My sister this afternoon told me that her husband had been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and we agreed that she should cancel her plans to spend time today with our parents. Despite a significantly lower number of cases than where I live in Northern New Jersey, rural America–particularly the places where Trump is most popular like rural Tennessee where my sister and parents live–is seeing a more than 1000% spike in coronavirus cases.
I feel like all around me, I’m hearing stories where human life is put second to the economy: a pet store that’s reopening its dog washes in what is still a county harder hit than some countries; churches that are crafting reopen guidelines with no recognition that singing, for example, can cause the virus to spread as much as 27 feet; non-essential business being given permission to reopen here in Jersey.
Did I miss the memo? Was there a vaccine discovered, and I just haven’t gotten it yet? Why is everyone pretending like everything is going to be fine? Was there another memo where we decided to just let everyone die, and I missed that memo too? I get that this is a country filled with absolute idiots–that’s nothing new, and I expect as much from Republican leaders these days when drinking disinfectant or shoving a lightbulb down your throat is regarded by certain idiots in particular as a viable solution. But I don’t understand why people who should know better, because they started out by listening to the scientists and experts, are suddenly caving to the Republican demand to “reopen now,” a demand by the way that was fueled by dark money from Betsy DeVos and is not the grassroots movement it pretends to be.
The thing is, I get why the economy is important. If we can’t afford food to feed our families, we’re really going to be facing a crisis, so I can see both sides of the argument to some degree. Still, there’s a way to do both, to reopen the economy and to keep the number of cases down, and that’s through testing and some form of contact tracing. We aren’t doing either remotely aggressively enough.
And, by the way, in case you’re wondering what it looks like when we are on top of our testing game during a pandemic, this is it:
In case you have any trouble reading the tweet there, it indeed notes that South Korea, as of May 11, only had 256 deaths, while the U.S. had over 81,000. The difference? Testing.
As for me, I got tested–for antibodies. These tests are not accurate, necessarily, because the CDC has rushed them through without proper regulation. But, I wanted the psychological comfort of what I hoped would be a positive test, given how crappy I’ve felt the last two months with near constant sore throats and chest pains. I reasoned that if I tested positive, I’d feel a tiny bit better believing that I was over the worst of what could happen. This was entirely psychological and not rooted in reality, since we still don’t know how long a person with antibodies would be immune, if they’d be immune at all.
I tested negative. That doesn’t actually tell me anything as a person with coronavirus could test negative for antibodies, as they take–according to my doctor–anywhere from 14 to 21 days to develop after the illness has passed.
So, we need testing, but we need better tests. I got tested, and I still don’t know anything, other than that a test that’s known for being faulty is negative for me, for the date I took it. And I don’t feel better.
All that said, it was good to speak with my sister, good to connect with family, a relief that I was able to convince her and my parents that now is not the time to get together.
But, I don’t think we’re over the worst of what’s to come, and shaking the sadness and anger is just something I haven’t been able to do. Sometimes, you just have to leave it at that–and that’s okay.