It’s theoretically possible that I picked up a cold in the middle of a surge in a highly-transmissible virus that, in people who have been vaccinated and boosted, has exactly the symptoms I have, and started about a week after a possible exposure.

It could happen. [Edit: apparently it did. See the update below.]

But we all know what William of Occam would say about that.

(No, this is not a good time to reread Eifelheim.)

Anyway, we had a possible exposure to Covid-19 last week. With the winter+omicron surge, we couldn’t get any at-home tests at all, let alone enough for three people. So we booked the first drive-through testing appointment we could get, which was still a week out.

We’d already planned a low-key Christmas at home with a family Zoom call, and we haven’t resumed going out places anyway. We’re still doing most of our shopping by store pickup or curbside pickup.

None of us came down with anything over the next week…

But this morning I woke up late, still fatigued, hoarse, with a runny nose and brain fog.

Well, that probably answers that question.

It was a self-administered drive-through test at a pharmacy, the kind where they pass the kit to you through a sliding drawer under a closed window, you swab your nostrils and put the swab in a collection vial, and pass it back through the drawer. Minimal air transfer. There were only two cars ahead of us, but it took almost half an hour to get up to the window (probably because one or both of them were also doing covid tests), and about 15 minutes to check us all in, send the test kits over, do the test, and send it back.

It was late afternoon when we got back. Between lunch and getting back from the test, my senses of taste and smell went wonky. I could barely smell the orange I picked up. I tried a chocolate chip cookie, and each bite started off tasting like a plain cracker, then picked up the chocolate taste as I chewed it.

So, yeah, looks like I’m ringing in the new year with Corona. Here’s hoping I’m the only one of us who gets symptomatic.

In a sense, though, this is the best time it could have hit us over the last two years. The world knows a lot more about how Covid spreads and how to treat it. There are treatments that didn’t exist two years ago. And vaccines! The three of us are all recently vaccinated or boosted, which makes a huge difference in chances of getting a severe case to begin with. Because of that, we’re more likely to have caught the variant that’s good at evading immunity, but comparatively mild when it does. And since we were all exposed at the same time, there’s no point in trying to isolate from each other. One of the lessons we learned when I came down with the flu at the start of all this was that it would be really difficult to properly isolate just one of us in this place.

So, um, happy new year?

Update Jan. 1

All three of our tests came back negative. So I don’t know what I have, but apparently it’s not COVID?

Time to re-apply Occam’s razor with new information.

  • We were all exposed to someone who came down sick the next day.
  • I have symptoms consistent with an Omicron breakthrough infection in someone who has been both vaccinated and boosted.
  • Katie and the kid have both had a few odd things happen that, in retrospect, might be illness-related or might not be.
  • All of us tested negative.

So:

  1. All three tests being false negative seems very unlikely.
  2. Mine could be a false negative, and both of them fought off the virus without noticeable symptoms, and legitimately test negative now.
  3. Or all three tests are accurate and I really did manage to catch something else in the middle of a surging wave of a covid variant matches my symptoms.

Weirdly enough, I’m kind of disappointed. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for almost two years and thought it finally had, and dropped in a way that would do minimal damage to the three of us.

Since I’m definitely sick with something, I’m still going to isolate. Just to be sure.

Update Jan. 6

It turns out the person I caught it from also tested negative for Covid during their illness…and then came down with actual Covid after they recovered. Fortunately they seem to be on the mend from that now too.

That means (a) whatever I caught from them wasn’t Covid and (b) we haven’t been around them in long enough that we don’t have to worry about it having been a Covid exposure too.

Of the two Omicron-variant cases found in the US so far, one of them is a breakthrough case in a patient who hadn’t traveled internationally, but had just been to an anime convention in New York.

With 53,000 people.

That only required attendees to have gotten their first dose of the vaccine.

And struggled with crowding.

Chances are pretty good he’s not the only one who caught it there. A long time spent in a poorly-ventilated indoor crowd is this virus’ ideal environment.

One of the commenters on that article points out that New York Comic Con happened in early October, but had strict mask enforcement and required full vaccination courses for adults or a negative test for kids. I haven’t heard about any outbreak linked to NYCC and it’s been almost 2 months, so either they got lucky or they did something right there.

