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Friday, July 3, 2020

Living With a Positive COVID-19 Result

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The good news: I have food, a roof over my head, a sweet (although needy) dog, two amazing kids and an incredible network of friends and family who are there for me, albeit virtually for the moment.

I also have an abundant supply of flushable Preparation H wipes ordered during a moment of toilet paper-shortage panic.

The not-so-good news: I tested positive for COVID-19.

On Friday the 13th, I was experiencing tightness in my chest. I felt fine otherwise, so I attributed it to the anxiety of learning my teens would be home from school for an indeterminate amount of time.

On Saturday morning, March 14, I woke up feeling achy, tired and feverish. My temperature started at 99.8 F and went up to 100.6. I called my doctor, explained my symptoms and that I had been traveling, including attending the AIPAC conference, where several COVID-19 cases were confirmed.

At his suggestion, I went to the Cedars-Sinai ER, finding it eerily empty. I had my vitals taken and staff asked a number of questions regarding possible exposure. The doctor came in and explained they would test me for the flu and if the results were negative, they would run the COVID-19 test.

They took six samples from the very top of my nasal passages and two from my throat. I was sent home with an inhaler to keep my chest clear. When I returned from the ER, I took steps to keep those around me “safe”: extra handwashing and spending most of my time confined to my bedroom and office. I also did my best to wear a mask when I was in the kitchen or around others.

Truthfully, I was much more concerned for the people I might have exposed than my own well-being. As the week progressed, anxiety overtook the symptomatic discomfort.

When the call came informing me the test was positive, I was shocked. I didn’t know where to start with the questions: Who do I need to tell? What about my children? The physician assistant couldn’t have been nicer, even giving me her personal number in case I had questions or worsening symptoms.

Every time I read about people disregarding the directives, my heart sinks. Every day someone decides not to listen is another day we all face in isolation from our friends and families, and another day of sickness and loss.

I was relieved to learn that since I hadn’t seen my parents and some higher-risk friends since March 9, the fact that they were asymptomatic was a good sign. I called my mom to give her the news and began compiling a list of people with whom I had been in “close contact” with during the week before I developed symptoms. Although I knew it wasn’t my “fault,” I was embarrassed, shameful and guilty.

Most people appreciated me letting them know. One person asked, “Who gave it to you?” I was at a conference of 20,000 people, on three airplane flights and attended a funeral of more than 1,000 people; anyone could have exposed me.

My younger daughter was in tears. “Are you going to have it forever? Will you be OK?” My older daughter assured her, “Mom beat breast cancer. She will beat this!”

The next day, a woman from the health department called and conducted an extensive interview covering where I had been, including flight numbers and Uber trips. She collected information about the people I had been in close contact with for more than 10 minutes the week before I was tested. She told me to expect a call from a caseworker, who would monitor my symptoms and answer any questions I have.

Making calls after my diagnosis showed me how the exponential spread works. Any one of those people I had exposed, especially if they were not practicing social distancing, could expose several additional people.

Admittedly, I considered the whole coronavirus “thing” overblown. And although statistics still are unclear, absent a vaccine or treatment, we don’t have many choices except to follow the guidelines for slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

Every time I read about people disregarding the directives, my heart sinks. Every day someone decides not to listen is another day we all face in isolation from our friends and families, and another day of sickness and loss.

This isn’t something any individual can fix alone — yet we each have a personal responsibility to protect our neighbors and loved ones.


Courtney Mizel is a business and legal consultant, community activist and mother of two.

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