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My Test Results are What!!??

If you have read my previous post, you will know that a week ago, Heather and I went and got tested for COVID-19.  She was sick, and some of her symptoms might have indicated that she had contracted the virus.  I myself got tested, just because I live with her.  After a couple of days, Heather’s report came back “negative.”  I heard nothing, and the days passed, with the reporting website continuously saying, of my test, “No results available.”  Then this happened...

Sunday, October 18, 2020

A nurse called me late this afternoon.  She said, “This is a follow-up call, after you were called by Public Health about your COVID-positive test.”

“What!??  I wasn’t called!” said I.

“You weren’t?  Oh dear,” she said, “I’m normally not the one who delivers the news of positive tests!  I just do follow-up, to see how you’re doing, and make sure you’re following self-isolation instructions!  But, the fact is, your test, last Sunday, came back ‘positive.’”

The conversation went on, but she could not offer any clarity on what I’m now supposed to do, other than wait for an official call from Manitoba Public Health.  She supposes that when Public Health finally does reach out, they may well organize a second test – in case my test result was a “false positive.”

Meanwhile, if things had progressed normally, once I was found to be the COVID-positive person, without any symptoms or any discomfort, I would have been required to self-isolate for ten days from the date of the test.  Which means, I’d be back in the community by Wednesday, October 21.  We’re almost there!  Except that I have already been back in the community for several days!

Heather and I have phoned the people with whom we have been in close contact this week.  And we have notified direct descendants and their families.  But heck, we were at a COVID-compliant, in-person, church service this morning (I have notified the worship leaders)!

I have an appointment to get my car winterized tomorrow - and I really must cancel it, for I wouldn’t want repair persons touching the steering wheel and other things, in the remote chance that I really do have COVID!

But I am completely well, and strong (other than the occasional, lifetime-originated ‘snork’!), I am certain that the test is a “false positive,” or perhaps the lab has detected traces of whatever it was that Heather and I had, way back in March.  The most that can come out of all this, is a warning to the health-care system that a mistake has been made....

But, who knows?  Stay tuned.  Visit this page from time to time, or my FaceBook page, for updates.

Monday, October 19, 2020

spent most of the day, today, on the phone with a number of medical personnel, and finally with Public Health Manitoba.  The upshot: (a) the authorities are certain that I have the virus; (b) they are checking possible occasions for me to have become infected with it; and (c) they are calling the people with whom I have spent time, over the past 10 days, and quarantining some of them for two weeks.  My “positive” result was known, in the lab, on October 13, but not communicated to me until yesterday (yes, it turns out that yesterday’s call was my “official” notice).  Between October 13 and yesterday, I met with a number of people with whom I would not have spent time, had I known that I was COVID-positive.  So, that delay in notification will thoroughly inconvenience several, who would otherwise not have had to quarantine.  As well, Heather and I will have to quarantine from one another, going forward (how do you do that in a tiny apartment!???).  It is a nightmare.

On the thesis that Heather may yet catch COVID from me, Heather is now compelled to quarantine herself for the next two weeks – another “victim” of that delay in reporting to me.  If they had reported my “positive” last Tuesday, she would only have had to stay in for one week, and not two.

And, it’s so peculiar that she – the one who had the symptoms – is officially declared as “negative” – and I, now declared “positive,” had, and have, no symptoms!

It is hard not to fault our elected Provincial government.  They tried to “Restart Manitoba” when there were few new cases, and they were in some state of denial about what everyone else in the Province fully expected to be the “second wave” of the pandemic.  If the government had spent the money on labs, and contact tracing, people like me would have received results sooner, and a host of contacts would not have had to quarantine.  With well-staffed, well-paid, and well-stocked labs and pandemic paraphenalia, put in place before the second wave had started, the Province as a whole might have “Restarted” much sooner than it will.

Meanwhile, my health appears to be just fine – I have no signs or symptoms of ANY kind.  Never have, for months.  One of the health nurses said that asymptomatic carriers are bedevilling the scientific community.  She compared COVID to Ebola: Ebola is much more deadly, per infection, but you know you have it or else you don’t have it.  By comparison, a person can have COVID, and spread it, all the while feeling perfectly well, which makes COVID much harder to contain, and thus, in the end, deadlier.

Heather’s health, too, appears to be fine – her flu-like systems are now long gone.  But we are quarantined.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Now, this is a memorable date: October twenty twenty twenty!!!

