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Positive: How testing positive for COVID-19 lowered my expectations of local institutions

Positive: How testing positive for COVID-19 lowered my expectations of local institutions

By Taylor Hutchison Managing Editor

Monday, March 8, 2021 | Number of views (3194)

In 2020 there were a lot of things that I was afraid of, like testing positive for COVID-19 and losing friends and family. In 2021, both of these things happened. 

 

This is a journal about being exposed, experiencing symptoms, testing positive for COVID-19 and how my view of Fort Lewis College, San Juan Basin Public Health and my community changed.

 

Friday, Jan. 29

It was my friend Peyton’s first day as a bartender at a bar in downtown Durango. My friends and I showed up to support her, drink, play pool and listen to music.

 

We put on our masks, sanitized our hands and signed in with our names and contact information, all normal things in a pandemic. I ordered my favorite drink, Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka with tonic water, and played pool with my roommate and friends.

 

A man at his own bachelor party offered to buy my friends and I drinks, so I rounded up the girls. The bachelor party, my friends and I met at the bar. The man started to order a round of shots, but Peyton stopped him and asked him to put on his mask. He listened and continued to order.

 

The man said that he was from Arizona, and a few bachelor party guests said that they were from Texas. I had encountered others who were lax about COVID-19 regulations before, who forget to wear their masks. 

 

I thought it was concerning, but unfortunately not surprising. Peyton said that she asked them to put on their masks many times Friday night, but that asking others to put on their masks is just part of the job.

 

It was getting late, and we got a notification that there was an active shooter in the area, so my roommate and I left.

 

Saturday, Jan. 30

I was eating breakfast and watching Attack on Titan when my mom called—my best friend and her cousin died. They were driving to Albuquerque to see family and were in a car accident.

 

I threw away my breakfast and turned off the TV. I locked myself in my room and cried. After about an hour, my dad called to check on me. I heard his quavering voice.

 

I called my mom to ask her to tell me what happened again. She did and said that I needed to call my friends and tell them what happened. She also said that I needed to call Angelina’s mom. I texted my friends who knew Angelina; my friends who met her at my 13th birthday party or who were on the swim team with her. I texted my friends and asked them to call me.

 

Then, I called Angelina’s mom and we shared I love you’s.

 

I turned on Bob’s Burgers, Angelina’s favorite TV show, and tried to go to sleep.

 

Sunday, Jan. 31

After noon there was a knock at the door—it was the boy that I’m seeing. I opened the door and hugged him.

 

We took a nap and I thought about how grateful I was to hear his heartbeat, to feel his arms around me.

 

I ordered a pizza and turned on Bob’s Burgers again. 

 

We hugged and kissed goodbye and he walked home.

 

Monday, Feb. 1

After a zoom meeting, I was tired and had a headache and congestion. I was positive that my headache and congestion were caused by crying for 48 hours. Or, by the common cold.

 

I knew that these were symptoms of COVID-19, so out of an abundance of caution I scheduled an appointment to be tested at the Fort Lewis College testing center. But, I was certain that it was a cold at most, so I rubbed Vicks on my chest and took NyQuill.

 

Tuesday, Feb. 2

I woke up without a headache and less congested. I drove to the testing center, a mostly empty parking lot with some trailers and parking cones. I had been tested five times before, so I knew the drill.

 

I picked a lane and drove to the first window, where a woman asked me about my name, if I had tested positive in the last 90 days and if I was experiencing any symptoms. I said that I was experiencing congestion. 

 

I drove to the second window, where a woman asked my date of birth, handed me a tissue and stuck a Q-tip in my nose. My eyes watered for a second, then I left. 

 

Because I was feeling better, I went to school, the Sky Store to pick up my textbooks and to the grocery store to buy vegan ramen and chicken noodle soup. 

 

I rubbed Vicks on my chest and took NyQuil again.

 

Wednesday, Feb. 3

After a zoom meeting, I was so exhausted that I couldn't keep my eyes open, so I took a nap.

 

3:01 p.m. I woke up to a notification from the FLC app, “Confirmed COVID-19 Case Follow-up.” My heart stopped and I thought, “This is not happening.”

 

4:10 p.m. I received an email at my student email address from Primary that said that my COVID-19 test results were available. 

 

I clicked to view my test results and confirmed that I tested positive.

 

I called my mom and cried. I knew that I shouldn’t have been scared because I was young and healthy, but I was. What if I have long term symptoms like organ damage or blood clots?

