Hello! It’s been quite a week. The past 24 hours especially have been crazy. And yes, I did get the swab up my nose and an antibody test to boot. Here’s what happened:
I’ve mentioned on the blog before that my day job is a food scientist and that I’m able to work from home on some days, currently splitting my time between lab/office work and working from home on days when I can. As a salaried employee at my company, I felt extremely grateful for the abilities to work from home when possible. I also have been enjoying my in-office days because I was still able to see my team face-to-face, to chat with people other than my boyfriend, and to curve the boredom and loneliness that comes with working from home full-time. I’ve been loving the flexibility of hours as well – taking some morning calls and rolling into the office at 10:30 was never questioned. Leaving at 3:00 because I wanted to was also fine. Considering the pre-Covid culture in my workplace was a very conservative, “if you’re not in the office, you’re not working” attitude, the new flexibility has been really great. Until it became a huge problem.
We have been keeping track of everyone’s in-office/work from home days on an Excel file, but never actually regulated the amount of people in the office. Some days, 90% of us would be there. Usually it was around half, but often times more than that. People would do lab work, in person tastings, take meetings in shared office space, have lunch in shared break room spaces. The office had been re-arranged to accommodate more social distancing, we all get temperature-checked on the way in, we were all required to wear masks in the office except when eating and drinking (which we do a lot – tasting is a key part of developing new food products), and we were all encouraged to sanitize shared work spaces and practice social distancing when chatting. In addition, our company sent out regular communications about Covid-19 and reducing exposure, encouraged employees all to stay home if feeling sick, sent documents to us to sign to make sure we read and understood the policies. Steps were definitely taken within the company (I’m not trying to drag my employer here) to keep everything as safe as possible. Everything seemed thought through and foolproof. Until it wasn’t.
I worked two days in the office last week, which was my usual minimum. I always went in regardless of if I had lab work to do or not, because I manage a small team and liked to be available in person if needed. The problem person tended to never work from home during this entire experience, so he was in the office (sick) for that whole week. One day at a time, everyone slowly rotated through, eventually working full days with this person. I noticed on Wednesday that he was coughing consistently at his desk, which prompted me to lock myself in an extra office for the rest of the day. I’m not here to mess with other people’s germs. But we still crossed paths in the hallways, were still breathing the same air all day, etc. Just like everyone else, I was potentially exposed to the virus.
Cut to this Tuesday, another in office day for me, when I noticed that the coughing person was not in the office, and had marked “work from home” on our tracker. Oh no. By Wednesday it came out that he had tested positive for Covid-19, and after confirming that we had all contacted him in one way or another throughout the past week, many HR calls, concerns that his immediate team had been working all this week and potentially spreading it more, the decision was finally made that we all needed to get tested before coming back to work. Awesome.
Have you ever had a weird dream that you are in a doctor’s waiting room, and one by one your coworkers keep showing up? That’s what yesterday was like, but in real life. It was very bizarre, and not the type of team-building activity that I was looking for (can’t we just do a virtual happy hour on Zoom like everyone else?). We were required to get both the blood test for the antibodies and the nose swab, so nothing better than seeing your coworkers come out with multiple cotton balls taped to their arms after blood work.
The actual test for me was way worse than I expected. They did the blood work first (not awesome, because I do terribly with blood tests). I was dizzy after they pulled the one vial (yes, I’m a complete wimp) so I was already not feeling great when it came time for the nose swab. The nose swab is very uncomfortable, they shove it up so far that it feels like they are poking your brain. But, it’s only for a few seconds, and yes, they do both nostrils. It’s not awesome, and you feel like your nose is bleeding for an hour or so after it’s done. But, it’s important for successful tracking of this virus, so please don’t let this deter you from getting tested if you need it.
After I got home, I showered immediately, and left my shoes and bag out in the garage. I gargled with mouthwash too. The waiting room was full of sick people and I was there for a total of 2 ½ hours. Needless to say, I felt very gross after. Now that I’m all cleaned up, I’ve settled into self-quarantine life. I’m only 24 hours in and I already hate it (I like doing things, I’ve never been good at sitting around the house all day). I’ve had some follow up meetings and have been working with my team on how to structure our lab work better so we all don’t get wiped out again in the future. Projects are now going to be behind, and we’re all stuck at home until we get the all clear. I’m hopeful that we use this time at home to make our in-office time better and safer for everyone. I still have no symptoms of Covid-19 and I highly doubt that I tested positive (that would be interesting if I’m one of those asymptomatic people though, which is why I’m self-quarantining until I get the test results back).
This all happened because one person came to work sick for an entire week. Chances are he ran errands outside of work as well. If you are sick in any capacity (Covid symptoms or not), please stay home. If you think you have been exposed, please get tested and self-quarantine if you can. If you work from home and are so tired of all of the Zooming – I get it, but please remember you are in a much safer position than the rest of us who do need to physically work with others. Again, I want to recognize that my work structure is far safer than anyone on the front lines of this disease and who put themselves in danger for the rest of us, especially all of those nurses who had to swab my whole teams’ noses to make sure we were all okay. While there are definite improvements and changes that need to be made in my office, other people out there don’t have that option, and I appreciate that so much more today.
So please, wear a mask, exercise proper social distancing, and stay home – especially if you are sick. Whatever you feel like you have to do out in the world is far less important than impacting the safety and lives of others around you. Be aware that we are all in this together, and things are only getting worse which is sad to watch. People do die from this disease, and I would not like to take any chances that person would be me. I hoped my story helped personalize this pandemic for some of you, to make it seem a little more real and that it can happen to anyone. I’ll keep you posted on results if anyone cares to know, and will write an update if anything else interesting develops.
Have a nice weekend and stay safe out there, friends! Back to more quarantine cooking adventure posts to come soon!