But one thing’s for sure: If an outbreak is tied to Anime NYC, it needs to be called Omi-Con.

We’ve both gotten our Covid vaccine boosters, and the kid’s had both initial shots now that a dosage has been approved for his age range. No side effects to speak of for either of them, and while I had a day of brain fog, I think that’s just as likely to be because the shoulder I usually sleep on was sore and I couldn’t freaking get to sleep that night.

It’s been interesting to compare the process for each visit, though.

The initial roll-out back in April and May was a long but very efficient queue run by a local health provider, directing patients through the halls of their office to whichever of a dozen rooms was up next.

For the kid’s shots, we went with another local health group that’s been running clinics at local schools after hours for the last few weeks. It was similar, but a lot of the directing was being done by volunteers, and the people administering the shots weren’t staff nurses but drawn from firefighters and the like. They set up check-in tables and partitions and chairs in some of the classrooms, and they made an effort to put the kids at ease. They even had a service dog available for anyone who wanted to hug a dog during their shot. The timing wasn’t as well-arranged, though, and both times we got sent to someone who was still waiting for the next batch of loaded syringes.

For the boosters, we just made appointments at the local CVS pharmacy. It was like getting a flu shot, plus adding the record to the Covid vaccine card.

(Amusing: Between my first and second pass through the scheduler, the CVS website dropped the eligibility question. California had already approved boosters for all adults, but CVS must have had the change ready to go as soon as the CDC’s approval came through. Of course I still had to enter all the same insurance information both times.)

So we’re all up to date on the best biological protection against Covid available!

Just in time to find out whether and how much Omicron can get around it. *sigh*

Remember last year when it was virtually impossible to get hand sanitizer? You couldn’t order it online, you couldn’t order it for an in-store pickup, and stores that had it were limiting how many of those tiny bottles each customer could buy? Breweries and distilleries were stepping in to supplement the supply, but it still wasn’t enough.

I mean, I don’t like to leave my camera visible in the car when I park, but for a while, I was more worried about leaving a two-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer where it could be seen.

Heck, when I found an 8-ounce bottle at Target in May 2020, I snapped a photo to send it home!

Holding a bottle of hand sanitizer in front of a store shelf with a sign saying that customers are limited to one bottle each due to high demand.

Times have changed.

Factory lines got up to speed after a few months. We bought extra to make sure we wouldn’t run out. Then we learned that Covid spreads more by sharing air than by touching surfaces. And a third of the population convinced themselves it wasn’t a problem, while half to two thirds of the population have gotten at least partly vaccinated against it. And after a year with multiple waves of cases, the rates are currently waaaaaay down in California.

And we’re all so tired of it all.

And we don’t need as much hand sanitizer as we thought we were going to a year ago.

This is the same store this week. Four rolling shelf units and at least one section of the wall shelving. Full.

Shelves and shelves and rolling carts full of hand sanitizer bottles.

So, um, anybody want to buy some hand sanitizer?

We’ve both received the second dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine! Same location and keep-you-moving procedure as the first dose, in and out within a half hour.

Scan from the manga Cells at Work showing a man in a White Blood Cell cap shouting "Antigen sighted!" and violently slashing something with a knife.Like many people seem to, we got stronger side effects after the second dose than the first. She got fatigue and a fever, I also got loopiness, chills, and a headache. I imagined my immune system looking at the new batch of spike proteins, saying, “What, this again? That’s it, let’s bring out the big guns and make sure it Never. Comes. Back.”

Oh, and my brain decided to launch into a migraine aura around the time the chills hit, but I don’t think that was related. 🤷

But both of us were mostly recovered within 24 hours and back to normal within 48. (Well, my arm’s still sore, but I don’t really count that.) And a day or two of mild “illness” that you can schedule and you know won’t kill you is a heck of a lot better than a surprise attack by the actual coronavirus making you spend weeks in bed with the option of a hospital stay, chronic illness, or dying gasping for breath, watching your loved ones say goodbye to you over video chat because they can’t visit you in person safely.

And passing it along to someone else before you even know you’ve been infected, so they have to go through it all too.

The cost/benefit analysis is pretty clear.

Still a couple of weeks to go for our systems to completely lock in on it, but we should be able to relax a bit around the end of the month.

That would certainly be nice!