 

I thought about Angelina. What if I can’t go to the funeral? I thought about how I would have to grieve without a shoulder to cry on.

 

I texted everyone that I hung out with Friday night, and they scheduled appointments to be tested. I texted the boy that I’m seeing, and he said that he was tested on Monday and that his results were negative. 

 

My roommate and I agreed that I could use the kitchen, but I would have to wear a mask during and clean the counters with disinfectant spray after.

 

5:04 p.m. I received an email from a COVID-19 case manager.

5:08 p.m. I received an email from an FLC administrative assistant in the English department. The administrative assistant sent the email to my professors and cc’d the Dean and the Associate Dean.

 

7:45 p.m. I received a voicemail on my cell phone from a man who said he worked for FLC and SJB Public Health. He asked me to call or text him Thursday to schedule a time for a 45-minute interview.

 

Thursday, Feb. 4

I woke up early and called the man who worked for FLC and SJB Public Health to schedule a time for the interview. Then, a man from SJB Health called. First, he asked a few questions about when and where I was exposed and about my symptoms. Then, he explained that I had to isolate for 10 days starting on the first day I experienced symptoms. So, he said that I had to isolate for 10 days starting on Monday, Feb. 1 when I experienced a headache and congestion, until Feb. 11.

 

He said that after Feb. 11, I was free to leave isolation even if I was still congested. He also said that I should not schedule an appointment to be tested because I could test positive for up to three months.

 

He said that I would get a notification on my iPhone and it would ask me to share my COVID-19 diagnosis. He explained that my iPhone uses Bluetooth and looks for iOS and Android phones that have Exposure Notifications turned on. It exchanges random IDs with other phones and logs them, and the past 14 days of requests to check my Exposure Log are saved.

 

He said that I could share my COVID-19 diagnosis, so that those who have been near me receive an anonymous notification.

 

I thought about the man at his bachelor party Jan. 29. I wondered if he got a notification that he was exposed. I wondered if he tested positive. I pictured his wedding and wondered if there was an outbreak.

 

A woman from the Fort Lewis College Health Center called too. She also asked about when and where I was exposed and about my symptoms. The man at SJB Public Health said that I had to isolate until Feb. 11, but the woman from FLC said that I had to isolate until Feb. 10. I wanted to isolate until Feb. 11 to be safe.

 

Then, the man who worked for FLC and SJB Public Health called for the interview. I opened my Google Calendar and was prepared to walk him through every minute of every hour of the last 14 days. First, he asked about my symptoms. Then, he asked if I was in a group in the last 14 days. I said yes, and explained that my friends and I bar-hopped downtown on Jan. 26. I gave him the names of all of my friends and the bars. 

 

Then he did something that surprised me—he moved on. I expected him to want to know the whos, whats, whens and wheres of the last 14 days so that he could alert my roommate, my friends and small business that they were exposed to COVID-19. I stopped him and explained that my friends and I went to the bar on Jan. 29 too. The call lasted 21 minutes.

 

I texted my roommate and my friends that I tested positive and they scheduled appointments to be tested, but I don’t think that I could have trusted FLC or SJB Public Health to alert them.

 

5:34 p.m. I received an email from the man who worked for FLC and SJB Public Health. During the interview, he offered to forward a “Public Health Isolation Letter” to me.

 

Friday, Feb. 5

Peyton texted me and said that she tested negative but that her boyfriend, who was also at the bar on Jan. 29, tested positive on Wednesday.

 

I was washing my face and brushing my teeth when my professor texted me. She left a tote bag full of books and a storage container full of essentials at my door. 

 

I was so happy and grateful to go to college in a small town.

 

The COVID-19 case manager called and said that she heard that I recently lost my best friend, and offered support. I knew that she had good intentions, and I think that if my professors or friends reached out to FLC and said that they were worried about me, then she should have called to check on me. But, when she called I was upset because I didn’t know how she heard that, and I felt like my mental health was being monitored.

 

My roommate texted me that she tested negative on Thursday.

 

Wednesday, Feb. 10

Peyton said that she tested positive on Tuesday. She said that she expected to test positive because her boyfriend, who is also her roommate, tested positive. And, she started experiencing symptoms like fatigue, loss of taste and congestion on Tuesday.

 

She said that after she tested positive, she received an email at her student email address from Primary that said that her COVID-19 test results were available, and an email from a case manager.

 

Thursday, Feb. 11

I woke up early, happy that this was supposed to be my last day in isolation. 

