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GREG HARTON: Got fever? Get tested, then wait

by Greg Harton | June 28, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

Last week, my family had a long wait to determine whether covid-19 had invaded our household.

Well, it seemed like a long wait. Waiting with the dark cloud of what seems a modern-day plague looming isn't fun at all.

One of my boys woke up Tuesday feeling ill. The thermometer said he had a fever. We took his temperature a couple of times to be sure. I was tempted to stop, assuming not unlike our president that if we just discontinued using the thermometer, that would mean my son no longer had a fever.

OK, call me gullible, but I believed the science. Still, his temperature stayed below 100 degrees. He had no cough or congestion, no trouble breathing. Just a headache and, from time to time, some chills. And occasionally a snarky attitude, but I quickly diagnosed that as a teenager's normal condition, especially when our Wi-Fi wasn't working to his satisfaction.

Other than the fever, it really didn't seem to match up with the symptoms of covid-19, but who wants to take risks in the midst of a pandemic? I mean, besides the people who defiantly decline to wear masks?

Of course, a lot of people are testing positive when they have no symptoms at all. This virus has a lot of different personalities. It's the Rich Little of contagions (look him up, kids. You can find him on YouTube). One person can be infected and end up in the hospital. Another person can have it and not even know.

I'm still astonished about some data from testing at a Tyson Foods plant in Springdale few weeks back. They found at that point 199 employees who tested positive for covid-19. Out of that number, 198 reported no symptoms at all. And yet, according to our nation's epidemiological experts, those people are just as capable of passing the virus on. In fact, they are probably more likely to do that because they don't know they're infected until they happen to be tested.

Back to our situation at home: Off we went in pursuit of a test to see if, despite all our family precautions, my son had joined the 18,000 or so other Arkansans who so far have tested positive for the disease.

I won't get into the details because I think all our medical folks are working pretty hard to combat this disease, but I will say our experience suggests all testing locations are not the same. The first place we went Tuesday first told us to expect results in three to five days. When we actually took the test, the person who finished up our paperwork said we could expect a call with results in seven to 10 days.

It took us until Wednesday to say "Forget that" and seek another option. Friends shared their experience of getting test results from one clinic within 24 hours. My son was tested there Wednesday; by late Thursday afternoon, we got the call: Negative for covid-19. Maybe some other viral ailment, but not one so scary as the coronavirus. What a relief!

As I write this on Friday afternoon, we still haven't heard from first testing site.

From Tuesday until Thursday's confirmation, we behaved as though a member of our family had the disease. My wife worked from home and canceled work appointments. I canceled an eye doctor's appointment. My other son canceled plans. We all kept our distance from each other. All while we didn't know, which made waiting seven to 10 days for an answer difficult.

Now, we're back in our regular coronavirus mode: Mostly staying home. Wearing masks when we go places other people are. Keeping our distance from others as much as possible. Washing hands.

And hoping every day a vaccine will be developed sooner rather than later.



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