In the past few months have you awakened with a headache or cough and wondered whether you have COVID-19? Or maybe you have even gotten tested and waited for a few days for the results to come back. Wondering all that time if you have affected the people around you and if you could even leave your house or attend school. In our school we have had a number of students and teachers who have actually experienced COVID-19 during the summer, and I have interviewed some of them, a total of eight, to learn about their experience.
How Were You Exposed?
COVID-19 is a complex virus that is difficult to track. Almost everyone I interviewed did not know how they were exposed. For those who do know how they were exposed, it was someone close to them who spread it. One teacher stated, “A close family member tested positive and was with me for several days before we knew.” A student said, “I was exposed at a friend’s house with four other people. We weren’t in close contact or anything, but they managed to spread it to the four others there.” Another student had a friend over to his house who “tested positive for COVID-19 a few days later.”
Many of those who tested positive were unaware that they had it until they decided to get tested for a particular reason. One student was in contact with a friend who got sick, which compelled him to get tested after being notified. Another student was about to go on vacation with his grandparents and got tested as a precaution, while another was also planning to travel and got tested as a precaution. Both tested positive.
One teacher did not know with certainty he had it, but he matched several of the symptoms their COVID-19-positive family member had. This teacher stated, “I was advised to stay home and not get tested because I would likely have exposed people in a clinic.” Others were on high alert because they matched common symptoms of the virus. One student said, “I had a sore throat, nasal congestion, and a headache. I felt like I had a cold and was constantly tired. I never really had a fever, but I knew I was sick. However, I didn’t know I had COVID right away. The day I found out about my exposure, my entire family got tested and three of my family members tested positive.” COVID-19 is a virus that moves in virtual silence, as many of the people who contract it are asymptomatic, and, as a result, it is important to remain wary of personal contact and to maintain proper precautions.
Symptoms and Duration of the Virus
COVID-19 is a virus with a variety of symptoms, with a severity that can range from very mild to severe, and its effects can last for varying amounts of time. Some people may have only a few symptoms, and some may have no symptoms at all. Some people may experience worsened symptoms, such as increased shortness of breath and pneumonia about a week after symptoms start. With these Priory students and teachers, the most common symptom was fatigue, as well as a sore throat and loss of smell. “The worst part of having COVID,” one student said, “is that you lose your sense of taste and smell. Everything starts to taste the same and so you don’t really feel like eating or drinking anything.” Most of his symptoms lasted about a week, but their return of taste and smell was a much more gradual process.
For the majority of those surveyed, the longest lasting symptom was loss of taste and smell, which on average lasted about a week. For others it was the lack of energy they experienced, which took a gradual time to return. For instance, one student said, “You also just feel exhausted all of the time.” And one teacher especially felt fatigued: “I was really, really tired … and just really lethargic.” One student was completely asymptomatic. COVID-19 is not a virus to be taken lightly and if you match any of the symptoms it is important that you get tested to protect yourself, as well as prevent the further spreading of the virus to others.
Effects of COVID-19 in Daily Life
The development of COVID-19 has had consequences on our daily lives, whether we have had the virus or not. The effects of this virus can be felt even as we walk around the school: we need to social distance in the hallways; the lunch experience at Priory is completely different; and most especially, we need to wear masks during the school day. For those who have tested positive for this virus, it has even greater effects. Those in our Priory community who tested positive this summer had to stay home and quarantine themselves from their families. One student said that testing positive meant “quarantining from my family, who later tested negative. I lived in the basement for about 10 days and only really came up for food.” Another student was forced to quit his summer job. For another, it meant having to “quarantine for about a month of my summer. No leaving the house. For two weeks I could not leave my room because the rest of my family didn’t have it.”
This virus can also be harmful to personal relationships and cause great anxiety to those who have relationships affected by this virus. “For me,” one teacher admitted, “I felt bad because I had been over to a friend’s house to watch Guardians of the Galaxy two days before. His family members are the only ones we did anything with over the summer – kind of a joint group isolation. I was scared that maybe I had given it to them. Thankfully, they got tested, and didn’t have COVID. But while waiting for test results to come back, I was really nervous.” No matter who you are, this virus has likely made a difference in your daily life and impacted you in some way. As we wait for this virus to end its destruction, we must fight to maintain some positivity and focus on the good things in our lives, rather than solely the negatives.
