Yesterday we finally got the good news we’ve been waiting for. After almost a month, my wife’s COVID test finally came back negative. She’s getting better.
Our entire household is fully vaxxed. That’s why I’ve been testing negative all month and why the Slacktivixen’s bout with the disease wasn’t severe.
That’s not to say it’s been easy. She was extremely fatigued for weeks, unable to do much more than sleep for 12 or 16 hours every day. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks in, when this fatigue was first starting to subside a bit, that she developed the weird hallmark symptom of this disease, losing her ability to taste or smell food. (That became a running joke here, since even though everything tastes like nothing, she still refuses to eat my cooking.) But we’re grateful that she never experienced a fever, or a cough, or any of the respiratory problems we feared might be worsened by her asthma.
The day she first tested positive she texted me and I was sent home from work. I went out to buy a bunch of the Abbott labs tests pictured above, tested negative, and went back to work for my next shift.
Here’s the weird and irresponsible corporate part of all of this. The Big Box required me to get that first test — at my own expense — and wouldn’t allow me to return to work until I tested negative. But that was it. They didn’t require any further testing, even though I’ve been living with someone with COVID for the past month. I did find one hard-to-find page on the company website that “encouraged” me to continue getting tested every three-to-five days, but it wasn’t something they required, and certainly wasn’t something they offered to pay for. (And, as far as I could tell, my vaccination status didn’t matter either way.)
So I’ve been testing myself every five days or so for the past month, at $12.50 a pop, just because it seemed recklessly irresponsible to be around our customers and my co-workers without doing that. I could manage the expense of that, but it was still a financial incentive to be irresponsible. And that financial incentive looms larger when you’re in a situation where, by definition, your household income is reduced. (The state of Colorado makes the at-home test kits available free for every resident. Pennsylvania, like most states, does not.)
That’s the other weird and irresponsible corporate part of this. The folks who own the salon where my wife has worked for more than 20 years were paying full wages for any employee who tested positive for COVID. They were doing that — up through September 30. So my wife got paid for the first week, and she’s been on unemployment for all of October.
She goes back to work tomorrow. I guess that makes sense, right? She’s fully vaccinated, as are all of her co-workers and every customer she’ll see. And the contagious period for people with COVID is apparently over for her. But it still seems like a weird departure from the “abundance of caution” we’ve heard so much about throughout the pandemic. Like me going to work every day in a crowded store for the past month, it makes me uneasy.
The bottom line, of course, is that — like most American households — we can’t afford an “abundance of caution.” We’ve got bills to pay and so we have to go to work. And nearly all of the supports and safeguards put in place to allow an abundance of caution were abandoned by our employers and our governments earlier this year.
My wife’s HR rep reached out to her today before her return to work tomorrow. That conversation wasn’t about the health protocols for post-COVID employees or about the safety of my wife, her co-workers, or their customers. It was about the payroll deductions she owes for the three-and-a-half weeks in which she wasn’t getting a paycheck, and the amount she’ll have to pay back, now, out of pocket, to ensure that the health insurance she gets through work continues uninterrupted.
That’s what brings us to the fundraising, money-begging portion of this post. Because the thing about money deducted from money you didn’t get is that you haven’t got it.
As always, when we haven’t got it, we’re reminded of the many, many others who haven’t got it far worse than us. Many, many people need your help more than we do, and if you can help them first, or help them instead, that’s a Good Thing all the way around. But we’re short right now, and if you’re also willing and able to help us, we’d be immensely grateful. Here’s a paypal link for donations.
Back to the bigger picture, all of this business with our employers is disturbing and not-at-all unique to us. Whether it’s one of the world’s largest retailers or a small chain of small businesses, employers ought to be required and incentivized to handle this pandemic better than they’re doing. And governments should be doing more so (as they were, if only spastically, earlier in the pandemic) so that it doesn’t fall entirely to private employers to act responsibly here.
It’s still intolerable and inexcusable that every household in America isn’t receiving a monthly pandemic package that includes a box of masks and a bundle of Binax. And it’s frustrating and enraging that we’ve gotten so used to polarizing and pointless arguments about “big government vs. small government” that we’ve been lulled into accepting complacent and incompetent government as the norm.
I’m sure that Sen. Warren has a plan that would constructively address all of the failures of government illustrated by our experience over the past month (and the past 18 months). But I’m also sure that people like Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell and whoever’s funding them also have plans to make sure that such plans are never allowed to be implemented.
But set that aside for the moment. The big news here remains the same: My wife is getting better. So let me bracket the rage and the need for now and just celebrate that. It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.