The world’s cases of covid-19 are skyrocketing. Up past 600,000 confirmed and showing no signs of slowing down. France reported the first death of a teenager, Juliette, aged 16. The US reported the first death of a baby, too. What we thought was a group that was relatively untouched – children – is turning out to be vulnerable too. Coronavirus is getting increasingly complex, and more frightening, with each passing day.
I hope that I am not one among those 600,000 cases. I performed my first video consultation with a doctor via the Doctolib application yesterday. The doctor called me and asked questions about my symptoms. She asked me to pinch my nose and my neck to feel my if my lymph nodes were swollen. It didn’t seem to be the case (though again I am not a doctor and have no medical experience). Since the pain from my throat came when I swallowed, and since I had a headache in the front of my head that was augmented by sensibility of light and sound, she suspected either a sinus infection or strep throat. The absence of respiratory symptoms was a good sign for it not to be coronavirus, but she said that really the medical community still didn’t know. Best to isolate anyways.
“Do you have a place in your home where you can have a room to yourself for 14 days?”
I don’t know how to answer this question. In theory yes, if my wife accepts to sleep on the couch and I barricade myself in our bedroom. That means no help with the kids, no moving around, no interaction with anyone other than digitally for two full weeks. Life already felt like prison, this would be a nail in the coffin.
“Yes,” I said, “I’ll try.”
She nodded her approval. She was standing outside in the sunshine in front of what I’m assuming was her giant family home in the countryside somewhere. A massive house like that would have a lot of rooms to quarantine in. At her age if she did have kids they probably had small kids of their own. She is obliged to give certain medical advice. I am obliged to follow it as best I can.
She prescribed antibiotics to fight off any potential infection and told me to call her back within 5 days to see if I was better. Once I didn’t show symptoms I could go back to interacting with my family. She scribbled the prescription and emailed it to me.
I looked outside at the same sun that I saw on my doctor’s video screen. The weather has been miraculous these past 12 days, sunshine, not a drop of rain, sky the clearest blue that our generation has ever seen because the air pollution has dropped to levels from the 1970s. I thought of my doctor and all of the people lucky enough to have left Paris, to be spending confinement in a place with outdoor space. It’s almost like a vacation for them.
We should have left when we had the chance. Fled to Brittany to wait out the pandemic. I see my brother-in-law’s family spending time gardening, planting strawberries, and doing school exercises. My sons would’ve been able to play with their cousins. We would’ve been able to run on the beach.
But we didn’t go. We couldn’t. We had to wait for the mortgage offer to not lose our future home. That part of Brittany had seen an outbreak as bad as Paris for the coronavirus at the time. The official advice was not to flee to the countryside – less medical services in case anything went wrong. Spending three hours on a train where the coronavirus can freely circulate in the aeration system was risky. We had supplies in Paris. How would we get to Brittany with the diapers, baby milk, and bottles of wine that we needed?
It’s too early in the year for the sunshine to hit the end of our courtyard here, its direct rays can’t make it over the building at the end. That will come in May. Half of our apartment is underground. The sunshine outside teases me as I try and get up a few times per day to drink tea to soothe my throat. I know that the day that we are liberated it will rain for a month. And you know what? I won’t care. I will skip around in that rain like Gene Kelly, drunk of the happiness of freedom, soaked to the bone but soaked in joy.
For now I must keep lying here, letting the antibiotics do their thing and hoping that the symptoms die down in a few days. If that’s the case either I had just a strep throat or a very mild case of covid-19. If it takes a turn for the worse, then I will cross that bridge when I get there. I can only hope that whatever I have doesn’t pass to the kids, or – even better – whatever they had passed to me. I can separate myself as much as I can, which is not very much. Uncertainty is now risk.
What I need more than anything is good news, word from the front that the curve is flattening, that people who are recovered can start to get back to work, that the upheaval that the pandemic has caused can be managed. It must be horrible to lose loved ones and not be able to say good bye. For those suffering to spend their last moments on Earth alone in isolation while they gasp for air they cannot breathe.
This needs to end, and soon.