I have a draft sitting in WordPress where I’m in the process of telling the story of the time Matt fell off of an extension ladder while hanging window shade valences near the top of our 21ft ceilings.
As dramatic as that was, something else has recently popped up that is not only scary but also came as no shock – COVID-19 has now crossed Myrtle’s threshold.
I knew there was no way we were gonna get out of a renovation of this size – during a deadly global pandemic – without at least one infection. Late June is when the work started under the supervision of the original general contractor. I use the word “supervision” in the loosest of its definitions. What he did was make phone calls, signed forms, and showed up a few minutes on Fridays to collect a check.
Anyway, I don’t want this to digress into a rant about that guy. Back on track we go.
Okay, so back in June the house was overloaded with contractors, sometimes as many as 10-12 in the house at once. The front yard and street often looked like a parking lot because driveway was occupied with a storage POD and a 30-yard construction dumpster.
No one ever wore a mask despite our signage encouraging them to do so. No one distanced, no caution was taken among the workers. I hated it. At that point, we were not living in the house. We were bouncing around to different RV parks – there are not many within reasonable driving distance – while the bulk of the work was completed. We didn’t use the bathrooms in the house. Well, bathroom, singular. All of the others had been ripped out to the bare walls.
Probably the most important factor, though, was our local infection numbers at that point were still relatively low. The pandemic was still a toddler just learning to walk. Things were just starting to open up again after the lockdowns of March and April. We thought things were looking up!
We were such sweet summer children.
While we couldn’t control the behavior of the workers in the house, our contractor told us that the work would be done in 6 weeks (*hysterical laughter*) and we figured we could just go in and bleach-bomb the place before moving in.
Then everything blew up, the project came to a halt as an attorney and town building officials had to be brought in, and we had to move out of our RV and into a very, very unfinished house.
*fast forward screech-y sounds*
We’ve been co-habitating with the workers since then, and I’ve always been diligent with my own social distancing and sanitizing of surfaces touched by them at the end of the day. The majority of the remaining work was in the basement, making the distancing easy most days. I’m 100% consistent with wearing my mask outside of my house, and we cancelled all family holiday gatherings this year to protect our high risk relatives.
Then Matt started clearing his throat a lot and coughing. The day before, he had been cleaning up some old insulation and drywall dust in the garage while not wearing a mask, and we both figured that’s what it was. I had a similar experience months ago where I also had a couple of days of lung irritation after cleaning dust without a mask.
After two days of this, Matt said that he felt under the weather and tired. That didn’t seem like a symptom of dust irritation to me, so I insisted (as in… I would not take NO for an answer) that he go get tested that afternoon. He pushed back about it, but he did it. I asked him to isolate in the master suite until we had the results.
Sunday, Matt’s results came back positive. I immediately scheduled a drive-thru PCR test for myself that afternoon.
Wednesday, my results came back negative.
Here’s the full timeline:
Jan 12th: Matt first notices symptoms.
Jan 14th: Matt gets PCR-tested in the afternoon. In the evening, he begins isolation in the master suite.
Jan 17th: Matt gets a positive result. I get PCR-tested at a CVS drive-thru test center. I notify my parents and friend, who all had contact with Matt on Jan 10th.
Jan 18th: My parents get tested.
Jan 20th: My parents and I all receive negative results.
I’ve stayed asymptomatic. I had some maybe-symptoms that I’m not even sure if I was making up or not because they’d disappear as soon as I thought I felt them. I did some heart-pumping exercise today and felt awesome during the whole thing, so now I’m certain it was my brain trying to freak me out.
Today is January 22nd. The health department released Matt from isolation this morning.
His symptoms were been mild and manageable, thankfully.
Matt’s symptom list: Fatigue/feeling “under the weather”, sinus congestion and pressure, slight muscle aches/lower back pain, and occasional cough. He never experienced shortness of breath and never had a fever. He lost his sense of smell on Day 7 after symptom onset.
The big question – where did Matt get it?
One of our contractors – my parents’ tile and flooring guy in the basement apartment – got very ill the day after a shift in our basement and tested positive a couple of days later. He developed pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for 2 days.
Neither of us had any contact with him that day. He let himself into the basement, worked, and left. We never went downstairs and never saw him. The last time he had been in the house was 5-6 days prior. I remember seeing him that day. I was masked and stayed distant. I believe Matt was also downstairs for a time, since one of the electricians was also down there. The electrician was unmasked and working in close proximity to the flooring contractor.
2-3 days before Matt started showing symptoms, he was in close proximity to the same electrician helping hold a ladder. Matt wore a mask, the electrician did not.
So maybe that interaction did it. Maybe he touched something while shopping for supplies and touched his face before sanitizing. We’ll likely never know.
For now, this was a huge scare and we’re just thankful Matt had a mild case, the kids and I avoided infection (they never showed a symptom and I saw no point in getting them tested since they never leave the house), and the big one: my parents tested negative and didn’t develop symptoms.
As for me, I’ve more than learned my lesson about “being nice” and not nagging the contractors about coming into our home unmasked. I’ve put signs on the exterior doors about masks and distancing. From now on, no one comes in without a mask. Period.