Drive-through Covid test sites such as this one in New York have attempted to streamline the process and add to the volume of testing done, in an attempt to curtail the spread of the virus. (Photo: Curt Epstein)

COVID-19 Hits Home for a BJT Contributor

Here's what happened after he developed shortness of breath and fever.

I don’t know exactly how I contracted COVID-19, but it was three days after my return from an annual aviation industry event in March when I began feeling off. This was back in the days before the call for mask-wearing in public, but still, I attempted to keep my distance during the event, declining handshakes and hugs, skipping all after-hours socializing, grabbing takeout food each night to eat in my hotel room while writing, and watching reruns on TV. Even so, there was the inescapable navigation through crowded airports, and on the flights to and from the event, you couldn’t ignore the sounds of people coughing and sneezing around you.

During an evening walk around my neighborhood, I noticed I was uncharacteristically short of breath, and the next day, while working at my dining room table during my self-imposed post-travel quarantine, my hands became so cold I had to put gloves on. Grabbing a thermometer, I logged a low-grade fever.

New York State had just set up a major drive-through COVID testing center near my home, so I called the Department of Health, explained that I had recently traveled, gave my symptoms and my information, and was ordered to report there early the next morning, along with my oldest son, who had also begun exhibiting symptoms.

The scene at the testing facility was unsettling. The parking lot of a large park had been commandeered, with dozens of tents and trailers set up. A sign at the parkway exit ordered visitors to keep their car windows closed as masked National Guard members passed us along through a series of checkpoints, where my ID was tallied against lists of those with appointments. Paperwork, already printed out with our information, was held up to the car window for me to review and approve. It was then folded and stuck under the windshield wiper blade.

There were few cars there at that hour and we were waved forward into one of the drive-through testing tents. There, medical technicians in hazmat suits took the paperwork and instructed us to recline in our seats and roll down the window while they gave us “the brain tickle.” After 10 unpleasant seconds, it was over, the windows were closed, and just outside the tent, there was a large sign with a phone number to call for the test results.

Within three days, I was contacted by my county health department, informing me of the positive test results for me and my son. I was told to assume everyone else in the household would have it as well. We were lucky in that our symptoms did not become life-threatening. My personal doctor told me to go immediately to an emergency room if I experienced difficulty breathing. I had a persistent fever for 11 days, along with exhaustion, and my family members experienced other symptoms of varying intensity. We quarantined for nearly a month in total, and even now, eight months later, members of my family are still experiencing COVID-19 after-effects.