Here’s the latest COVIDiosyncrasy: Some time before our COVID adventure began, I thought that I should download the COVID-Alert app into my smartphone.  Once it was installed, I took a look, and found that it is up to the user to set his or her phone to an alert status upon receipt of a positive test result.  Have you tested positive?  Then, set your phone!

The obvious drawback to this is that the owner of the phone may be too sick, or too mad, or too stupid to put the public notification into their phone!  Bunches of people could be wandering around, quite contagious, with no alert coming out of their phones.

As well, when you get a positive test result, you’re supposed to go into quarantine for at least ten days, so – if you are obedient – you won’t be going near other people anyway!  On the other hand, if you are one of those asymptomatic young people who say, “To heck with this – I’m going out to the bar or to the party anyway!” why would you put something into your phone to tell the other party-goers that you’ve got the virus!?!?!

This makes the app rather useless, don’t you think?  It’s peculiar, to be sure.

After getting that dreadfully-delayed notice that I, myself, have tested positive, and, being a law-abiding citizen, I was smitten by my conscience.  I have the COVID-Alert app installed, so I decided that I had better see about setting my phone, even though, quarantined, I will be going nowhere and seeing no-one except my beloved spouse.  So I opened the application... and found that the only thing I do to activate it, is insert a unique code that is given to me by Manitoba Public Health.  But Public Health phoned me yesterday, and there was no mention of setting my COVID-Alert application, and therefore there was no code!  At that time, I had not yet found out that the code was required, so I didn’t enquire about it.

Come to think of it, my own official quarantine ends ten days after my test, which works out to midnight tomorrow.  Why on earth would I set up my phone to put out alerts when, at least in theory, I won’t be contagious any more!??

It turns out that Heather and I now have our very own Public Health Nurse!  She phoned today, and said that she is required to phone us daily, going forward.  She’s really pleasant, sympathetic, and thoughtful, and careful to follow the rules.  Indeed, she advised us that there are fines for breaking quarantine rules (as if we would!).  So, this afternoon I asked her about the COVID-Alert application, and it turns out that she has no instructions and no code to be given to me.  So, there’s that.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

When I turned on my phone today, the COVID-Alert application jumped to the front of the screen.  It announced itself as a “Weekly Update,” and said, “Your device encountered 0 potential exposures this week, and shared them with COVID Alert.”  Yeah, right.  In a phone owned by someone who has officially tested positive.

Phone calls from medical people:
Our Public Health nurse called again, today, and is really sympathetic for all the trouble this is causing us.  She herself is not part of the regular COVID team, but volunteered to come in and do calls, because she knows how overwhelmed the staff is.  Our family doctor, who also called today, has a friend who is doing the same thing: volunteering to help out in the administrative pandemonium as new cases keep piling up.  Then Heather’s cell phone rang.  It was a nurse from Public Health, who has been told to contact us daily.  “But,” said Heather, “we already have a Public Health nurse calling us.  She called just an hour ago!”  “What?” said the voice on the phone.  Evidently, there had been no indication, in the material before this new caller, that anyone from Public Health had been in touch with us.

So there’s that.

The worst paradox is this: officially, my quarantine ends tonight at midnight.  Heather, officially “negative” (despite being the one who had some symptoms), has been in contact with a COVID-positive person – that is, me! – so she must quarantine for two weeks!!! Two weeks from when? you might ask.  Two weeks from her “last contact” with me – in other words, two weeks from Monday, October 19th, the day we were told to “isolate” from one another in our apartment.  Separate beds, separate bathrooms, separate meals, and constantly wiping everything down.  If she doesn’t stay in lockdown until Monday, November 2, there will be fines to pay.  So, tomorrow I can go out and about – to the store, and do errands, and see people, while my wife remains locked up.

The only good thing about that would be if it were to turn out that our test swabs were accidentally mixed up back on October 11.  Suppose it is Heather who has all along been COVID-positive, rather than me.  If so, her lock-up may do some good in the world – though there were three days, between October 15 and 18, that she believed herself to be negative, and free of symptoms, and thus eligible to see people and go to church!!!

She has been asked to take a re-test in a couple of days.  If it comes out “positive,” then it will be my turn to be locked down for two weeks.

I’d like to end today’s entry with a note of thanks – to all the good friends and neighbours who have reached out to us – doing grocery runs, leaving fresh baking at our apartment door, and friends far and wide offering prayer for us.  We are both extremely grateful.