 

I received a voicemail from a different man at San Juan Basin Public Health. He asked me to call him to talk about my symptoms.

 

I called him and he said that their records said that I started experiencing symptoms on Feb. 2, so I had to isolate until Feb. 12 at midnight. 

 

I said that there was a mistake because I started experiencing symptoms on Feb. 1, but he said that there was nothing he could do and that I had to isolate until Feb. 12.

 

I know that one day doesn’t sound like a lot, but after losing my best friend, testing positive for COVID-19 and having to isolate for 10 days, it added insult to injury. I started to say “Have a nice day,” but the doctor heard my shaking voice. 

 

He asked “Are you OK?” I said yes, but he tried to talk to me for about fifteen minutes. He gave me the phone number of a COVID-19 crisis hotline and said that they would call to check on me on Feb. 12.

 

I was frustrated because I told several people from both FLC and SJB Public Health that I started experiencing symptoms on Feb. 1, not Feb. 2. 

 

I called the FLC Health Center and explained what happened. I asked if they could communicate that I started experiencing symptoms on Feb. 1 to SJB Public Health, but they said that they only manage students who live on-campus, so they had no record of when I started experiencing symptoms.

 

7:48 p.m. I received an email from the COVID-19 case manager, so I replied and said that I did have a question regarding the confusion about isolation. I explained what happened and she said that she would look into it on Feb. 12.

 

Later, Peyton said that a woman who said she worked for FLC and SJB Public Health called to interview her. “I was thinking to myself, this person has no idea what to ask me,” she said.

 

Peyton described the interview as unprofessional, and said that she would have preferred to fill out a survey online.

 

Friday, Feb. 12

I woke up to a voicemail and email from the COVID-19 case manager asking if I had symptoms. I called her back and said that I had no symptoms, and she said that I was cleared by FLC.

 

The COVID-19 case manager texted me and asked me to complete my daily pre-screening form to receive my daily health pass. She said that if I received my daily health pass, then it was ok for me to be on campus. 

 

9:55 a.m. I received a notification from the Fort Lewis College app, “Cleared COVID-19 Case.”

 

I completed my daily pre-screening form and received my health pass, but I was worried because SJB Public Health said that I could not leave isolation until midnight.

 

The COVID-19 case manager reassured me that it was ok for me to be on campus, but said that I could wait for SJB Public Health to clear me if I wanted to.

 

Then, a woman from SJB Public Health called and said that I was cleared by SJB Public Health. I explained that a man called Feb. 11 and said that their records said that I started experiencing symptoms on Feb. 2, so I had to isolate until Feb. 12 at midnight, but she said there was a mistake. I was free to leave isolation!

 

Reflection

Before this experience, I thought that if I do my part, if I monitor my health, schedule an appointment to be tested and share the names of my friends and the small businesses that I exposed, that FLC and SJB Public Health would do their part.

 

My roommate, Peyton and other friends said that after I tested positive, they never received a notification from FLC, SJB Public Health or Exposure Notifications. The boy that I’m seeing said that a week after I tested positive, he received a notification from Exposure Notifications.

 

Rene Klotz, director of the FLC student Health Center, said that if a student tests positive for COVID-19, they will be contacted via the FLC app and by a case manager. 

 

She said that a case manager will do contact tracing, and call the student and ask who they have been in contact with in the last two days. The case manager will contact all of the students who have been exposed.

 

“That’s the only way to stop the virus,” she said. 

 

I told Klotz that I received a call and I told the man the names of my friends who I had been in contact with in the last 14 days, but that none of my friends received a notification from FLC or SJB Public Health. 

 

“I’m not sure how that happened,” she said, and offered to start an investigation. 

 

I also told her that FLC and SJB Public Health did not agree on when my last day of isolation would be. I asked her how FLC and SJB Public Health communicate.

 

She asked me if I tested off-campus or on-campus, and I said that I tested on-campus.

 

She asked, “but San Juan Basin called you?” I said yes and that they called me a few times. Then, she put me on hold. 

 

After about ten minutes, she said that I was contacted by Smith. I agreed, but said that they called me a few more times too.

 

She said that Jlyn Lewis, the COVID-19 specialist, was going to ask Smith what happened.

 

Klotz gave me her contact information and said that I should contact her. I contacted Lewis, but she declined to be interviewed.

 

These events caused a lot of stress and sadness. I lost faith in FLC and SJB Public Health, but I gained faith in my community due to the amount of messages, care packages and support that I received from my friends, family, professors and mentors.

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