Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I’m interrupting my winter break from blogging to share a bit about an unexpected, unwanted Christmas gift I received: news a COVID exposure, and what happened next.

Wednesday morning (12/22): Attempted to buy at-home COVID tests from the grocery store pharmacy, but they were out. They told me they get deliveries on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm if I want to come back.  

Wednesday, 3pm: Not a trip back to the pharmacy, but a haircut appointment.

Thursday: Drive to the western NC mountains.

Saturday evening: While Christmas dinner was in the oven, I got a text from my hairstylist letting me know that I was exposed to COVID at my hair appointment. He had a client on Tuesday who had since tested positive and he also tested positive that day. (By the way, both my stylist and and I are vaccinated—and boosted—and masks are mandatory at the salon.)

I hopped onto internet to start looking for testing sites that would be open on Sunday. No luck. The best option I found was a 1pm CVS drive-through appointment on Tuesday (with results in 1-3 days), so I booked it.

Sunday morning: Not wanting to wait until Tuesday for my test and possibly Friday for my results, I went to CVS to try and buy some at-home tests. I waited about five minutes to be helped at the pharmacy, where I learned that the tests were moved to the front counter. It took another few minutes to track down a cashier who ultimately told me that they sold out that morning.

My husband and I called the other three local pharmacies and they were either out or closed.

Then, I went to the only open urgent care. The place was packed. The tiny waiting room was divided into two sections with labels for “sick” and “well,” which reminded me of restaurant smoking sections from my childhood. The woman at the front desk took my name and phone number and said she would call if they were able to test me that day.

Sunday afternoon: Urgent care called but my husband was so grossed out by the waiting room, we decided to keep the CVS appointment.

Monday morning: I just could not accept that I still couldn’t get tested, so I searched for any new or updated testing events and actually found one! It was still Tuesday and 45 minutes away, but the results would only take a few minutes instead of days. So I booked that and canceled my CVS appointment.

And then, I figured I’d check inventory of the four local pharmacies again and lo and behold, Walmart had them in stock again! I ordered some kits for curbside pickup and got them a few hours later.

Once we were able to test (negative!), we canceled our Tuesday appointments for 45 minutes away and enjoyed a lovely day.

I’m sharing this timeline and the wild goose chase because of 1) how typical it is and 2) how ridiculous it is. Sure, I found out about my exposure on Christmas, so I didn’t expect to tested that night, but nearly two years into this pandemic, I should not have had to scramble this much and be this persistent to learn my status. I wanted to give up and imagine many people do—especially if they feel fine, like I did—which means they can be asymptomatically spreading COVID wherever they go.

So the call to action? Get vaccinated, keep wearing your mask indoors (or start doing it again if you stopped), and stock up on those at-home test kits. Oh, and if you are exposed, it’s up to you to do your own contact tracing to let everyone you came in contact with know. There’s no shame in it! I wasn’t happy I got that Christmas text, but I was grateful I knew so that I could get tested and be sure.

Stay safe!

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