Final Day of Quarantine

by Philip Shucet

Since the beginning of the year I’ve driven through fifteen states from Florida to Iowa and have been around tens-of-thousands of people to photograph political rallies. Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in every one of those states.

On Monday, March 9, I came down with chills and a fever of over 101. These weren’t just chills. These were uncontrollable shivers that sent shock waves through my body. Even in bed with three sets of quilts over me, I couldn’t keep my body still.

My doctor sent me to the Emergency Room. The fever was confirmed. Flu swab was taken. Blood was drawn. That’s all I’ll say about the ER visit. After four hours, my wife, an on-duty nurse, and I concluded that leaving the ER was less risky than staying. So we left.

First thing Tuesday morning my doctor had me in her office for a battery of tests. Fever normal. Flu test negative. Strep test negative. Chest x-ray clear. All good news. Except there were still those unexplained symptoms experienced on Monday. The conclusion was that I lay low for the next 48 hours.

Then Wednesday evening we heard the report that Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive. Two of Wilson’s symptoms were sudden chills and a fever that “came and went.” Then there were two NBA players with the same symptoms sequence. That raised an eyebrow.

On Thursday my doctor and I consulted with the Virginia Department of Health. Because my travel was domestic and because I could not definitely say that I had been in contact with anyone who tested positive, I was not eligible for the coronavirus test. There was no argument that being tested made sense, just the reality that, based on the limited number of tests and the current qualifying protocol, I didn’t meet the requirement.

I was OK with that. There’s good reason for protocols in these situations. The unexplained symptoms from Monday had passed. None had recurred, and no new symptoms had developed.

So, the recommendation of the Virginia Health Department specialist was that I self quarantine through the end of the today Sunday, March 15. I was to continue monitoring myself for the development of any new or recurring symptoms. The thinking was that if no new symptoms developed by Monday, March 16, I was in the clear. That course of action made sense to me.

I had already washed every stitch of clothing I wore on March 9. I wiped down every surface I could think of in the house. I rewashed clothes, sheets and towels. And I wiped down every surface again. Maybe three times. I’ve stayed true to the self quarantine. Lot’s of time for reading and naps. And no symptoms have shown up. Tomorrow, March 16, I’ll confer with my doctor and I expect — I hope — I’ll get an all-clear from her. And then what? Well, I’m not sure. But I do know this.

I’ll have more compassion than I’ve had for the circumstances of others. I’ll do a better job of remembering why it’s important to never assume what someone else’s situation might be. And I’ll remember that at the bottom of a well-placed scare, there’s a hell of a lot to be thankful for.