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Go Home, You’re Sick

“Hey, I feel like my throat is a bit sore.”

Thus began my four-day, anxiety-ridden quarantine streak.

It was a pretty normal day at work. I was helping customers, bagging their purchases, and recommending them headphones. About halfway into my shift, however, I began to feel a tickle in my throat. This soon evolved into an irritation that wormed its way into my words and made the edges of my thought tinge with nerves.

I told one of my managers, and he told me to go on my break. If I wasn’t feeling better by the time my break ended, I would have to go home.

I went upstairs and ate my lunch, drank some water, and messaged my parents to tell them about the situation. Half an hour came and went, and my throat felt no better. I looked at it in the mirror, and sure enough, it looked like something was swollen and irritated.

I put my jacket on, bought some cough candies and some Tylenol in preparation, and informed my manager that I was going home.

I had to get another COVID test.

Having already had my brain swabbed once by that infernal q-tip, I was not excited to have to do it again. But, regardless, it had to be done. I bundled up my courage and headed to the hospital.

The first time I had the test done, this was where I had to come. So naturally, I did not realize that the hospital had stopped testing for the general public and had begun reserving it for patients with critical conditions only. The first nurse at the door smiled and let me in. The second scowled at me a little and informed me I had to get the testing done at the COVID testing unit that had been set up. Feeling a little ashamed, I walked outside and tried to figure out where I was meant to get my test done, when the second nurse came out with a pamphlet and told me to call the number on the back, that they would book an appointment for me. I thanked her, but I forgot to apologize for going to the hospital instead of the testing facility.

Either way, I had to call the number. I waited on hold for an hour, messaging my parents back and forth, before I decided that was enough and I would try later. I had a long drive ahead, I was tired, I was anxious, and I was scared.

The next day, I woke up feeling worse. My head hurt, my throat hurt, and I felt a little nauseous. Luckily, I got a callback from the COVID testing unit and asked me to come in at nine in the morning for my test. Equally fortunate was that I didn’t have to do the nasal swab, since the mouthwash test had been opened up to the general public. Unfortunately, it meant I couldn’t eat for an hour before my test.

It was ten minutes to eight.

I hastily drank a giant cup of hot chocolate and hoped that would be okay. I was hungry and tired, I needed something in my stomach to help me through the drive into town.

The test itself was uneventful. I watched an informative video about the test before going in so that I had an idea of what I had to do. Swish and gargle, three times each. Don’t swallow it. Don’t spit it out until you’re done. Seemed simple enough.

And it was, really. The only thing that made the test difficult was the saltiness of the solution itself.

Then I went home, locked myself in my room, and waited.

It was the waiting that made everything worse. Every day stretches out as you stare at the corners of your confinement area, scrolling aimlessly through your phone. Friends are working and can’t message you back. Parents have to stay out of the room for their own safety. Games hold no enjoyment. All this, combined with growing nausea that haunted me hourly, made every day of my short quarantine stretch and twist itself in my head, drawing out my anxiety.

By the third day, I was beginning to feel better. The soreness in my throat was gone, there was no more headache, but the nausea still made my head spin every time I moved. It was pretty much gone by the end of the day.

Then, finally, midday Friday. The text notification sound from my phone. “COVID-19 test results for MONIQUE G is NEGATIVE.” It was a relief. I didn’t have COVID. I was all better.

I could finally walk out of my room without fear. I could finally sleep without thoughts racing through my head.

The next day, I went back to work.

COVID has changed many parts of our daily lives. Where a simple cold used to be a one or two-day event of little importance, now must be treated with all the seriousness of a life-threatening disease. These days, it could very well be one.

This is the third time this year I’ve had to self-isolate because of this pandemic. I consider myself fortunate, given where I work, and the number of people I interact with daily, that I have not caught it yet. So, if you feel sick…

Go home. Please. For the safety of everyone around you. The people who serve you, your coworkers, your friends, your family. Even if you just have a mild tickle in your throat that feels out of place.

As much as it sucks, as long as it can take, as anxiety-inducing as it can be… it’s better than the alternative.

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