As you may know, our family had a 3-week Staycation with COVID-19. Many have said that we were the first they knew who caught this virus – we probably won’t be the last. We received many phone calls, texts, and well-wishes during our quarantine, and many were just plain curious about our experience. Since COVID is all the rage these days (other than some persistent rioting), I thought I would offer our perspective of this virus for your entertainment and enlightenment.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus is more than just a virus. It is a political football. That complicates the issue and the way people view it. We have more than just a virus: we’re dealing with the fear caused by the virus, the panic inspired by the news media, and the anger and frustration of so many. Facebook is a magnifying glass for these things. Facebook is no place for the faint-of-heart, what with all the extreme opinions spouted there. As for myself, I have found the coronavirus rage very unhelpful. I think many would like to look at Facebook without being subjected to the daily badgering and rage-flash. COVID would be so much easier to deal with through good-sense measures if people didn’t feel the added pressure caused by adamant memes on Facebook.
This virus hits everyone differently. Let me say that upfront. It happened to smack our family pretty hard. Other families in our church (a total of six families caught this before) weren’t affected the same way. Some had very mild symptoms, and some were worse than us. So, if you get COVID, your experience may or may not resemble ours.
To complicate the matter, the news reports and information on COVID seems to change regularly. The mask issue is just one example of the frustrating way the narrative has changed. At various times, the masks have been good, bad, and ugly. “Wearing a mask will prevent the disease.” “Masks don’t do anything.” “We don’t need to wear a mask outside.” “Wear a mask all the time.”
Our family just spent a week in Island Park, Idaho. We did a lot of hiking and kayaking, and we were amazed at the number of people wearing a mask while doing these activities. We regularly see people wearing a mask while driving in their car, alone. We see people jogging – again, by themselves – wearing a mask. Ridiculous.
To further complicate things, we aren’t confident in the testing. My oldest son’s work required him to get a test. He tested positive, which meant he now needs two negative tests twenty-four hours apart before he can return to work. Five weeks later, his tests have come back negative, then positive, and he still can’t return to work. Worse, the state reports each positive test as a new case.
Death toll numbers have been manipulated and manufactured. States have put COVID-positive seniors into nursing homes. Almost universally, people who have COVID when they die count as COVID deaths, even when something else caused their death. All this causes a lot of frustration among ordinary people.
That said, I want to relate our family’s experience with COVID-19 for your information and enlightenment. Hopefully, a first-hand account will give some perspective amidst all the wackiness.
First, we don’t know how we got it.
In the days leading up to our COVID symptoms, my wife and I traveled to Pennsylvania and hosted a multi-church picnic with six churches and about 150 people. My symptoms came a week after we returned from Pennsylvania, and five days after the picnic. By God’s grace, we didn’t expose any of the churches represented at the picnic. Our church is the only church that had an outbreak of the virus.
I woke up on a Wednesday morning feeling sick. I developed a cough throughout the day and continually felt more feverish. By mid-afternoon, I decided to take a nap. When I woke up feeling worse, I figured I had the virus. I got tested that evening. My test results came back positive three days later on Saturday afternoon.
Second, it is highly contagious.
Despite this, our local health department only asked who I had contact with 48 hours before the onset of symptoms. They specifically asked if I was closer than six feet to anyone for more than fifteen minutes without a mask. By that standard, I didn’t expose anyone outside of my family.
My wife and all five of our children caught the virus. Our symptoms were all pretty similar, though not equally severe – fever, sore throat, lost appetite, lost all sense of smell and taste, and general lethargy. The lethargy was the worst part, frankly. We didn’t feel like doing anything.
Two other church families showed symptoms on Sunday. They also tested positive. Within a week, two more families had the virus, and the week following three other families had it. So, it spreads fast.
Third, it isn’t just the flu.
I hate to pop anyone’s bubble, but this was worse than any flu we have ever had. The virus has a very high misery-factor. I had the A-strain flu once. It lasted 3-4 days, I think, and I was pretty sick for a couple of those days. With COVID-19, my fever made my torso feel like someone sandpapered my skin. I spent most of the second and third days asleep in bed.
My fever broke overnight on Saturday night. I was still dragging around the house until I took some fever reducer that Sunday morning. That brought almost immediate relief, which lasted until Tuesday morning while I stayed on the Tylenol. The fever hit again from Tuesday until Thursday, and I was as sick as I had been in the first three days, even with constant use of fever reducers. I needed Tylenol until day eleven.
Fourth, you aren’t likely to die from it.
That is unless you have other severe health conditions. My wife has a hyper-active autoimmune system from Lyme Disease. We were most anxious about her because of this. Her symptoms were more severe than mine, and around the seventh day, we were very concerned. Her doctor treated her with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Despite the news media hysteria, she went from being worse than me to being almost entirely better in a matter of a few days.
