I become sick and get tested for COVID-19

I was feeling out of sorts on Saturday, and by late afternoon was running a 101-degree fever. My head pounded and my throat ached. My chest felt a bit tight.

At one time, this would have been only mildly concerning — I’d take a sick day and queue up some Tylenol and bed rest to shake off whatever ailed me.

In the coronavirus age, though, such symptoms are a cause for panic. After all, fevers, headaches and sore throats are COVID-19 indicators.

Fortunately, getting tested for the coronavirus is now pretty straightforward in the Twin Cities. I had to be quickly phone-screened by a nurse who then gave me a number to schedule a COVID test. I also asked for my wife to get tested, since she was exhibiting minor symptoms.

My St. Paul clinic has set up drive-up testing in its parking lot. This process was less of an ordeal than I expected, though it felt a bit dystopian.

Wending our way through a traffic-cone maze Sunday morning, we arrived at a tent where a medical worker confirmed our reservations and stashed a testing kit beneath each of our windshield wipers.

Driving a bit further, we pulled up at a tent where another medical worker in full protective garb awaited us.

Here’s where I braced myself for a swab procedure I’d been led to believe would be a nightmare, with an elongated instrument plunging deep into my nose canal until it was practically bumping against my brain. My reality was less gruesome.

My wife and I quarantined ourselves at home to await the testing results. I was fever-free at that point, leading me to cautiously conclude I just had some kind of ordinary bug.

However, I was haunted by tales of coronavirus sufferers who were only mildly sick at first — but worsened catastrophically and ended up on ventilators often never to recover.

Our tests came back negative.

This was not a big surprise since my wife and I have mostly stayed home since the pandemic began.

I’ve been working 100-percent from my home office for months. I’ve vowed to shun malls, dining rooms, movie theaters, gyms and other public indoor spaces for the foreseeable future, even as these start opening up in the United States. (My wife and I do regularly order takeout at some of our favorite restaurants.)

It has pained me to physically distance myself from friends to a large extent, but this feels necessary.

As an introvert, I am happy to regard my house as a sort of space station within which I derive the bulk of my physical, intellectual and psychological fulfillment. To this end, I have upgraded my residence’s work and play spaces — including a secondary home-office area, just for a variety, and a stationary-bicycle setup upon which I have logged nearly 500 miles while binging “Outlander” and “The West Wing” on a TV I’ve set up in front of the exercycle.

But my wife and I do make regular trips to grocery and hardware stores, and we have been thinking about how to do this more safely. We’ve been a bit careless about social distancing at times. We’re noticing that some stores have lax mask-use policies (we’re looking at you, Home Depot) while others have stricter rules in this regard (thank you, Menards).

Such store visits have caused me enormous stress — which, my wife believes, might have contributed to my becoming sick, thereby aggravating my angst in the most vicious of circles.

At one time, I regarded a cold or the flu as something of a vacation when I could endlessly nap or get caught up on shows or books while giving my recovery the time it needs. Now I seize up in terror at every physical symptom that could be, in my fevered mind, the prelude to a death sentence. Did I mention the stress?

At least it’s a cinch to get tested for COVID-19, which is disturbingly comforting. What a bizarre time this is.

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