An unexpected positive COVID-19 test changed a lot of plans for my family last week. We are very glad that it did. Home testing worked exactly as it should. Thank you, science.
That weekend, we planned to attend a gathering of former classmates, a group of friends for more than 40 years. We had not seen each other for 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 gathering was impossible. We were really looking forward to the event. We did not attend.
We love to watch my 11-year-old granddaughter play soccer. That weekend, we stayed home from her games.
Walking my 6-year-old granddaughter to school is a high point of the week for my wife and me. We didn’t do it last week.
We didn’t stay home because we are fearful of going out in the latest COVID surge. We aren’t afraid of encountering someone without a mask. We are fully vaccinated, and we trust the science. Although our isolation is based on that positive COVID-19 test, we weren’t staying home because we were too sick to participate in these activities. I’ll say it again: We are vaccinated, and the vaccines work.
We stayed home because we chose to limit the risk to others. Knowing that the social gathering would consist entirely of people over the age of 70, several with health conditions that add to their vulnerability, we chose to self-test at home prior to attending. Although the positive test was unexpected (we had dismissed the scratchy throats and headache as seasonal allergies), having this information kept us from unknowingly exposing our vulnerable friends to infection.
As a consequence, we also avoided exposing our friends on the sidelines of the soccer game, as well as our unvaccinated 6-year-old granddaughter, her unvaccinated baby sister, and her mother with leukemia.
It’s easy to be consumed by anger at what others are or are not doing to end the pandemic, but anger won’t change those behaviors. Home testing is an opportunity for concrete action to protect those around us from infection.
Admittedly, home tests are not cheap, and they are not covered by insurance. Like too many aspects of our health care system, that means that they are not equitably available to all who need them. But there are plans underway to improve that access, and in the meantime those of us with access to tests 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 physician residing in Fairway. Until his retirement in 2014, he was chief of staff at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. The opinions here are his own and do not represent the Department of Veterans Affairs.