Dispatches from Thanksgiving

Nino, my still-an-ex husband, got out of his really-just-a-mattress-on-the-floor bed for the first time two days ago, so that he could go get a test for Covid.

I thought my son would have the scoop on how to get a Covid test because he volunteers at a very busy needle exchange five blocks from our apartment.

He said to me, “Why do you think I would have information about Covid?”

The structure of his question and tone of his voice made me certain he was about to tell me I’m making some sort of assumption that reveals something offensive about me. It’s like when someone makes a racist joke and you’re supposed to say, “Can you explain to me what part you think is funny?”

I am not walking into his trap. I say, “I thought you’d have insider information about Covid because on days you go to the needle exchange I think you might lick the sidewalk outside our apartment building.”

My son looks at me like I’m crazy, which, trust me, is preferable to other looks he gives me.

My other family members have information about Covid testing.

My mother lives in NYC and she says the lines in NYC are 3.5 hours long and Task Rabbits are making tons of money waiting in line for people.

My brother in San Francisco says no one can get tests this week because no one is supposed to be traveling for Thanksgiving.

My brother in San Diego says when there are tests, the line is three blocks long.

My brother who lives in Montana says his local school board announced that they were going back to 100% onsite learning, as if their town has a magical version of Covid that prevents kids from getting it in school.

When Nino arrived at the testing place in Boston the line was about five blocks long. Everyone wanted to get away for Thanksgiving. The healthcare workers were pissed: We are in the middle of a pandemic! Support healthcare workers! Get sliced turkey delivered to your doorstep! Then the healthcare workers told people to go home. No more tests.

“Wait,” one said, “Except for you. You look terrible.” She walked Nino over to the emergency room. His temperature was 103. They gave him a Covid test and then an IV. The test takes a day but the doctor told him he should assume he has Covid and that the rest of the household should start quarantining.

I am sure I’m not the first person to immediately risk exposing everyone at the liquor store. But believe me, I won’t need to go back for a while.

The next day the ER doctor, who is not even working at that point, calls Nino to tell him personally that the test came back negative. But the doctor says the tests don’t really work, and he is near certain that Nino has Covid and he says (I am summarizing here) that right now doctors have to pretty much guess and he is calling Nino because it’s really important that Nino acts as if he has had a positive test. The doctor basically tells Nino it is his duty to his community to act on doctors’ orders and not on the result of the test.

I am shocked that this is how doctors are functioning right now. Also, WTF. We don’t even have tests that work???

The next day my younger son wakes up with chest pain. I run through possibilities: Acid reflux. Heart attack. Covid. The one to hope for is acid reflux for sure. So I give him Pepto Bismol. He has a fever. I guess that rules out a heart attack.

I have a flashback to two weeks ago when my older son was telling me he had chest pains and a dry mouth. I told him every high school senior feels that way when college applications are due. I told him it’s normal. He told me he was sweating and also chilled. I took that to mean they cancel each other out and he should do another round of edits on his common application essays.

The good news is, college applications are done, everyone else in the family is knocked out with maybe-Covid, and I think I’m about to have a four-day-break where no one will even remember that I’m supposed to be cooking for Thanksgiving.

25 replies
  1. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    Walgreens.com offers a portal through which to register for free, drive -thru tests in St Louis. Results are emailed in a couple of days.

  2. Halo
    Halo says:

    About this: “I am sure I’m not the first person to immediately risk exposing everyone at the liquor store. ”

    Seriously? You can have that stuff delivered. Why would you do this? You have a whole post moaning about lack of effective testing and while you could have done the safer thing – not go to the liquor store – you instead go to the liquor store and put everyone in the store at risk, too? It’s a liquor store. Are you having a liquor emergency? WHAT THE EXACT F IS WRONG WITH YOU?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      We live in a food desert. I linked to a great explanation of what that is in the post, but basically, the nearest grocery store that is not Whole Foods is a 45-minute walk (we don’t own a car). Where I live, the only place that delivers food within 48 hours is Whole Foods. And it’s really expensive. Other grocery places require us to order 5-7 days in advance for delivery to our neighborhood.

      You asked, “Are you having a liquor emergency?” The answer is yes. I had just found out that I am going to be locked in a 950-square-foot apartment with three other people for ten days. The only way we have coped with COVID up til now is that I walk about ten miles a day so that I’m out of the apartment, and my older son spends tons of time volunteering outside our apartment. All of us stuck inside the apartment for ten days is an alcohol emergency.


        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          It’s not really socially acceptable here. Quarantine means stay inside. I am fascinated by how differently each area handles Covid. Like, for each of us what we do where we live seems normal, but it’s actually just what’s done where we live.


          • JML
            JML says:

            And even what’s done within social circles. My neighbours across the street have people over all the time. But I would never dream of it. Mostly because my friends would never dream of it.

          • Cindy
            Cindy says:

            “It’s not socially acceptable” stops you from walking your 10 miles, and stocking up on alcohol seems like a reasonable substitute. Interesting. How would anyone even know anyway? No way would I stop my morning run if it didn’t make logical sense, just to be socially acceptable. As you said, what each area does in response to Covid is just what that area does, not necessarily what makes sense.

      • Deborah
        Deborah says:

        What about Whole Foods delivery via Amazon Prime? Most of my deliveries from Whole Foods are free after meeting the minimum purchase required.

