After a year of surprises and unprecedented challenges, I am not sure why I thought my COVID-19 test would be any different.
To say I was ready or prepared for my test result to come back positive would be an understatement. It happened so quickly and I am thankful to be vaccinated and healthy.
It all started on Dec. 13. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling out of sorts. By 6 a.m., I felt intense body aches and had a pounding headache. I shrugged it off at first as just a bad sleep. I also had a hard workout the day before. But as the day continued and the pain didn’t subside, I worried I might have contracted the virus.
I keep my contacts small, always wash my hands, wear a mask and follow the pandemic orders. The symptoms I experienced in those 24 hours felt mild compared to my symptoms after getting my two COVID-19 vaccines earlier this year (AstraZeneca and Pfizer).
I broke my fever in my sleep the night of Dec. 14 and woke up feeling “normal.” My gargle test was scheduled the following day in Victoria. Because I was feeling “normal,” I felt some reassurance that maybe I didn't have the virus.
Then at 6:02 p.m. I received an automated message from the BC Centre for Disease Control that my COVID-19 test result was positive and to self-isolate immediately.
Frantically, I started cancelling holiday plans. I called all my close contacts and felt immense fear that I could have spread the virus unknowingly to someone close to me.
Over the next few days, my symptoms remained mild: I had a headache every day and was tired. Roughly after five days of the virus, I lost my sense of taste. Since then, I don’t appear to have any long-term symptoms, but my taste has not come back fully.
It took public health three days to contact me; once they did, we determined there was no way of knowing where or how I got the virus. I then learned that contact tracing was to be conducted by me and that I had to alert everyone. All of my close contacts tested negative.
The next step was figuring out how long I needed to isolate for. Two nurses told me over the phone that because I was double vaccinated and had mild symptoms, I only needed to isolate for seven days. People who are not vaccinated or are immune-compromised are supposed to isolate for 10 days.
Following up on this information, Glacier Media contacted the Ministry of Health and was told the different isolation timelines reflect emerging information on how COVID-19 and its variants behave.
"We have learnt that people who are double vaccinated tend to shed [the] virus for a shorter duration of time,” says a spokesperson. "In a vaccinated person, by seven days after symptom onset, they are very unlikely to transmit infection."
In contrast, people who are not vaccinated shed the virus for about 10 days after symptoms start.
"Omicron has been found to spread more easily between people than previous COVID-19 variants. People can spread Omicron to others even if they have been vaccinated,” says the spokesperson. "Current vaccines provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalizations for Omicron."
Meanwhile, the two public health nurses told me I would not be able to get a PCR test once my isolation period finished. Ministry of Health staff echo this and tell Glacier Media that people can continue to test positive for weeks.
Ministry staff say PCR tests will remain positive for 20 days or more, so testing by PCR in a public setting is not helpful.
"Theoretically, this might imply that dead virus can be transmitted but it is unclear if this is protective,” says a spokesperson. "The best protection is to be vaccinated.”
Out of an abundance of caution for those closest to me, including an immune-compromised person, I purchased a box of rapid tests online to see if I would continue testing positive.
Thankfully, my results came back negative.
One scroll through social media tells the story of many people coping with COVID-19. I hope my story finds you healthy and safe this holiday season.