From the Editor’s Files: Quarantines just show we need better access to COVID testing


By Paul Rhodes, publisher and editor

Boy, it’s been a long stretch of pandemic days for me. Two weeks ago, we had another COVID close call at the office, when a staff member got directly exposed to the virus through family members. Then, last week, Kim and I were both directly exposed to friends who tested positive for COVID on Monday.
From that point on, Kim and I were quarantined for most of the rest of the week. We both ended up testing negative, but due to the difficulty to simply get tested, it took all week for us to get the “all clear” and break our quarantines.
That direct exposure was a bit of a shocker, considering that all of us – Kim and I and our friends – had been vaccinated and had all had our booster shots. Still, COVID found its way into our sheltered cluster.
The four of us hang out together specifically because we have a bubble that we thought was safe and protected. So much for that false sense of security, we thought.
But as I worked from home last week (luckily I had that luxury and that capability), I was able to digest a few observations.
First, I can tell you that I’m no fan of working from home. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent my whole life working in very social settings, or maybe it’s because I’ve worked such long hours for the last 30 years, with lots of hours logged at home. Either way, I just don’t care for it.
Second, I really missed going to the grocery store. I wear a mask and shop every day, and living off of what was in my cupboards and my freezer got old in a hurry.
And finally, an obvious observation: Just because you’re vaccinated, you are not safe from the virus. In certain settings you still need to wear a mask and take social distancing precautions.
But if you are vaccinated, you dramatically reduce the chance of COVID putting you in the hospital or killing you. One of our friends who tested positive ended up being pretty sick for several days. She was quick to point out that if she hadn’t been vaccinated, who knows how bad it might have been.
And, our staff member who was exposed at home managed to skate through her quarantine days without getting the virus. Again, she was vaccinated and boosted…and protected.
In the end, my biggest complaint through all of this was the difficulty getting tested. At-home tests are difficult to find on store shelves and scheduling a drive-through test can take days. It should be a nationwide priority to make sure that current efforts to get at-home tests into everyone’s homes does actually succeed.
I sent in my request for free at-home tests as soon as the registration site was up and running. Now I’m just waiting for them to arrive in the mail. I’m cautiously optimistic, at best.
And on Monday, I was able to confirm that my insurance provider is, indeed, covering the cost of off-the-shelf at-home tests. I found a two-pack test kit and the store’s pharmacist was able to run it through my insurance.
So for now, I’m set on test kits in the event that I’m exposed again.
There seems to be a ray of hope that the Omicron variant is rapidly backing off, so there’s some optimism there. But as we get more and more used to the presence of this virus, what we really need is continued precaution, and access to free or inexpensive rapid testing whenever we need it.
Now that would be cause for some quiet celebration.