Don’t worry. I don’t have it. At least, I’m pretty sure I don’t.
But my experience with it has definitely brought home to me why the United States is still caught in its thrall while most (all?) of the other First World countries are moving past it.
I woke up coughing Thursday morning. This isn’t unusual for me. I come from a long line of people susceptible to respiratory illness (half my ancestors died of “consumption“), and I had Valley Fever as a youth that left my lungs scarred.
Plus, I spent all day Wednesday sneezing and wiping a runny nose. I’m pretty sure I was just coughing up all the mucous that sinus-dripped the day before.
Still, in these COVID days, one must take an “abundance of caution” (funny how that phrase has become politically charged since two prominent and wealthy politicians used it as a reason to check themselves into the hospital for mild symptoms when ordinary folks were sent home and told not to come back unless they needed a ventilator).
I immediately self-isolated and called Mars (font of all wisdom). He’s had to deal with people who have been exposed and/or who are symptomatic, so I knew he would know what to do. He directed me to a local urgent care facility where I could get a rapid results test (within two hours).
They assured me he was correct…with two caveats:
- The test would cost $300 out of pocket. They do not take insurance.
- Their first available appointment was Monday morning.
I pictured myself as an average American: on unemployment for months, given $1200 to cover expenses like food and shelter for months, finally back at my per-hour job. No way would I have $300 to spend on an “out of abundance of caution” test.
Not to mention, the prudent thing to do was to self-isolate in the meantime. So I’d not only be spending $300 on a cautionary test, I’d have to give up potentially five days of work, hence five days income.
No way. I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to do it.
So I called the governmental COVID hotline to see what advice they would give to an average American worker.
The woman on the phone asked me some questions about symptoms and about my personal situation. “Well, you’re definitely in several risk groups, and you have a cough, which is a symptom of Covid. But since you don’t have a fever or diarrhea or…”
Wait, what? I have diarrhea. She didn’t ask about that, and I didn’t think it had anything to do with COVID.
Turns out, I have two symptoms directly related to COVID. At that point, she told me I qualified for a test at the hospital, which my insurance should cover. All I had to do was come to their office; a doctor would see me and give me a referral for drive-through testing.
How long would it take to get the results? I asked.
Three to fourteen days.
THREE TO FOURTEEN DAYS. It would depend on which lab my swab got sent to…and they have no control over that, she was quick to say.
So…average American in the scariest, most financially unstable year of her life. I see three options:
- Pay three hundred dollars and take five days off work, unpaid.
- Pay nothing and take three to fourteen days off work, unpaid.
- Just go to work, and make the money I need to buy groceries and make up some of the overdue back rent for all those months I was making nothing.
What would YOU do??? Keep in mind, I’m pretty sure I don’t have COVID. As far as I know, I haven’t been exposed to anyone. And my symptoms are not only very mild, they’re also extremely common for me even when I’m not sick at all. What would you do?
Yeah. Me too. In that situation, I’d have gone to work and not mentioned it to my employers. Because I could not afford to do anything else.
This is exactly why we are in this situation. Unlike all the other First World countries, our federal government threw us under the bus, tossing us a few bills as we lay there, enough to replace the clothing stained by tire treads.
The US could have set up testing, free of charge. It could have covered workers who had to self isolate. It could have provided masks and wipes and encouraged everyone to wear them. So much the government could have done and didn’t.
I’m not an average American. I’m ridiculously privileged. So I paid the $300, and I’m on my fifth day sequestered in our guest room. Mars brings me food, and I wear a mask if I leave the room even to just step across the hall to a dedicated bathroom no one else enters.
I should learn the results of my test this afternoon.
But the real knowledge is the shocking understanding that our government has put the average American into a position where they don’t have any choice but to put their own life and the lives of their coworkers and family members at risk, just to survive.
EDITED TO ADD: I’ve now been waiting more than twenty-four hours for my “rapid” results from Steese “Immediate” Care. Two different people I’ve talked to got tested at the hospital got their results back in two days (I was told it would be three to fourteen days, which is why I chose the more expensive “rapid” results option). I’d probably have gotten my results back by now AND saved myself $335.