... and a note of deep sadness – for the friends and clients we saw briefly from October 15 to 18, who have all been phoned by Manitoba Public Health, and instructed to quarantine themselves for two weeks from their date of seeing one or the other of us.  Sadness, too, for our church, which cancelled mid-week, in-person services due to the chance that I had brought infection into the building.  I am so very, very sorry.

And, at risk of repeating myself, all this would not have happened if I had been called with my “positive” result, when it was known, a mere two days after the test!  Manitoba was woefully unprepared for this spike in cases, and had too few people in place to make those important calls!

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Today is “Quarantine Freedom Day” – for me, anyway, though not for Heather(!!).

This is the unique and discomfiting aspect of our adventure.  Technically, I’m the one who has had the COVID virus.  I was tested on October 11, and therefore the next day became “day one” of a ten-day quarantine.  Yesterday was “day ten,” so now I am a free man.  I can go anywhere, see anyone, do anything, all provided that I wear a mask and keep social distance.

Heather, meanwhile, has unknowingly been in extended personal contact with a COVID-positive person: that is, with me, her husband.  We were told on October 19 to isolate from one another, in our home, and that became the date that Heather must begin to quarantine herself from the world.  She will be released from this “jail” on November 2, or 3 (we’re not clear which).

The thesis of her quarantine is that she may have caught COVID from me, and must wait for those two weeks to see if she becomes infected.

But, I am, as of today, no longer considered infectious.  So I can see her, as well as anyone else, even though she must remain in quarantine until November!!  It feels so bizarre!!!

In phone calls today with my Public Health Nurse, and with our doctor, this regimen was confirmed, so what can we do!??

Re-test for Heather
Meanwhile, Public Health wants Heather to get another COVID test, when five days pass since her “last contact” with me.  They have now got an appointment system in place, so this afternoon we set up an appointment for 11:00 AM on Saturday.

What if she tests “positive”???  Well, we don’t know.  We’ll have to see what Public Health tells us, once the test result comes back.

Are we having fun?  No.

Still, it is my first day of “freedom,” so I went out to do some errands.  As well, I went to Heather’s office for her, found some of the files she needs to attend to, and brought them home.

This evening, we watched the second U.S. Presidential debate.  We tend to agree with a commentator who said that Donald Trump was acting as if he were a challenger, coming in to oppose an incumbent, when in fact it’s the other way around.

Friday, October 23, 2020

This is mostly a blog about my experience as an a-symptomatic COVID-19 sufferer.  But my “real” life has also continued.  This week would have been an intensive one even without a pandemic, because I was to sit on three interview panels for the Manitoba Medical Services Foundation. 1  This organization interviews young medical scientists, and gives grants to the best of them, to help them do various research projects.  In order to participate in such interviews, I must study the research proposals in advance.  So that’s what I had to do this week.  There was one interview on Wednesday, and two today – one of which I had to “chair.”

In normal times, these interviews are “in person,” around a board room table, but in this pandemic year, they are being done remotely, using Internet video software.  Thus, everyone – interviewers and researchers alike – are COVID-safe.  I find it very stressful to engage in a mentally-challenging meeting, while looking at a number of faces in little squares on a computer screen.  But, we all managed, and, by the end of the day, when I am writing all this, I have begun to relax.

Meanwhile, this evening, looking at the Winnipeg television news, with Heather, I felt almost as if two of the news items were about my own story!  Reporters have learned of unacceptable delays in reporting COVID results to those who took the tests, and they have also found that Public Health nurses have not yet been trained in getting people who test positive to set up their smartphone COVID-Alert application!  All of which, as you have seen, I ve been talking about on these pages!

Tomorrow, Heather will get another test.  I’ll let you know, here, when we learn how that turns out.

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

guess I might as well tell you how Heather’s appointment for her second COVID test went.  I’m not talking about the results – we won’t have that for a day or two, at the very least.  This is just an account of the appointment itself:

She was due to be tested at 11:00 AM.  On Thursday, the person with whom I set the appointment, told us to be there “ten minutes before the time of the test.”  This morning, we arrived fifteen minutes early, just to be on the safe side.

Signs were a bit misleading.  A white “COVID test site” notice with an arrow, pointed us to a parking lot behind a former fire hall.  Heather got out, and walked out to the front of the building, but there was no entrance for COVID testing.  Then she spotted another building, next door, where there was a “COVID testing” sign, and trotted over there.  I waited in the car, expecting the test to take mere minutes.

But then, she returned to the car and said, “They’re behind; they asked me to come back in twenty-five minutes.”

