Monday, January 24, 2022

Coronavirus Update 1-24-22: I’m a Covid statistic

It was a calculated risk. I've been so careful for the past 22 months. We don't socialize outside of a very small bubble. We don't eat in restaurants or go to bars unless we can be outside. We've given up concerts and traveling. I wear my KN95 mask everywhere. 

But before Omicron changed the Covid-19 narrative, I decided that my firm would sponsor the Ohio Craft Brewers Conference. I also agreed to speak at the event. And we timed the launch of our brand new Craft Beer Practice Area around the conference. 

It was a safe event. Vaccines or negative tests were required of all attendees. Masks were mandatory at the event unless eating or drinking. I wore my KN95 mask everywhere. I was still nervous about spending three days out of town. But at my request, my firm had made a substantial financial investment in the event. So I packed my KN95 masks and my hand sanitizer, and off I went.

Twenty-four hours after returning home I felt my first symptoms — a scratchy throat and a mild dry cough. That's it. But having been out and about, I decided to home test. Negative.

The same symptoms persisted Friday. I tested again. And again, negative.

Saturday, same.

Sunday, still with the same mild symptoms (and at the behest of the smartest person I know) I tested again. This time, positive.

In the interim, I had attended my son's science fair at school. I also attended my daughter's mock trial competition. And I went grocery shopping and ran other assorted errands. I was KN95ed throughout and felt safe being out and about because BinaxNOW told me prior to each excursion that I did not have Covid-19. I understand that while these tests can return false negatives if you test too soon (such as when you're pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic), they are highly accurate once you're exhibiting Covid symptoms.

BinaxNOW, however, was wrong for three straight days. Now others in my house are also symptomatic and also testing negative. Their PCR tests are scheduled for later today and will provide a more definitive answer for them.

I'm not here to gripe or to look for sympathy. I took a calculated risk, necessitated by my business, that bit me. Thankfully I'm fully vaxxed and boosted, and the vaccine is doing its intended job. It's keeping me out of the hospital and my symptoms mild. For that, I'm grateful.

But we need to take a hard look at our testing protocols, which suck. Millions of people with sniffles, headaches, sore throats, and coughs (otherwise known as … winter) are testing negative every single day. They are relying on those negative tests to go about living their lives. They go to work. They go to the store. They get on airplanes. They go to bars, restaurants, and concerts. They do so because they in good faith believe that they are Covid negative. Unlike me, most will never test more than once, and many will do their thing without covering their noses and mouths. The false sense of security provided by negative at-home tests is making this pandemic worse.

I'm fortunate that my symptoms are mild. I increased my odds with three doses of mRNA goodness. Not everyone, however, is so lucky. Those you contact after your negative test might not be vaccinated at all. Or they might be fully vaxxed and roll snake eyes in the Covid craps game. There is an absolute flaw in a system that encourages reliance on unreliable tests. 

My solution? Treat Covid symptoms (which for Omicron might not be that much different than the common cold) as if you have Covid unless and until a PCR test tells you otherwise. Don't make the same mistake I did and allow yourself a false sense of security because an at-home antigen test tells you that you're Covid-negative.