How Testing Positive Changes Perspective on the Virus
There is a plethora of information on the internet and in the news about COVID-19, but once a person tests positive, their perspective or understanding of the virus is likely to change as they experience it first hand. One student stated the main thing he learned about the virus is that it is “weird.” He stated, “symptoms were different for all of my friends, and we all had varying contagiousness. I was in contact with a ton of family members before I knew I had it, and I didn’t give it to anyone. But one friend managed to give it to four others in a short time.” Another student shares this perspective, saying: “COVID-19 spreads a lot easier than we think. My personal opinion is some people may have had it and never known.”
Many of the students admit they feel less afraid of the virus after having it. “My understanding now that I’ve had it is that it is not that bad,” one student stated. “However, this doesn’t mean much coming from a healthy kid with no underlying medical conditions, but I do not think its effects are as bad as they are made out to be.” A teacher partially agreed, saying, “I honestly feel more cavalier about it, which is not a good thing. I had an EXTREMELY mild case, and that has given me an unfounded personal sense of invulnerability to COVID. I have to constantly remind myself that I was very, very, lucky.”
To prevent further spread of COVID-19, it is important to isolate when you test positive for the virus, or when you suspect you may have it. Many of the students interviewed spent their time isolated in their basements, doing various activities to keep themselves occupied. One student said, “I basically spent all my time in the basement: watching Netflix, reading books. I also did some work outside away from others.” Because of the virus being highly contagious, those who test positive are required to be isolated, not just from the outside world, but from their family as well. One student said, “I had to isolate myself in my basement because only half of my family had COVD-19. We opened all of the windows in the basement and covered vents that would circulate our air to other parts of the house. The only real interaction we had with other parts of the family was when the people upstairs would send down food.”
Testing positive for this virus means significant changes in daily life for those who have it, many of which are very difficult. These changes range from not being able to go out in the world to not being able to do even basic things such as work or see family. This may not be particularly damaging to students at Priory, but for others in the world, it may be devastating.
One student said, “It was not ideal staying in my basement, but because my friends and I were all isolated and had Xbox, we spent our time talking on it all day.”
For some it was harder to deal with compared to others. One student said, “It was very stressful because those of us who had it did not want to infect the others in our family. The real negative about isolation was being bored for days on end. There are only so many shows you can watch before you get tired of just sitting around.” It is important to remember the importance of isolation, as it can help prevent others from getting the virus. A teacher said, “The isolation during the actual two week quarantine was not terrible, because I knew it was for a good reason. But the social distancing for the past six months has been very hard to deal with.” This virus also can be harmful to families, as one teacher highlighted, saying, “The hardest part of isolation was not being able to get out and about and not being able to let my daughter go play with her friends.”
Opinions About Return to Normal Life
With the presence of COVID-19 in our daily lives, we are forced to adapt by maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Many people wonder during these uncertain times whether we can return to normal life anytime soon and whether it is a good idea to do so. Perhaps, as these Priory students suggest, COVID-19 does not pose grave danger to young, healthy students like those at Priory, but certain precautions are necessary to protect older people or those who have compromised immune systems. Many students believe that going to school is a necessity, despite the risks it may hold.
One student said, “I would certainly say that I am for going back to school. I think if proper social isolation guidelines are followed, we should at least be able to decently contain a spike in cases with school starting back. However, I’m not completely optimistic about the future and our chances of being moved to online school.”
Many of the surveyed students have noted the importance of following guidelines if things are to return to something resembling normalcy. “I think returning to school is a bit risky but necessary,” a student stated. “Also, if you think you may have COVID-19, you need to stay home and do school remotely. We need to be very careful because although we are taking a lot of precautions, we are still in rather close proximity to other people. If we want to continue to have in-person classes we need to follow the guidelines provided by both the county and the school.”
Perhaps a teacher best summed up the importance of following safety guidelines when they stated, “Social isolation is very important: I have no idea who gave me COVID, as the people I was with got tested and came back negative. No one around me had visible symptoms, and I still got it. As I said, I was lucky, but lots of other people (over 200,000 now) have not been so lucky. We all have a responsibility to protect others, even when we think we are not infected.”