Oh.  Okay.

So we waited, killing time doing stuff on our smartphones.  When twenty-five minutes had passed, she got out, and went back to the testing centre.

Moments later, I got a text from her: “Only 14 people with appointments ahead of me now.”

Then, a few seconds later, “Sorry, 16.”

I replied with words that should not be published in a blog.

This October has been colder than normal for Winnipeg.  I believe it was around -4°C while we were there.  Snow began to fall.  Soon, quite a heavy flurry of thick white flakes.

Eight minutes later, a text: “My hands are freezing.  Do you have any gloves with you?”

I got out, and, with gloves at the ready, ran through the falling snow to where she was.  I also decided that I should offer to hold her place in line, so that she could warm up.  And – oops! – I realized that, in my hurry, I had forgotten to don my mask.  I pulled part of my outdoor jacket over my face, and kept going.

There were so many people in the line that it was difficult, at first, to spot my wife, but she called out to me.  Handing her the gloves, I offered to let her leave the line for a while.  She declined.

At 11:42 AM, she texted again to say there were now only eight people in front of her.  I learned later that all of these people had originally been there for appointments prior to Heather’s.

It was 12:02 PM when she got into the car, swab test done.  I started the engine, and turned the heat up high – because her hands and feet were like blocks of ice.

So, in Manitoba, that is our convenient new system of tests-by-appointment.

Now we wait for the results.  I wonder how long that will take!?

Speaking of results: in an email today, a friend pointed out that, in the world of medical tests, the words “positive” and “negative” have had their normal meanings reversed!  These days, “Positive” is bad, and “negative” is good!  A sign of the times.

Monday, October 26, 2020

So far, Heather hasn’t got her results from Saturday’s COVID test.  She was led to believe that this would be a comparatively quick turnaround, but, here we are, 52 hours after the test, and still waiting.  Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

At 6:00 PM today, Heather checked the web page where her COVID-test results would be posted – probably the 100th time she’s done so, in the past 72 hours – and... gasp!... there it was!  Her result: NEGATIVE!!!

We are both so relieved!  Given that I was the one who tested positive, this indicates that she did not get infected by me.  For reasons that are not entirely clear, she will still have to wait until next Tuesday before she's released from quarantine, but we both feel that a great cloud of uncertainty is now lifting away.

While it is arguable that my test result was a “false positive,” our Public Health nurse and our doctor both believe that it was a true result, and that I am one of many a-symptomatic people currently wandering the face of the earth.  And, because Heather had what must have been a cold or ’flu, we got tested, and [after a false start] put out of circulation – thus keeping the contagion in check.

I must add that we have had the the nicest Public Health nurse.  She has been helpful, sympathetic, friendly, and supportive.  She did let on, however, that calling us sometimes helps her get through her day, because there are people whom she calls who actually yell at her!  Can you imagine!?  Yes, she’s calling with news of a positive test and mandatory quarantine, which is very stressful news to get, but please, please don’t shoot the messenger!  It’s not her fault that you’ve been infected with COVID.

Anyhow – and hopefully – this is the happy ending to my/our COVID saga....

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from Margaret O., Saturday, October 24, 2020 5:53 PM CDT (CA)

I read your blog with great interest.  There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Covid testing and the rules in general.  It is a very serious and infectious disease that nobody knows much about, hence the rise in cases and deaths.  I think that [Manitoba’s Chief Medical Officer] Dr. Roussin is silenced somewhat by the politicians who are not doctors but seem to think they know everything.  Also I think there is serious short staffing in both the test sites and the labs.  I am shocked that you and Heather have been given the runaround and it seems as if the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  And I’m sure that you are not the only people who have suffered inconvenience.  As I said in my previous email, [granddaughter] Margaret’s partner had to miss five days of work waiting for his test results to come back.
Seems like a good time to lie low and stay home.  Who knows where the virus is lurking in [our] apartment building!

You are correct, Margaret, though I wouldn’t call what Heather and I have experienced, a “runaround.”  What has happened is confusion confounded by a last minute rush – a rush entirely due to how woefully unprepared the politicians were.  I decline to fault the Public Health people, who are doing the best they can under an overwhelming influx of cases.  I might add that I’m not even criticizing “Conservative” politicians, in this case.  Other Conservative-led Provinces in Canada have done much better, per capita, than has Manitoba. – Tony

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1  I’ve been on the Board of Directors of the Manitoba Medical Services Foundation since 2012.  I describe what it is about, here, and here.
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