Observations on SLOWING THE SPREAD

We have had an interesting couple days. On Sunday morning I had three children complain of sore throats. Since then I have rode the roller-coaster of wondering whether they could possibly have gotten THE VIRUS. Could we be CONTAGIOUS? My husband is still working and we wondered what we should do about him going to work if there was a possibility we were actually SICK. 

 

I spoke to the nurse for our insurance’s call line. She said there was no way of knowing whether we had strep, flu, covid-19 or some other virus. We waited 24hrs. My husband took a day off work. In that time one kid got completely better, another kid developed a cough to go with her sore throat and the other had a fever to go with her sore throat. I looked on our county’s Health Department Website and it said if you suspect you are sick, call your doctor.  I called our Pediatrician’s office and spoke to the nurse. Yes, she said, those could be possible early signs of the covid-19, but all they could do at their office was rule out flu and strep. If I wanted, I could go visit a walk-in clinic to rule out strep and flu instead of visiting my pediatrician who is located at UT hospital. I asked her what she thought about my husband going to work if we didn’t know what our kids had. She had no answer. I asked if there was any protocol we were supposed to follow. She said, if you are sick stay home. But as far as other family members who are working? Well, that’s your own call. 

 

I went back to the Health Department’s Website. They had a phone number you could call. I called and they said that they were looking specifically for fever and cough or fever and shortness of breath. Wheww. We didn’t have that specific combination. All was well. 

 

Then later that day I asked my daughter how she was doing and she said she was feeling achy all over and her chest was tight and she needed to use her inhaler. Great. Now we had more symptoms and they were the ones the Health Department had said they were looking for. (The other daughter’s symptoms had turned into something that was obviously allergies.)

 

Now it was Tuesday morning. My husband took another day off work. I had checked on my daughter several times during the night, taking her temperature, but I realized that the thermometer that I had bought at the store (the very last thermometer in the store) was not working. It consistently was saying that each person I checked had a temperature of 96 degrees. Good grief. 

 

I called the Health Department number and told them my daughter’s symptoms and her history with asthma. The lady on the phone said we should probably get tested. She asked what insurance we had (State Health Insurance) and she gave me the name of three walk-in clinics we could visit and their phone number. I called each walk-in clinic and all three said they did not accept our state insurance. One of them said that my pediatrician could probably give me a referral to a place that could test. So, I hung up and called my pediatrician again. I spoke to the receptionist who makes appointments and she said I had to talk to the nurse to schedule sick appointments and sent me to a voicemail where I had to listen to a 5 minute long message before I could leave my information. 

 

We finally got an appointment scheduled, drove to the hospital, went through a checkpoint where my daughter was handed a face mask and we were given name tags to show we had been screened. We walked through the nearly empty halls to our Pediatrician’s office and got checked in, being very careful to touch NOTHING. After the nurse had collected the samples she needed to test for flu and strep, I talked to the Nurse Practitioner. She explained that they could test for covid-19 but it would take 14 days to get the test results back and our entire family would need to self-isolate while we waited for those test results. It was up to me, did I want to get her tested? Yikes. We sat and stared at each other. What a crazy predicament. She knew it was crazy. I knew it was crazy.

 

My question is, how on earth are we supposed to be containing the spread of this virus when we apparently have so little tools to do so? When you read about the steps they took in Wuhan, China to stamp out the spread, and then compare it to what we are doing, we have no right to be amazed that our numbers have already exceeded those of China. Here in the US, the average citizen isn’t sure how to proceed if they get sick, and there doesn’t seem to be any organized system to get answers. If you are prepared to get on the phone and track down answers, you will eventually find out what you need. But there are a lot of people who would struggle to do that. People who don’t have internet access to look up the info they need, or don’t have phone service, or don’t have a personal doctor they can call. These aren’t made up people. I know them personally. 

 

And then, when you throw money into the equation: you can get tested and automatically miss two weeks of work, or you can just hope that you don’t actually have the virus and keep working…It is not an easy decision to make. And for some people, that decision will mean the difference between having food to eat, keeping phone service, starting the long downhill slide into eviction…There is very little motivation to get tested or self-isolate. 

 

The good news is that my daughter has Strep Throat. For which we are rejoicing. 🙂 I can treat that. My husband can go to work without worrying about spreading it around. I know how to deal with strep. (I do have to ask, how on earth did a kid, who has only seen four people besides her family in the past month, get strep?) 

 

I have to admit though, I’m not feeling a lot of confidence in our ability to slow the spread. 

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