Testing positive for Coronavirus, or Covid, in October 2020, was an odd experience. The oddest thing, however, was other people’s reactions.
Should I get tested?
My position on Coronavirus is at the “take no risks, keep two metres away from everyone, wear a mask, wash and disinfect your hands” end of the spectrum. I go to great lengths to avoid infection, and to avoid infecting others in case I have the virus without knowing it. I open windows, take my temperature, and avoid unnecessary meetings.
But I have a job that involves meeting people. Several times over the Coronavirus crisis, I have had a temperature, or other Covid-Type symptoms. In every case, these have gone away after a day or two.
On one occasion a couple of months ago, after two days of a high temperature, I was concerned enough to get tested. The result came back negative.
This week, my partner Gözde tested positive for Coronavirus. I called the Austrian Health Ministry number for advice. They said if I had symptoms, it was probably best to take a test. I didn’t really have symptoms. Since I often interact with others, though, I thought it was right to get tested.
Testing positive for Coronavirus: the gargle test
Taking the test was interesting. In Austria one of the methods is the “gargle test”. You take a test-tube of salty water in your mouth, gargle for 30 seconds, then spit the resulting mixture back into the tube (they give you a short straw to help you hit the target).
Testing positive for Coronavirus: the results
After two days I called the number in Vienna, a part of the city administration called MA 15. A helpful and efficient-sounding person told me I’d tested negative. Hooray!
The following day I was minding my own business when another helpful and efficient-sounding person called me from MA15 to say I’d tested positive. I said MA15 had told me I was negative. She went away to check. Nope, she said, positive. So I’m now in quarantine.
I have no idea where I could have been infected.
Testing positive: the good news
The good news is that I have had few, if any, symptoms. Nor have any of the people with whom I’ve been in contact in the past week – all with social distancing – all of whom I’ve phoned. Some later took tests – all were negative. I am hoping the risk of my having passed it on is slight, although you can never be sure.
That’s the main thing. I’m healthy – so far at least – and enormously grateful for that. I’m conscious that many people suffer far worse.
Testing positive: the bad news
It’s a bit of a shock to be told you have tested positive for coronavirus. I felt a sense of disbelief (having heard the day before I was Covid-free didn’t help). The next feeling was disorientation. Some friends of mine who have had the virus have been hospitalised, or had severe symptoms over a long period; others have spent two to five days in bed; others have had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. No wonder people are confused – you don’t know what to expect.
What I found most surprising was the attitude of other people. I had heard this from others who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Some people – particularly family and close friends – are alarmed and concerned on your behalf. They are eager to know how you feel, and how the recovery is going.
Others, however, focus immediately on the practical. How did you catch it? Could you have passed it on? There is almost a sense of blame, or judgement, and – most disconcerting – an urge to tell you how to behave. It is as if the person who has tested positive has done something wrong; or has put them personally at risk.
Perhaps this is not surprising. People are, consciously or unconsciously, scared. When they hear that you have a potentially deadly infectious disease, their first thought is not: “how are you?” It is “what does this mean?” or “am I at risk?”
Testing positive for Coronavirus: conclusion
If someone tells you they’ve tested positive, treat them with sympathy, as you would for any other illness.
What comes after Coronavirus?
If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to recently in my spare time, you may like to check out my satirical speculative thriller, Eternal Life. Click on the picture below for an Amazon link. Or if you are in Vienna the excellent Shakespeare & Company has it in stock – please support them!
For other thoughts on Coronavirus, you may enjoy the following posts:
- The Overton window and how to move it: the example of Coronavirus;
- How to cope with uncertainty during the Coronavirus pandemic;
- Coronavirus Vienna (with 36 pictures you never saw before);
- George Eliot epigrams: why Middlemarch is the book for Coronavirus; or
- “Vintage Season” – a story for a coronavirus outbreak.