Global Statistics

All countries
548,935,393
Confirmed
Updated on June 26, 2022 8:18 pm
All countries
520,730,887
Recovered
Updated on June 26, 2022 8:18 pm
All countries
6,350,765
Deaths
Updated on June 26, 2022 8:18 pm
Sunday, August 14, 2022

Global Statistics

All countries
548,935,393
Confirmed
Updated on June 26, 2022 8:18 pm
All countries
520,730,887
Recovered
Updated on June 26, 2022 8:18 pm
All countries
6,350,765
Deaths
Updated on June 26, 2022 8:18 pm
Molderizer and Safe Shield

I spent 2 years writing about COVID, and avoiding it. Omicron finally got me

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On May 19, a group of Bay Area doctors and scientists published a preprint study looking at how symptoms of COVID-19 have changed over the course of the three most recent surges. It’s an interesting report, and I wrote about it a week later — while isolating at home after finally getting COVID myself.

I tested positive the day before that study came out. I was too sick to work that day, or the next, but when I finally caught up with the paper I was fascinated by how well it reflected my own experiences. Omicron, they found (among other results), causes more upper respiratory symptoms among the vaccinated than earlier variants. As I read I checked off my own boxes: Cough? Yes. Congestion? Yes. Fever? A little. Body aches? Nope.

After more than two years writing about this virus it was bizarre finally to be up close and personal with it. I’ve written before about the pandemic feeling more like a haunting to many people, especially in the early months when we were all locked down and few people had actually been infected, even as the coronavirus was dominating our daily lives. But as more people became infected in my social circles — the delta summer, when it first snuck up on the vaccinated, and omicron, when catching it seemed almost inevitable — I still somehow avoided it.

I’ve been cautious throughout the pandemic, but not remarkably so. I put myself in the slightly more liberal end of COVID-careful, by Bay Area standards: Since getting vaccinated, I’ve masked and unmasked as cases surged and dropped, I’ve gone to some very crowded bars and eaten indoors, and I’ve hugged my nephew lots even when he was runny-nosed (I did that pre-vaccines, too). I haven’t been overly worried for myself, being an otherwise healthy 40-something, but I didn’t want to give COVID to the vulnerable people in my life.

I don’t know where exactly I finally became infected, but I suspect it was during Sunday brunch at a restaurant, two days before I started feeling ill. It came on fast — I felt off Tuesday night, tested positive Wednesday morning (very positive — the home test lit up on contact with my sample). I’ve been telling friends that I feel like I got to tick the last box on my pandemic Bingo card: writing about COVID while having COVID.

Health reporters very often write about topics we are not personally familiar with. That’s true for journalists in general. This pandemic has been a unique experience for me in part because I was so directly impacted, as everyone was, by the fallout. I’ve written hundreds of pandemic stories by now, some of which very much affected me — about testing and vaccination and public health responses like mask mandates. Having COVID makes it even more personal, but also reminds me that my experience remains atypical in many ways.

When I first felt sick, my editors immediately told me to take time off. I ended up having to write one story while I wasn’t feeling well, but then I lounged around a lot for two days. When I was ready to work again, I was lucky to be able to work from home, and to have the resources to have supplies delivered to me, and friends checking in to make sure I had what I needed. There was no pressure to return to in-person work while I was ill — in fact, I’m pretty sure I would have been ordered home if I’d tried to show up in the newsroom.

And unlike most people who get COVID, I had easy access to infectious disease and public health experts. Throughout the pandemic I’ve been constantly impressed by the patience these experts have shown and the care they have provided to journalists like me — taking calls early in the morning and very late at night, walking me through complex science and challenging, nuanced public health discourse.

Obviously I haven’t been calling them up for advice on my own illness. But if, in the course of reporting that study on changing COVID symptoms, I happened to drop in a few personal questions? They were happy to entertain them. When I told Dr. Diane Havlir — an HIV expert I’ve interviewed dozens of times over the years and who led the most recent COVID study — that I was frustrated to still be testing positive on day 10 of my illness, she was sympathetic.

Coronavirus Resources

COVID-19 Map: Data on trends in the Bay Area and across California

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She confirmed I was probably safe to resume some normal activities, like going to the grocery store with a mask or hiking with a friend, but she agreed I might want to stay away from people who are vulnerable to severe disease until I’m negative. Which is to say: She agreed I probably shouldn’t visit my parents over the long Memorial Day weekend.





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