After living quite responsibly for the pats two years, I finally tested positive for Covid-19 two days ago, after being tested negative 5 days earlier, the day when I did not feel particularly well. I was expecting a positive result for me and my girlfriend on the first test, hence my surprise for the negative result (NAAT). Fortunately, the illness does not affect my thinking and allows me to do daily activity normally, which may have boosted my productivity through less distraction during my quarantine period.
With the end of year coming and everyone at work is on holiday, and I’m being stuck inside a 2×3 sqm room, I have some time to kill and thought I should write about my Covid-19 experience instead, which hundreds of millions of people before me have suffered from.
Part I. The Illness
There are various possible events in the days before I was getting sick, but the most likely exposure is through my girlfriend’s co-worker who tested positive on Tuesday and came to the office after being in close contact with her sick husband the day before. Fortunately, and amazingly, my girlfriend is not sick and tested negative on two separate tests with three days gap in between, but another co-worker in the same department also tested positive. Below is my symptom progression by day.
Day 1 – Sunday: Mild fever, feeling cold. NAAT shows negative infection.
Day 2 – Monday: Mild fever, feeling cold
Day 3 – Tuesday: No fever, dry cough, muscle soreness, gastrointestinal discomfort
Day 4 – Wednesday: No fever, dry cough, muscle soreness, runny nose, gastrointestinal discomfort. Rapid test shows + infection.
Day 5 – Thursday: dry cough, slight muscle sores, runny nose, gastrointestinal discomfort, headache at night
Day 6 – Friday: dry cough (improving), runny nose (improving). Completely normal activity.
Thanks to the 2 doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, I consider my symptoms as mild and does not rank among some of my worst influenza. I had no smell or taste disturbance and eating reasonably well with decent appetite. The only discomfort I felt was related to my intestines, where I felt bloating on my belly and need to let it out at least twice a day, excreting white liquid mucus. And oh boy, for two or three days it was difficult to sleep with my nose blocked.
Part II. Life in “Prison”
Soon after I tested positive on the rapid antigen test and my girlfriend tested negative, I decided to separate our living space and barricaded myself on the study room with access to the nearest bathroom. My girlfriend happened to have an air mattress that could be electrically pumped up for me to sleep, and we moved the reading chair out to give some space. So here I am for the past few days, mostly in front of the computer monitor reading, working, or watching Netflix.
I woke up mostly around 7-8am and lie down in the bed checking my emails, messages, and social media for an hour. Then I would go to the bathroom and brush my teeth – and sometimes shower, depending on whether I took one the night before – before turning on my laptop and read market news. I usually start to work on my project afterwards until lunchtime.
For the past three days, apart from working from the dining table, my girlfriend cooks my meals and put it in a lunchbox. When she had the time, she would put my meals on a fancy setting and took a picture before giving it to me. I will then bring out during my toilet run, which I tried to limit it to 4-5x per day to avoid spreading the virus to the living room. Since I’m not terribly sick, sometimes we ordered take-out as well to give us some variations. I have to say that during the quarantine I have been eating well, if not better than my usual norms.
After my meal is done, I normally continue to relax until whatever movie I happened to be watching is finished, before going back to work or my reading. Often, my mom or sister would text me in between to check on my conditions or offering to cook some meals – which I always reject because first, I don’t want them anywhere near me and second, we got plenty of food or have delivery plan already.
At night, my eyes are usually tired, and I opt to lie on the bed, playing my phones. My girlfriend and I would have a video call despite I’m being able to perfectly hear her through the door. Tonight is the exception, as it is New Year’s Eve and I want to stay awake until midnight. As I’m typing these words, it is 9.39pm, two hours and twenty-one minutes away from midnight.
To be honest, I did not feel being limited at all during the quarantine period. Even when I was healthy, I spent most of my time reading and working on a project at my new work. The only thing that is bothering me during the whole quarantine period is sleeping on an air bed and unable to walk to stretch my legs, which is causing some back pain. Every few hours of sitting I would have to get up and do a 2-minute aerobic moves. So far, so good.
Part III. Something to be Grateful For
Regardless of my currently rather unfortunate situation, there are many things I could be grateful for. First, living in the developed country allows me to have access to vaccine soon as it was available (mid-2021). Many people in the developing countries still do not have access to vaccines, especially the mRNA-based vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna that are proven to give greater protection.
Second, despite living overseas alone for years, I’m happy to report that my mother is still worried when I am sick. Sometimes it feels good to be treated like a kid once more. Third, it looks like I have a good eye for dating a caring girlfriend! She took care of all my needs – without complain – and is a great conversational partner.
And lastly, I realized that I have over 20 people who still show concerns on my well being. I was swamped by their best wishes and warm messages the morning after announcing that I tested positive on my social media account. Perhaps the moral message here is to start appreciating the people we have around us.
Part IV. The Science
A pre-published study from HK (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34915551/) shows that with the omicron variant 2 doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine only protects 20-24% of the recipients, and none for those receiving 2 doses of Sinovac vaccine. This explains the explosion in number of cases globally and lower mortality rate as the omicron overtakes the delta variant.
Going forward, it is likely that omicron variant will spread to more countries and creating another surge in places that has previously weather the pandemic well. Southeast Asian countries are particularly vulnerable, where natural infection rate is low and most of the population is vaccinated using protein-based vaccine – either through donation or bought from China. I suspect the new variant will also make it impossible for Chinese government to maintain its “zero Covid” policy.
Having a third booster dose is also important in increasing the protection level against omicron variant (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2119358?query=featured_coronavirus). The study (using Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine):
“…found low neutralization efficiency with two doses of the BNT162b2 vaccine against the wild-type virus and the delta variant, assessed more than 5 months after receipt of the second dose, and no neutralization efficiency against the omicron variant. The importance of a third vaccine dose is clear, owing to the higher neutralization efficiency (by a factor of 100) against the omicron variant after the third dose than after the second dose; however, even with three vaccine doses, neutralization against the omicron variant was lower (by a factor of 4) than that against the delta variant. The durability of the effect of the third dose of vaccine against Covid-19 is yet to be determined.”
Part V. What’s in Store for 2022
As of today, the number of hospitalizations in Montreal is about 38% (652/1712) of its peak during the first wave. Although the omicron variant is estimated to be 5x less severe than earlier strains, the number of daily cases today is 5.6x greater than the peak early this year. This means an uncontrolled infection in the next 10-14 days could overwhelm the healthcare system with hospital beds reaching their full capacity, hence the Quebec government decision to impose strict restriction last yesterday.
It looks like twenty-twenty-two will looks like twenty-twenty too! Happy New Year Folks!
Time stamp: 11.01pm; 2021-12-31