On Aug. 5, I tested positive for COVID-19. Like many Americans, I didn’t think it would happen to me. I’ve followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines as best I could. My wife is a nurse and a cancer survivor, which makes her more vulnerable if she were to get sick. My wife’s health care job and health history combined with the public interaction my job as a member of Congress requires are some of the reasons I’ve taken the pandemic seriously.
The day of my positive test started out like any other. I felt fine, but during my twice-daily temperature check every morning and evening, my temperature was elevated at 99 degrees. Data and science show that asymptomatic carriers are significant contributors to spreading the virus, so I considered the temperature check as an extra precaution and an easy part of a daily routine.
The day of my positive test started out like any other. I felt fine, but during my twice daily temperature check every morning and evening, my temperature was elevated at 99 degrees. Data and science show that asymptomatic carriers are significant contributors to spreading the virus, so I considered the temperature check as an extra precaution and an easy part of a daily routine.
Following the elevated temperature, my wife and I drove to receive a COVID-19 test and later got a call that I tested positive. My wife tested negative and our three college-age children tested negative later in the week, as well as my staff. Multiple doctors told me that I most likely got sick somewhere here in central Illinois 48 hours before my high temperature registered. The truth is, like most Americans who have been stricken, I have no idea where, or from whom, I contracted the virus. The two days before my positive test, our office was holding our open office hours and touring small businesses. I believe that even in a pandemic, it’s important for me to be accessible to the constituents I serve. If we expect our front-line workers to go to work every day, elected officials should do the same. At those meetings and events, we followed all of the guidelines at all times. We held meetings in large, open spaces, wore face masks and social distanced. Once you test positive, the CDC recommends you contact anyone considered at-risk within the past 48 hours, primarily those you’ve been in close contact with indoors for periods of longer than 15 minutes. My staff and I went about contacting anyone who would be considered at-risk and even those who weren’t, just to be safe. Contact tracing is an important part of containing the spread since someone may be positive and not know it. I am blessed that my symptoms have been relatively mild compared to tens of thousands of Americans who have suffered from this virus. I had a mild fever and lost my sense of taste and smell, though I’ve had no major health complications. After consulting multiple doctors and CDC guidelines, I’m confident my quarantine will end soon as long as I don’t exhibit any symptoms. I will continue to do my best to follow CDC guidelines after I recover. With all the misinformation out there, it’s important we listen to the medical experts. The medical community is learning more about this virus every day, and I feel confident we will prevail.
Meanwhile, I’m quarantining and working from my back porch as much as possible so I can maintain proper social distance from my wife. When we are both inside our home, we wear masks to protect her.
Americans are becoming increasingly agitated as “virus fatigue” settles in. Being confined to my house has me stir crazy. It’s important that as policymakers we remember this, and while combating the virus through health measures, we balance it with efforts to keep Americans employed and allow for some semblance of life. Not every American has the ability to work from home. Long-term effects of isolation are real and can lead to serious mental health problems, including addiction to drugs and alcohol or even suicide, not to mention the affects on our children. Too often in times of crisis we retreat to our partisan corners and develop an us-versus-them mentality. We aren’t going to get through this with government mandates, finger-pointing, or shaming our fellow citizens. My whole experience has reinforced the need to focus on our personal responsibility to our neighbors and our communities.
Too many Americans have to wait too long for tests, and that’s unacceptable. States and the federal government should be doing everything they can to expand diagnostic and antibody testing. That’s how we will stay ahead of this virus.
We all must do our part. That’s what it will take to protect the public health, get our economy going again, and get us through this pandemic.