None of our church families had to be hospitalized from the virus. One family, in particular, concerned me much: they are in their late 60’s, and the husband is a cancer survivor. He had a fever for five days and was very sick. But he was not hospitalized by this.
Fifth, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t wear a mask any more than what I did before.
I am skeptical about the effectiveness of masks to prevent someone’s catching the disease. I think there is an element of inevitability when it comes to this virus. If I had known in advance that I would have the virus, I would have chosen the springtime during the shutdown, rather than summertime a few days before our Vacation Bible School.
I have probably worn a mask more in the days after my quarantine than I did before. When I wear a mask, it is for the sake of people around me who are concerned about it, or else because the store I am going to requires it. I’m not a belligerent, and I don’t feel like my liberties are threatened when someone asks me to wear a mask. I hate wearing them, but I also hate wearing a seat-belt and going through that invasive little body scanner at the airport.
Sixth, I wish we would have been more careful at our church.
I wouldn’t want anyone to catch this virus, and I certainly wouldn’t want to pass it to anyone. Once I knew I had it, I kept our family home so we wouldn’t expose others. But on the day my symptoms started, I allowed my family to go to church, and I think that is how it spread through the church. I wish our members had caught the virus somewhere else than at church.
I hate that so many in our church caught this virus. When we re-opened our services, we took what I considered extreme measures to demonstrate that we could be trusted to protect our people. But, as with so many things, we let our guard down. Initially, we required temperature scans, six-foot spacing between family units, masks, and gloves at all times. We asked our people not to shake hands or greet each other with hugs.
If I had a do-over, I would eliminate most of those measures. Whether masks work or not, I would have asked people either to wear a mask or to keep their distance. I think those common-sense measures while in close quarters would have prevented us from exposing so many in the church.
I understand that this contradicts other points I am making here. But that is my opinion, in hindsight.
Seventh, I think all the efforts to “crush the curve” are silly.
It is a virus, after all. It is pretty conceited for us to think that we can stop it. Yes, we can take good-sense measures to protect ourselves. Many people get a flu shot – I don’t, but others do. But ultimately, we can’t stop a virus. In our attempts to slow the spread, we have managed to make this thing last and last.
The argument for “crushing the curve” has been that the hospitals would be overwhelmed if we just allowed the virus to run its course. Whether our efforts to hobble the virus have been useful that way or not, I cannot say. With the most recent spike in cases, we still haven’t seen the hospitals overwhelmed. In my opinion, the bigger concern should be for the damage we are doing to the mental health and the financial future of ordinary people who can’t earn a living and can’t function in healthy ways because of the panic caused by this virus. By spreading the virus over months, we have traded one problem for another.
Finally, think twice before you get tested.
I got tested out of concern for my church because I didn’t want it to infect the entire assembly. As it turns out, I was right. But I am the pastor of our church. I told our members that unless your work requires it, you are probably better off not getting tested. It can become a problem for you if it is known that you have this virus. We have found that, in general, it is just better not to say anything. Quarantine for ten days. Make sure that you are symptom-free and off any fever-reducer for three days before you end your quarantine. Don’t expose anyone. But think twice before you get tested.
When I have the flu, I never get tested. I stay home and get better. Why are we so obsessed with having an accurate head-count of this thing?
And Now This…
COVID-19 is not a pleasant thing to catch. It has a high misery-factor, it takes a while to recover, and it dramatically disrupts your life. I was sick for eleven days, our family quarantined for seventeen days, and it took us about two more weeks before we recovered our strength. But the virus itself has not been the worst part of COVID-19. The worst part of COVID-19 has been the daily rage of so many of our friends.
I get it that you are frustrated with the virus, with the quarantines, with the shutdowns, with the panic, with the media, with Facebook, and with the masks. So am I. But honestly, it has been almost six months since this thing started, and still some post multiple rage-memes every day. How many times a day do you need to say it? For that matter, how many times a week? By now, we all know you don’t like it. Don’t you have anything else to talk about it?
I don’t understand people who live on Facebook. As a pastor, I don’t have time to look at it every day, let alone post things multiple times on the same topic every day. But if I had the time or the inclination, I would try to post things that will encourage and help and lift people up, rather than use my Facebook page as a flame-thrower.
Let me suggest something. Go back and scroll through everything you have posted on Facebook since March when the coronavirus became a thing. What would the average person see if they scrolled through a few months of your posts? Would they see a vibrant, happy, grateful Christian loving the Lord and living out the gospel? Or would they see a peevish malcontent spewing bitterness and rage? Let’s don’t forget what God commanded of Christians:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)