a good way to frame it. We'll see how we do - but it is all moot until she stops testing positive! She'll be home and mostly in her room. Poor kid. At least the weather was nice today so she got to eat her meals outside instead of at her desk.

  2. Thanks for sharing this account, I'm so sorry that you both caught it, what a pain. I noticed that anecdotally, more people are reporting respiratory type symptoms with early negative tests than we'd expect with omicron. I thought we were expecting to test positive earlier in the course of the exposure.

    I hope you recover well.

    1. If you're immunized you might have symptoms (which are primarily caused by your body fighting off the virus) before enough antigen accumulates to show a positive test. It is unclear how infectious you'd be in that stage, though.

  3. Good luck with isolating /quarantaining! It was definitely a pain in our house and everybody got it anyway in the end (the vaccine is only recently approved for under 11 here). I was out for over 2 weeks, and really exhausted that first week. Brain fog sucks.
    Also, not sure what the instructions are for self tests where you are, but scientist here have started recommending to also take a throat swab, as especially omicron seems to have a higher virus loading in the throat/mouth area. So either do 2 tests, or use the swab as you would for a pcr test : mouth first, then nasal cavity.
    Hope you all feel better soon!

    1. Self tests here are only approved for nasal swabs. It is unclear how accurate they'd be if you add in throat swabs. Might increase the sensitivity (fewer false negatives) but perhaps at the cost of lower accuracy (more false positives). Or it might have no effect on false positive rates. We just don't know - there is no data.

  4. StackingPennies1:21 PM

    Thanks for sharing this! so, you have not yet tested positive? Are PCRs impossible to get?

    Also, it sounds like a Thursday PCR for petunia was negative, then a friday home test was positive?

    We had a run of illness in our house, but were test-limited at the time. Kid got a PCR (negative) on first day of symptoms, then my spouse got a negative antigen test (several days into symptoms since we were mostly banking on the kid PCR being accurate). I got a very mild sore throat. It probably was not COVID (based on severity of symptoms too), but when I hear of people testing negative then positive, I wonder.

    Best of luck in recovering well and keeping the others infection free!

    1. No PCR tests - all rapid antigen tests. We could have chosen a PCR test at the school site on Thursday night but at the time I thought we were just checking a procedural box and the kid really hoped to go to school on Friday and I didn't know how long it would take to get PCR results. Another choice I wish I'd made differently but in the end it wouldn't have changed anything. PCR should in theory be more sensitive early in symptoms but can show positive long after there is any viable (i.e. transmissible) virus left. I'd say that if you have a runny nose and still test negative that's pretty clearly a negative. We tested Petunia today and it was an unmistakable positive. Difference between yesterday and today in symptoms: her nose had started running.

    2. StackingPennies9:11 AM

      Got it, thank you for clarifying. That makes more sense, I wouldn't have expected a PCR to miss an infection. Yeah, I guess it is very wishful thinking that we had it already and just missed it on testing... Hope everyone is feeling better soon

  5. Anonymous11:21 PM

    Thank you for sharing the history and your opinions about what might be happening. It is all confusing and hard guess what and who have what when. I tend to think it is just me having trouble making sense of it all but hearing you do too is supporting.

    1. I think we really just don't know how well the result on the rapid antigen test correlates with infectiousness. Which is why I'm still largely confined to my bedroom and wearing a mask when I'm out! I'll have to come out tomorrow, though, because I need to work. We'll open the windows in the office and hope for the best.

  6. Thank you for the updates!

    DC1 sounds like Batman today but swears there's no sore throat. Zie has only had one in-class exposure so far this semester (lots of school exposures). DC2's school has been reporting overall numbers but not individual classroom numbers, so I don't know if there's any in-class exposure. Hir best friend (who is still in elementary school)'s entire family is covid positive except him. I'm pretty sure his dad and one of the younger siblings got delta earlier, so this is a second set of positives for them, probably both sets from daycare.

    We've only had a week and a few days of school and so far DC2 has lost 3 water bottles, but maybe that's a good thing? I've been buying the kind with straws-- you lose seal to drink, but you don't have to take the entire mask off. It's what I do when I teach (duck behind the glass barrier and lift up my mask a bit, not that the science says that's worth anything).

    1. I am not at all convinced that the exposure that infected Petunia is the one we got notified about. She told us on Monday that half her class was out. I haven't heard of anyone else in her friend group being sick right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if even more kids are out this week. I'm not really sure what the point of keeping schools open through this was. It is a shame that the school issue got so fraught - I don't think people were thinking about it very clearly when they dug into their "schools must stay open at all costs" position.

  7. Socal Dendrite1:10 PM

    Thanks for sharing, and I hope you and Petunia feel better soon. I've heard many similar stories lately (families catching it despite being very careful, early antigen tests showing negative but later tests eventually showing positive). Thank goodness for vaccinations, which will hopefully keep this on the mild side for your family.

    1. I feel pretty much back to normal - hopefully that lasts! Petunia's symptoms have been going up and down a bit. Earlier today, she said she just had a tickly throat, but by evening the runny nose was back. I assume she'll test positive at least as long as her nose is runny.

  8. Oh no! I hope you all feel better soon!
    Also wow, I never even thought about how growing up I didn't have a water bottle. I mean I had one after school for sports. But we definitely did not have water bottles in class. I know it's not funny but her being incredulous at the idea of not drinking during class made me laugh.

    We had COVID in my house (no kids, roommate situation with 2 of the 5 positive) and wearing masks in the common areas, avoiding each other, and airing out the shared bathroom the rest of us were able to stay healthy and negative (checked by PCR) so there is some hope.

  9. Socal Dendrite11:06 AM

    I just want to say that I hope you and your family are all back up on your feet. No need to reply or post (I imagine things have been hectic) but wanted you to know that I was wishing you all well.


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