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Friday February 26th 2021

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Feeling Sick and Uncertain

Tales from a Covid-19 Case Investigator

By LINDSEY FENNER

More information on vaccines: https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/index.jsp

 We recently had a COVID scare in our house. I wanted to share a little bit about that experience, because even though I have had hundreds of conversations about how to cope with COVID isolation, I still felt uncertain and unprepared. I needed help to figure out what to do. 

I woke up on a Monday morning feeling sick: aches, chills, fatigue, headache, a low-grade fever, and a cough. None of these symptoms is specific to COVID. It might have been a severe cold or the flu, but to be safe, I had to assume it was COVID and act accordingly. 

The first thing I had to think through was how to get tested. It was snowing that day and I wasn’t feeling up to driving to a testing site. My partner doesn’t drive, and I didn’t want anyone else to risk exposure by giving me a ride. So I ordered a no-cost at-home test through the State of MN and Vault Health here: https:// learn.vaulthealth.com/state-of-minnesota/ 

I started to mentally go through some of the interview questions I had asked so many times doing my job: where I might have gotten COVID from? and more importantly, was anyone else besides my partner potentially exposed? 

I had to have a conversation with my partner about isolation and quarantine. If it was COVID, I would have been able to spread the virus two days BEFORE I started to feel sick. The people most at risk to get infected from someone with COVID are the people you live with. This meant both of us needed to stay home: I in isolation because I was potentially infected, and he in quarantine because he was potentially exposed. We canceled or rescheduled all appointments for the next few weeks. We also couldn’t leave to get things like groceries, prescriptions, or cat food. 

Because I would potentially be infectious for 10 days after my symptoms started, I knew I might need to stay home for at least 10 days. But we also needed to decide how I could isolate from my partner in our house. Our home is small, and we only have one bedroom and one bathroom. In the moment, it didn’t seem possible for us to stay in separate parts of the house. So we didn’t even try, something I would do differently next time. 

My test took a little longer to arrive than I expected. I ordered it on Monday morning and it didn’t arrive until Wednesday night. The State of MN home COVID tests are saliva tests that need to be done under supervision through an internet video call. I logged on and completed my test by spitting in a tube for about 10 minutes. Then I had to figure out how to return the test to the UPS drop box. I didn’t want to put anyone at additional risk by entering a building, so a neighbor dropped the test off for me (thanks Matt!). 

I finally got my test results on Friday night and I tested negative! But because I still had symptoms and because there was a small chance the test was a false negative, I decided to stay home for the full 10 days. 

In some ways, I had it easy: I work from home and don’t have any caregiving responsibilities. But it was still stressful. I was worried about my own health and I didn’t want to get anyone else sick. I wanted every decision to be the right one. So, if you think you have COVID and you’re not sure what to do, ask for help. You don’t need to figure this out on your own. 

STATE OF MINNESOTA COVID HELPLINE: 

For questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, call 651-297-1304 or 1-800-657- 3504 

Mon.-Fri.: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS LINE 

Call: **CRISIS (**274747) 

COVID COMMUNITY COORDINATORS: 

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES): 651-768-0000, Mon – Friday 8:30 am to 5pm; Saturday 10:00 am to 2:00 pm (Spanish) 

Cultural Wellness Center: 612-249-9528, Monday – Friday 24 hours; On call weekends (English) 

Division of Indian Work: 651-304-9986, Monday – Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (English) 

WellShare International: 

612-254-7308 (Somali/English) 

651-318-0051 (Spanish) 

763-312-6362 (Oromo) Mon-Fri 8:00 am to 8:00 pm; On call evenings/weekends: English, Oromo, Spanish, Somali 

Lindsey lives in East Phillips and has been working a reassignment as a COVID-19 Case Investigator for local public health since May. She is tired but hopeful. Her opinions are her own. 

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