I got COVID and all I got out of it was this lousy blog post

Posted on April 20, 2022

After avoiding it for over two years I tested positive for COVID on a rapid antigen test on Thursday, 2022-04-14.

My symptoms began on Tuesday the 12th and came on quickly. They were “mild”, which means I didn’t go to the hospital, but doesn’t mean much otherwise. Shortly before going to bed my throat began to feel a bit uncomfortable. I woke up at 5am on the 13th with daggers in my throat — the worst sore throat of my life. I was able to get back to sleep after taking a lozenge; when I woke up a few hours later, fatigue had set in and the daggers had returned. We didn’t have any rapid tests at this point but since I hadn’t gone out without a P100 respirator in months, and the symptoms matched up, it was pretty clear that this was the most contagious virus in human history.

After banging out a few emails postponing meetings, explaining I wouldn’t be able to meet deadlines, and cancelling plans to see family outdoors for Easter, I retired to the couch to drink water, sleep intermittently and feel miserable. Around this point I developed a high fever (qualitatively — we don’t have a thermometer) and a severe headache. Looking at screens strained my eyes so I passed some time by finishing Andreas Malm’s How to Blow Up a Pipeline, which I had started reading the night before. It was an inspiring read but I unfortunately didn’t feel up to blowing up much of anything. My fatigue had rapidly worsened. By afternoon, when I got up to use the washroom, the effort of walking a few steps made me feel like I was going to pass out, and when I made it back and lay down again, my ears were popping and my head was swimming. My partner made me food, brought me water, snacks, and medicine, took care of my share of the chores, and regularly checked my SpO2, which thankfully remained above 95 throughout, with a pulse oximeter.

That night I stayed on the couch while my partner slept in our room, our futile attempt to prevent her from getting it despite living in a small one-bedroom apartment. I hardly slept. I was able to sleep for about an hour at a time, after which I would wake up with excruciating throat pain, drink some water, and desperately try to sleep again. This cycle repeated itself about seven or eight times until the sun rose again.

The next day, 2022-04-14, a friend dropped off some rapid tests, which confirmed what we already knew; the line indicating I was positive showed up almost immediately. Over the course of that day, my fatigue and fever eased, but my throat was still raw and my head was still throbbing, and now my nose was congested. I was still unable to work or spend time focusing on a screen, and that night passed much the same as the last.

By Friday, 2022-04-15, I still felt like garbage but my sore throat was beginning to improve, and I was able to spend some time over the weekend reading, playing Elden Ring, and getting a bit of work done that couldn’t wait much longer. By Monday 2022-04-18, my sore throat was finally what I would call “mild” and I was able to spend about 4 hours working, though I had begun to develop a cough. Today, 2022-04-20, I still don’t feel ‘normal’ — I’m coughing, sneezing and congested — but I’m largely able to work as if I am, though my symptoms are still distracting. I have my fingers crossed I’ll fully recover soon, hopefully without too much brain shrinkage or other long COVID symptoms. Despite our attempts to isolate from each other and mask up while at home, my partner has begun to develop symptoms, so it looks like it’s my turn to take care of her.

This experience has made me really angry. I’m angry that I got COVID despite everything I did to try to avoid it, and I’m angry that the government has just decided everyone is going to get this disease. I’m fully vaccinated, including my booster, and COVID knocked me completely out of commission for almost a week. Booster uptake in Toronto for those 18+ is currently only 59% and even this protection is waning, with several jurisdictions already authorizing fourth doses for immunocompromised people. And this is not a one-and-done deal, as “natural” immunity wanes in the months following infection — Omicron reinfections have already been observed — and the unfettered spread of the virus is breeding more and more immune-evasive variants as I write this.

I’ve thought about where I could have gotten COVID and my best guess is that it was airborne transmission from the hallway or through our building’s ventilation system, both of which are documented vectors of transmission. (The mask requirement in our building was lifted on 2022-03-21.) As I noted above, I’ve worn an elastomeric respirator with P100 filters every time I exited my apartment for months, the same is true of my partner, and we both passed pressure checks indicating that our seals were solid. What we neglected was ventilation. While we have a small air purifier for our bedroom, it’s insufficient to clean the air in our entire apartment. We’ll be working to improve that going forward by building a Corsi-Rosenthal box or two to improve the air change rate.

The idea of experiencing symptoms like this again, possibly multiple times a year for the foreseeable future, is a nightmare. Even though I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, having to drop everything in my life for a week due to being incapable of functioning independently was far more disruptive than not being able to dine in at restaurants, having to wear a mask at the grocery store, or any of the other bugbears of those advocating we embrace the Beyblade strategy, pretend COVID is over, and let it rip. And that’s saying nothing about the potential long term consequences.

Once was enough. We’ll be redoubling our efforts to ensure we don’t get this again. It’s too bad the government keeps actively working against us in doing so.