Self-quarantine. In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, a term that was once regarded as a precautionary measure taken by individuals exposed to an illness now refers to a constant state of being for households around the world, including my own. Some have watched the pandemic unfold from their televisions, while others, like myself, have come face-to-face with the virus in their own homes.
When my father began coughing around two months ago, I didn’t think anything of it. At the time, there were only a few dozen positive coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, and none of them were from my county or neighboring counties. I began self-isolating as per the recommendations of the governor, but I assumed I was doing so to prevent coronavirus from entering my home. Little did I know, it had already found its way inside.
A few days later, my younger sister started to experience symptoms similar to my father’s, but it still seemed highly unlikely to me that either of them could have contracted the novel coronavirus, which was then ravaging popular tourist destinations around the globe. It wasn’t until we were notified that they had been around an individual who tested positive that they went to get tested, as their symptoms were worsening by the day. Although it was now probable that my father and sister could actually have coronavirus, it seemed unreal to me when their results came back positive.
As my father and sister were suffering from the common symptoms of COVID-19—body aches, chills, fever, and cough, to name a few—I navigated my home as if it was a landmine. Although I knew in the back of my mind that around 85% of those affected by coronavirus experience mild symptoms, I became tormented by fear and anxiety after watching news reports of seemingly healthy individuals relying on ventilators for survival. Seeing the severity of the pandemic portrayed on television clouded my understanding of the situation in my household and made getting a good night’s sleep impossible.
I struggled to differentiate the virus from my family members, and I viewed them as infected individuals whom I had to avoid at all costs lest I end up bedridden myself. Having to share living spaces like a single bathroom and kitchen with my family without being able to tell if I was directly exposed to virus particles drove me insane, and this fear left me brandishing a Lysol wipe each time I left my bedroom. Nonetheless, I was extremely concerned for my family and lamented that I couldn’t have experienced the virus instead of my sister, who recently had pneumonia.
One of the most important lessons I learned from experiencing the effects COVID-19 firsthand is that social distancing measures are no longer for the slight possibility that you and those around you may be spreading the virus. Rather, it is a protocol that will literally save lives, as we now know that individuals in our own homes and communities can be transmitters. While I am incredibly thankful that my father and sister have fully recovered, I know that thousands of families are grieving for their lost loved ones, so I urge everyone to join me in continuing to socially distance for the time being.