COVID Update

Today is Day 11 since I first showed symptoms of COVID, and I plan to stop isolating, but I thought I’d share some frustrations about the whole experience.

Once I tested positive my main concern was not infecting others, especially Andrea. I immediately isolated myself to the master bedroom and the study, which is a room off the master bedroom with its own door to the outside, while she kept to the rest of the house. We banished the pets from the master bedroom as well. I know cats can get COVID and I believe there have been some cases where dogs have it and I didn’t want to risk them getting infected from me. I only know of two confirmed cases where animals have given COVID to humans (minks and hamsters) but I didn’t want to take any chances.

My dog was not happy.

I reached out to my primary care provider with UNC Health Care, but as I get the opinion he tends to think COVID is no big deal, he wasn’t very helpful. So I turned to the CDC which gave me this advice on isolation:

  • Isolation can be discontinued at least 5 days after symptom onset (day 1 through day 5 after symptom onset, with day 0 being the first day of symptoms), and after resolution of fever for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and with improvement of other symptoms.
  • These people should continue to properly wear a well-fitted mask around others at home and in public for 5 additional days (day 6 through day 10 after symptom onset) after the 5-day isolation period.

Hrm. I got the whole isolate for five days thing, but I was a little confused about the second half. Of course I minimized the time I was around Andrea and I was always wearing an N95 mask when I had to be out, but I wasn’t going to sleep in it so obviously I still needed to isolate for the full ten days, right?

After two years of this mess, I found isolation to be very difficult. It was easy to get through it when I could spend time with Andrea, but being apart sucked. We used text messages to communicate, and as we still have wired phone service it turns out that our awesome vtech cordless phones have an intercom function, which we ended up using a lot. My symptoms faded after about five days but Andrea came down with cold symptoms as well, and hers were worse than mine. The day after I tested positive she got a negative PCR test, and when our free government lateral flow tests showed up she took one of those and it was negative as well.

For me Day 5 was last Thursday, so I decided to take one of those government tests. If you haven’t used one, it is pretty simple. You take a nose swab and then you place that into a buffer solution. You then place four drops of the solution onto the test device. There is an absorbent strip that will pull the liquid over to the testing area which consists of two sections, a “T” or test section and a “C” or control section. The line for the control section is always supposed to appear in order to demonstrate the device is working, but the “T” line should only show up if you are positive for COVID. When the liquid on my test hit the “T” line it immediately turned red, so I knew I wasn’t ready to end isolation.

COVID Linear Flow Test

On Friday Andrea got a second PCR test as she was still having a pretty bad cough and sore throat, but it turned out to be negative as well. If she was exposed to COVID, either at the same time I was or through me, I think the reason she never developed enough of a viral load to test positive is that her booster was given just before Christmas while mine was back at the beginning of October.

One of the benefits of testing positive at a research hospital is that UNC was happy to enroll me in three research projects. Andrea and I are both participating in one that is studying how COVID might be transmitted in a household. Every day we both take nose swabs as well as filling out a questionnaire about how we are feeling and how much we interact. This goes on for ten days so I hope they get some good data out of it.

Another concerned the question of whether over the counter mouthwash could kill the virus. I ended up having to spit in a tube, then I used some mouthwash, then I spit in another tube as well as three more 15 minutes apart.

Finally, on Monday I start a long term COVID study where they will take various fluids out of me, periodically, for a year.


It’s a little inconvenient but I hope they get some useful information out of it.

As I am very eager to end isolation the next question I had was, when? I thought the best thing to do would be to get another PCR test at day 10 and if that was negative I could assume it would be safe to stop, but UNC doesn’t want you to get another test until 90 days after you last tested positive. I found some advice on a UK website that suggested you needed a negative test before stopping isolation, so I did find a place in Chatham County where I could get tested.

That test came back negative this morning. Yay! I really don’t know what I would have done if it hadn’t.

So now I’m busy washing all the sheets I slept in for the past ten days and luckily it is supposed to be warm this afternoon so I plan to open up the windows and air out the bedroom and the study. I’ll still minimize all contact with others outside the home until at least Monday, but I should be recovered and non-contagious. On the upside, being triple vaxxed and having had COVID my antibodies should be as strong as ever.

A lot of places, including North Carolina where I live, are starting to drop mask mandates and I’m still a bit hesitant, especially due to my recent positive test. Even before that I came up with a metric that I plan to use to define “normal”, which is based on current hospitalizations in my State. When I started tracking them they were just above 4000, and as of yesterday they were 2215. Once it drops below 1000 I’ll feel more confident about being more relaxed about COVID, and as always I hope my three readers remain safe and healthy.

Feelin’ Pretty Positive

Despite my best efforts, I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19.

