An unexpected breakthrough COVID-19 test brings home what it takes to stop the spread
An unexpectedly positive COVID-19 test last week changed a lot of plans for my family. We are very happy that it was so. The home test worked exactly as it should. Thank you science.
That weekend we wanted to attend a meeting of former classmates, a group of friends for more than 40 years. We hadn't seen each other in almost two years and planned to honor the memory of a member of the group who died in the first week of the pandemic when a memorial service was impossible. We were really looking forward to the event. We weren't there.
We love watching my 11 year old granddaughter play soccer. We stayed home from their games that weekend.
The way to school with my 6-year-old granddaughter is a highlight of the week for my wife and me. We didn't do it last week.
We didn't stay home because we're scared of going out in the latest wave of COVID. We are not afraid to meet someone without a mask. We are fully vaccinated and we trust science. Although our isolation is based on this positive COVID-19 test, we did not stay home because we were too sick to participate in these activities. I'll say it again: we are vaccinated and the vaccines are working.
We stayed home because we decided to limit the risk to others. Knowing that the social gathering would consist entirely of people over the age of 70, some of whom have health problems that make them more vulnerable, we decided to do a home self-test before attending. Although the positive test came unexpectedly (we'd dismissed sore throats and headaches as seasonal allergies), this information deterred us from unknowingly exposing our at-risk friends to infection.
As a result, we also avoided exposing our friends on the sidelines of the soccer game, as well as our unvaccinated 6 year old granddaughter, her unvaccinated little sister, and her mother who had leukemia.
It is easy to get consumed with anger at what others are or are not doing to end the pandemic, but anger will not change that behavior. Home tests are an opportunity for concrete measures to protect our fellow human beings from infection.
Granted, home tests aren't cheap and aren't insured. Like too many aspects of our health system, this means that they are not fairly available to all who need them. But there are plans to improve that access, and in the meantime, those of us who have access to testing can do our part to stop the spread, protect others, and try to put this pandemic behind us.
Let's make COVID-19 history, not news.
James Sanders is a retired doctor residing in Fairway. He was Chief of Staff at Kansas City VA Medical Center until his retirement in 2014. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not represent the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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