… and lessons learnt.
Never in a million years would I have thought that the international threat that social media was making jokes about would enter my home. Many kids my age did not take the virus seriously when it first appeared, oftentimes sarcastically panicking at someone who coughed! It was all fun and games until my family had to deal with it..
By the time early March rolled around and the state of Massachusetts was under quarantine, life was seemingly normal. That is until March 11th, when my dad started showing signs of the flu. He immediately quarantined himself in a room on the top level of the house knowing what that could mean. March 11th was also around the time where I completely lost my sense of smell/taste and developed a cold. I also experienced exhaustion. I didn’t think much of it, as the CDC had not announced by then that loss of smell was a symptom of the virus. Little did I know that Covid-19 had jumped to another member of the family.
On Sunday March 15th, our situation started to look up as my dad seemed to be in better condition. Going into the Monday however, my dad felt a lot of lingering heaviness in his chest and sickness for the next couple of days. He got treated with antibiotics because it felt like he was developing pneumonia in his chest. Taking into account all these symptoms, my dad’s doctor friend insisted that he get tested for the coronavirus. So on March 18th, that’s what he did.
On the afternoon of March 22nd, 2020, right as my mom, brother and I sat down to eat lunch, we got a phone call. We were informed that my dad tested positive for COVID-19. I could feel the fear that my mom suppressed as to not worry or scare my 8 year old brother and I. Hanging up the phone after receiving the news, my mom assured us that everything was going to be just fine.
Now that my dad had tested positive and the CDC announced loss of smell as a symptom for COVID-19, we thought that I was showing mild symptoms of the virus so I also quarantined myself. My dad had already taken a room on the top floor of the house to isolate himself and I took the basement. We followed a strict protocol where my mom would leave food outside our doors and where we would leave our dirty dishes as well to limit her physical contact with us. She always made sure to give us healthy foods packed with vitamins and minerals to support our immune systems. Because we did not want to pass the virus to anyone in our community, our family stayed inside and ordered groceries online. I had access to a bathroom in my basement and my dad had one attached to his room as well so we wouldn’t ever have to leave our designated areas.
The dishes and laundry that belonged to my dad and I were washed on the highest temperature setting to destroy the virus. Our laundry was separated from my mom and brothers’ laundry. We used sanitize mode for laundry which is a high temperature long cleaning cycles.
This went on for about two weeks as recommended by doctors. During my time in the basement I was able to pick up a few hobbies like yoga and drawing because there’s only so much staring at the wall and internet-surfing you can do. Our family remained high spirited by facetiming every night and checking in with one another multiple times during the day. I looked at the positives of being quarantined, that I was no longer annoyed by my brother 24/7 and my parents weren’t constantly watching over my every move. :)
By the end of the second week, my father’s symptoms started to improve but we felt that he should be quarantined for another week since he was not completely healed. My quarantine however was lifted after 2 weeks as I regained my sense of smell and taste, and made sure to clean and sanitize the whole basement before leaving. Going into my dad’s fourth week of quarantine, he started to leave his room and come downstairs, but stayed in his room for the majority of the day to maintain a distance. My dad did not do any follow up testing because current testing is for high priority patients. Based on our research, about 30 percent of tests reveal inaccurate results. So we participated in extra quarantine time as that was our most advised option.
It is now the end of the fourth week, and he is within his last few laps of the race. We expect my dad to come out of quarantine this week, and are incredibly grateful to have come out of this healthy. My sense of smell is also completely back after 1 month.
I made sure to pay attention to how we were so successful in our situation. Here’s what I learnt:
1. Most Cases Will Exhibit Moderate Symptoms
80–85% of people will experience mild/moderate symptoms, similar to what my dad faced. He had a bad cough, thick mucus, low grade fever, low energy and prolonged illness. Our imagination goes to all the footage we see online, which certainly wasn’t the case for him.
2. Understanding Testing Procedure in Advance
I very much hope that we have control over this pandemic much sooner than projected… Yet we have to plan according to the guidance that epidemiologists are putting out : approximately 60–70% of the nation’s population will be affected, so better prepare for the worst case and plan ahead.
Talk to your doctor (if you can) and understand the testing procedure in case you ever have to use it. Also make sure to stay up to date on where testing is being held. In his case, there was a confusion around which hospitals were available for testing and how the procedure worked.
If you ever have to get tested, talk to a lab in advance about prerequisites. In my dad’s case, a lab order directly from the doctor was needed, which was an unknown step.
3. Prepare a Quarantine Area in Your House
You must quarantine yourself as soon as possible if tested positive, ideally for 2 weeks. Make sure it’s an area in the house where your family tends to not go near. But before anything else, make sure you have disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, etc handy at home. This way you can effectively clean the area where you were quarantined. If you do not have disinfectant wipes, you can use bleach. Information on how to use bleach is mentioned below in the links.
4. Be Prepared for a Longer Quarantine
At present, doctors recommend 2 weeks of quarantine period. Some studies show even after 2 weeks of quarantine, people still shed the virus, so you may want to extend your quarantine period by a couple of days. Coming out of quarantine, you may want to keep a distance from family members for a week or so. To take extra measures, you can use a different bathroom. Additionally, you should update yourself on the most recent findings on reliable quarantine methods.
5. Practice Social Distancing Within the House Too
It takes anywhere from two days to two weeks for symptoms to show up. Till that time, the affected person is passing on the virus to other people around him/her. So it’s a good idea to practice a small degree of social distancing at home. Pay extra attention to sharing food in the family, cleaning the home etc.
6. Be Considerate of Your Community
As said before, even after finishing a good amount of quarantine, you may still be shedding the virus. This is a very contagious illness, so going out will increase the chances of other people in your community catching it. Stay inside as much as you can, and wear a mask if you have to go out.
7. Most Importantly — Stay Positive!
The cure is in willpower, not medicine. The trait that was definitely advantageous to my dad during the difficult times was his half-glass full nature. Cracking jokes and making sure to call my mom, brother and I everyday made the dark times less lonely.
I am working on a website to connect people fighting COVID with people recovered from it. Please check out this website in a few days:
If you know someone who is fighting COVID and needs support, let me know and I’ll be glad to connect with my dad or another family who has beaten COVID.
How to use household bleach: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/bleach.html
Recent research on virus shedding: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30566-3/fulltext
For any other concerns, refer to https://www.cdc.gov/.