COVID Positive Test Result

I am not happy with this at all, considering that while many people in my State have giving up on wearing masks I’ve continued to take all precautions when going out, including wearing a mask and hand washing. I’ve also had three shots of Pfizer’s vaccine, the last being on October 5th, and that pretty much lines up with the CDC reporting booster effectiveness fading after four months.

My infection started out like a cold. I have a pretty standard reaction to getting a cold. First, I get a mild sore throat which is soon followed by nasal congestion. Then my throat gets more painful for a couple of days and as that fades my congestion gets worse. Finally that fades and I’m done.

When I get that first sore throat I usually take Zicam. Of all the “remedies” recommended for colds, over the years taking zinc seems to shorten my cold’s duration. It could be the placebo effect but it seems to work for me.

On Saturday I noticed the start of a sore throat, so I started taking Zicam and paying attention to my temperature, which was normal. Saturday was beautiful, weather-wise, so I did a lot of work outside, but Sunday was gray and rainy. I started having mild nasal congestion and fatigue, so since the weather was conducive to staying in bed that’s what I did.

We had plans to visit with friends to watch the Super Bowl, but I cancelled them. I felt bad since they had prepared a lot of snacks, but after my positive test all that guilt went away (and they seemed relieved).

I still wasn’t feeling well so I ended up going to bed about five minutes into the third quarter. I did have a mild fever at the time, 99.4F, so out of an abundance of caution I scheduled a COVID test for Monday.

We live close to UNC Hospital in Chapel Hill, and they use an patient portal from Epic called “My Chart” that makes it real easy to do things like schedule a COVID test and get the results. I’ve had several done at their drive through testing site and the list of available appointments was wide open. I chose one for 11am.

When I woke up on Monday my fever was gone and I felt better, but I decided to keep the appointment. I was the only car there (one other showed up while I was filling out paperwork) which was quite a change from the other times I had been tested. The technician was very thorough (she got that swab up there) and the whole process took less than ten minutes.

About five hours later I got my positive result.

I was way more depressed and upset than I thought I would be, and Andrea and I immediately went into lockdown mode. My office is right off the master bedroom, so I took over those two rooms while Andrea stayed in the rest of the house with the pets. I do need to go out for food and drinks so I put on a mask to do that, and Andrea is on her way to take a COVID test as I write this.

If she’s negative, which I hope, I assume I’ll isolate through the weekend. If she’s positive, then I guess there is no reason to isolate from each other.

Being a geek I wanted to know as much as I could about my infection. The PCR test was performed using the “Abbott Alinity m Resp-4-Plex assay” and I did find mention that there was a chance of false positives in the past, but apparently that was due to the way the samples were mixed and has been corrected (fluid from one sample could get into another). My results also have a “Flag” of “A” but no one can tell me what that means. I asked my GP if the test could tell me the variant, and he said no, but I assume it was Omicron.

I use the SlowCOVIDNC app on my phone, so I felt duty-bound to inform any other user who has been around me of my positive test. In order to do this you have to have a PIN, but when I went to the site to get one, it couldn’t find my positive test. I called the number as requested and was told it could take up to 24 hours for them to receive my test results.

This morning I got an e-mail from UNC with a link that lead me to a cute little “chat” screen that walks you through the “now that you have COVID” scenario.

UNC COVID Chat Screenshot

Basically follows CDC guidelines that you isolate for five days, and mask for ten.

I did finally receive an e-mail from the “NC COVID Community Team”, which is associated with the SlowCOVIDNC app, sending me more information about my positive test result. I figured. in that case, I should be able to get my PIN but once again the website claimed it couldn’t find my record. However, when I called the help number they were able to give it to me and now I’ve updated the app to notify anyone who was near me over the last two weeks. I really can’t imagine it finding any one but it doesn’t tell you the number of people it will notify.

As for symptoms it feels like a mild cold with the exception of body aches. My neck is really sore and as I was working this morning (yay, remote work) the pain spread through my joints to my arms and hips. I’ve decided to work as much as I can but it looks like half days for awhile, so I took a long nap after lunch and the pain seems to have subsided a bit. It’s apparently due to inflammation caused by my body fighting off the infection, and I’m going to take some Advil and hope that helps.

I’ve heard a lot of people that have had COVID say that it is no big deal, and compared to, say, my traffic accident, that’s true. But people are still dying from this thing and even young people have lost limbs, and the long term affects are still unknown. I’m a bit touchy at the moment when I read news articles that say it is way over time to just get back to normal, because I did almost everything I could to avoid getting infected and it wasn’t enough. I’m harboring a little anger at the person who gave it to me as now my productivity has been cut in half for probably a week and I had to spend Valentine’s Day separated from Andrea. Not huge sacrifices compared to some but what pisses me off is that this whole thing could have been avoided.

Anyway, stay safe, get your shots, keep wearing those masks and be kind to one another.