        • Halo
          Halo says:

          +100 to what Deborah said. You risked exposing others. Do you not get that? You could have asked a friend to shop for you and drop it off. You could have gone on NextDoor and asked. Sheesh.

  3. Jane Carnell
    Jane Carnell says:

    I hope you ordered out for
    Thanksgiving. And that everyone is OK.
    Covid repeaters? Hard to imagine. Some people are
    getting good preventive results from Oregano capsules in
    building up the immune system against the Covid. And/Or vitamins A and D3, And/Or Olive capsules. Available at vitamin shops. Hope everyone feels better soon.

  4. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I always enjoy your writing as it is a wonderful blend of thoughtfulness, wit and sarcasm/humor. A similar situation in my home with Covid as my son’s girlfriends sister tested positive and the thought was everyone else in contact with her did as well. Two days later, after everyone was tested and Thanksgiving plans changed, the doctor declared the original Covid test as a false positive. Nobody has it but then the doctor declared, “act as if you all have it anyway”. Ummm…and the purpose of the test was for what again? Anyway, I hope you and your family are healthy and safe and remember to ignore the haters and continue to write as brilliantly as you do.


  5. Katarina
    Katarina says:

    While I know no way doubt that he might have Covid, I don’t understand why other flu viruses don’t seem likely anymore. Also, why is it acceptable to volunteer at a needle exchange but liquor stores are out of the question?

    I hope everyone feels very well in your home very soon. As I recall, I think you said you were sick way back and that it wasn’t Covid, but then later you said you had Covid, so are you able to spread it if you are immune at this point?

  6. Ice
    Ice says:

    If you don’t already have one, get a pulse oximeter (available on Amazon) right away. Have everyone use it daily. If the reading goes below 95, call the doctor. If it goes below 90, go DIRECTLY to the emergency room even if you feel perfectly fine. Google “happy hypoxia” for an explanation.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      We have been borrowing Grace’s (friend down the hall who is in our quarantine pod and now had Covid). Anyway, I love the oximeter. It is one of the only things in this mess that I trust. We use Grace’s so often that we broke her’s. So I guess I’m buying two now.


  7. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    “Also, WTF. We don’t even have tests that work???”

    As a confirmed racist-sexist-homophobe I am very much into Oscar Wilde’s question: “What do women want?”

    But Oscar was wrong. It’s not what women want, it’s what they expect. And what women expect is to be protected.

    Really? You expect to be protected by a bureaucracy? Hey, I gotta bridge…

  8. Amy
    Amy says:

    While clearly not a particularly useful comment at this point, one thing that I’ve come to learn is that alcohol, for many, exacerbates COVID symptoms and the “Long-COVID” impacts (fatigue, mysterious things plaguing people for months, cognitive issues, etc). This happened to me as I went through a sort of weird series of problems and I’ve just cut the alcohol entirely. When I drink moderately now, my body just feels destroyed and poisoned in a strange way. Anything that causes more inflammation seems to “flare” up stuff for some people (like me). However, I was not locked in a small apartment with children (a small apartment where I could hear the neighbors’ children scream through the walls is different) so that situation might warrant some extra help.

    The ER doc also told me the tests are not very useful when I had one… but if you tell people that, it doesn’t go over well. People like the comfort of a test, however inaccurate. Ah well!

    • Johnny
      Johnny says:

      Another false comfort is the certainty of a gaseous vertebrate waiting for the sinning, “believing”, tithers to show up. Now THATS a false comfort. And it has an earthly name: IGNORANCE.

  9. J.
    J. says:

    My son had a false positive when he returned to boarding school and the fallout – both there and here – was brutal (even though we take all the right precautions). Three days later, when his two negative follow-up tests allowed him exit from the school isolation room, the damage had been done, including ANOTHER false positive from a family friend. My doctor sister said the tests just aren’t great and that everyone is doing the best that they can. In the last two months, I continue to hear of positive test results with friends of friends that wreak havoc, only to be found to be false. It’s been a total roller coaster.

  10. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    Hi Penelope. I’m glad to see a post from you, and to hear that everybody is hanging on.

    I would not like to have to quarantine; having to social distance is bad enough.

    You can get alcohol delivered, you know? I don’t do it for myself, but I do it for my brother-in-law, because it’s harder to be broke and distanced when you can’t even mix a decent cocktail. Drizly.com. It’ll get to you in under an hour. Contactless. Probably a better way to resupply if you do run down your COVID stash before two weeks.

    COVID tests vary widely in accuracy. The gold standard is the naso-pharyngeal PCR (aka brain-tickler). Has Nino gone back for a second test?

    My son’s college had the campus well locked-down for the fall semester. Everybody got tested every week, after the first two weeks, in which they were all quarantined and tested repeatedly. There were no outbreaks. Then they all went home for Thanksgiving, and will finish out the Fall term at home. For the Spring term, they will all go through quarantine protocol and testing again on arrival in February.

    My daughter’s school hasn’t been as strict, because it’s not residential, but all the students have to have negative results to return to in-person classes tomorrow. In both cases, the students wear masks all day.

  11. Dana
    Dana says:

    We are very lucky in Delaware. We have lots of pop up test sites at schools, firehouses, etc. almost every day. Waits are short and you can often make appts online. They are free.

  12. carrie
    carrie says:

    Fauci says its critical schools re-open, so it must be OK. After all he’s the same guy who said not to wear masks. *snark*

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