One morning about three weeks ago, I had an unexplained cough. The cough occasionally lasted all day. Though annoying, they weren’t frequent enough to be cause for concern.
The next morning the cough continued and I felt a little “off”. I suspected something was wrong and wondered if I should be tested to see if I was infected with the coronavirus. That afternoon my suspicions were confirmed. I felt worse. The cough became more frequent. I had a headache as well as pain in other parts of my body. I was starting to have difficulty breathing. I couldn’t work in the late afternoon. I had the chills and felt like I had a fever. I had leg pain and could barely walk.
I was thinking about going to the hospital, but with the recent surge in coronavirus cases in my area, I felt like I had to wait a long time to be seen. The idea of waiting hours in the emergency room waiting room seemed more painful than what I was going through at the time. So I decided to just stay there unless I really had to go.
The next day, I started to feel better. As the fever subsided, I was still coughing and breathing was still difficult. I felt tired, lost my appetite, and still had some body ache.
Later that day, I got a coronavirus test and tested positive.
I spent the rest of the day on the phone. I called my doctor and she advised me to take some aspirin for the pain and over-the-counter cold medicine for a cough. She also told me to quarantine myself for two weeks from the time the symptoms first appeared. I then called family members and two people I saw in the past week to tell them I tested positive.
During the first few days of my quarantine period, I wondered how I got infected. I seldom leave my house other than to get food and exercise. I wear masks every time I go out and wash my hands almost every time I come home. I have not attended anti-mask rallies or other protests. I also didn’t go outside to celebrate when President-elect Joe Biden was about to win the election, as some people in my area did. Only one member of my immediate family also tested positive, but I haven’t seen him in weeks so I don’t think I got it from him.
I concluded that it was about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and I let go of my guard. Currently, one in 17 Americans has tested positive for the coronavirus and one in 1,000 has died as a result. With the current surge in cases in densely populated Los Angeles County, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratio of infected people was actually one in ten.
For a while I thought the worst thing about people. To be honest, I don’t think a lot of people are taking the virus as seriously as they should. And I’m not just talking about people who think the coronavirus is a joke. Every day I see at least one person wearing a mask incorrectly. I look around and the traffic is as bad as ever – I doubt any of these people are doing anything “essential”. I also see people eating in restaurants when they need to order take-away or have the food delivered. Sure, they are socially distant and the restaurant meets safety guidelines. But that’s not easy. And I just shake my head at what some people post on social media. It seems like there are a lot of people who are talking a big game about “flattening the curve” but doing something completely different. And then there are those who don’t give [crap] about infecting others because of their personal problems with the world or just being insane.
I could have done better too. As mentioned earlier, I take precautions to minimize the risk of infection. But maybe I could have been more disciplined. Did I really have to go to McDonald’s to get a McRib sandwich or the dollar coffee? Maybe I could have jumped jacks at home instead of walking around the neighborhood.
Fortunately, I had a lot of the virus for a few days, but I didn’t have the worst symptoms, nor was I hospitalized. A week after my symptoms my condition improved to the point where I could go back to work, although I limited myself to just sending emails and filling out paperwork. Conversation with customers or government officials was sparing as my cough was still persisting.
After my condition improved, I tried to stay in bed as little as possible as it would not help to be seated. I did breathing exercises several times a day. And I also tried to sleep on my stomach instead of lying on my back. And drank a lot of water.
A week ago I did the coronavirus test again and tested negative. While this is good news, I didn’t see anyone for Christmas. I also didn’t call anyone about my cough. I will continue my isolation until the new year starts and even then I will only see people as needed.
I wish my final column for 2020 could have been on a more positive topic. But at least it had a positive effect. With the multitude of cases in the US today, even people who take reasonable precautions can become infected. While social distancing and wearing masks can help, it is not guaranteed to prevent infection. So please stay safe, keep New Years Eve celebrations to a minimum and hope 2021 has better days ahead of you.
Steven Chung is a tax attorney based in Los Angeles, California. He helps people with basic tax planning and tax dispute resolution. He is also personable with people with large student loans. He can be reached by email at [email protected] Or you can connect with him on Twitter (@stevenchung) and connect with him LinkedIn.