I tested positive for Covid . . . I think

The virus can defeat even the best defenses
Keeping calm and carrying on. Photo: GEM PHOTOGRAPHY

It’s a distinct feeling, one of shock where your heart stops, it feels impossible to catch your breath, and the whole room goes blurry. Only a few times have I experienced this, and they are moments not easily forgotten. I had one on a recent morning when I received a phone alert my Covid test results were ready, and after opening the app saw I had tested positive. 

In an abundance of caution, my husband and I had decided to get tested before spending some extended time with my in-laws. We thought this would make us all feel better, and we had been careful and extremely cautious since the beginning of the pandemic, so never did I expect to test positive. The only silver lining was it had already been 10 days when I got the results and I did not have any symptoms, so I did not need to isolate or self-quarantine.


I immediately arranged a video call with my doctor to answer the hundreds of questions swirling in my head of how and why and what now. I had been washing my hands, wearing a mask, socially distancing, and sheltering in place, so how could this happen? The lab sheet indicated the date the swab was taken was four days after my appointment, so there was a moment of hope this was a terrible mistake. Although the doctor confirmed the date had been inputted incorrectly, there was less than a one percent chance the results were a mistake — there are no false positives for Covid tests, only for antibody tests.

I was tested in downtown San Francisco and my swab was sent to North Carolina with a date that was four days off. This wasn’t instilling a lot of confidence in my results. Daily I hear or read a story about lab errors and testing problems. My sister’s friend received an email with a positive result without having taken the test. Clearly, our testing is problematic, and it shouldn’t be in a country with our technological advances. 


I thought it was bad when my kids had lice and I had to tell their friends and the school. It was embarrassing and a bit shameful. This felt worse. The doctor suggested I encourage everyone I had been in contact with in the past 10 days when not wearing a mask or socially distanced to get tested as soon as possible. Luckily, because of our caution, this list wasn’t long: my parents, in-laws, sisters, and a few close friends. I am grateful everyone was understanding and equally shocked. For many I was the first person they knew personally who had tested positive, so for everyone the virus and its effects were hitting closer to home. 

My stomach was in knots awaiting the results of our loved ones’ tests. Adding to the anxiety was we still had not received my husband’s results, although we both tested at the same time and place. We had conversations I never imagined about what if he developed symptoms or what if one of us had to quarantine with one of the kids away from everyone else. 

After 10 days and many restless nights, we learned my husband, the kids, and everyone around us tested negative and no one had symptoms. We are fortunate; this pandemic has not been as kind to many other families. This is not lost on us, and we continue to count our blessings.


When I shared with a friend feelings of having failed after doing everything right — avoiding large groups, not traveling, and always wearing a mask — he offered a different perspective: “I think you got the Willy Wonka golden ticket.” It sure didn’t feel that way for the first 48 hours, but this comment forced me to think about the situation differently.

From the beginning, many have felt a lot of fear and anxiousness about this virus. Getting it is what I had been most afraid of. In a strange way the positive result allowed me a sense of relief — I had it but I was O.K., feeling good, actually stronger and healthier than I have felt in a long time — and my pod had tested negative and wasn’t showing any symptoms. This was possibly the best-case scenario. 

There will still probably always be a little doubt about the testing and whether there was a lab error, but because everyone around me tested negative it doesn’t change my behavior. It has just made me that much more sympathetic to those who test positive and what they are going through, many with severe symptoms. This is a terrible, ugly virus, one we still know so little about. I hope we are able to improve our testing capabilities and quickly find a vaccine. 

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