Testing and trusting

Today I got some news, tested negative for the virus antibodies. Didn’t quite know what to do with that news at first.

So I thought for a while, what it meant to get tested, and what these results meant, even if temporary and not 100% reliable…

I guess the negative test result means for me that by social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands and to some extend doing the lockdown, it is possible to dodge the thing. Maybe at some point I started to doubt that, thinking that no matter what, in this city, we were doomed to get it. And this is true too, but the goal is still to try delaying it, for the greater good.

And likewise, a lot of people are probably starting to believe that they cannot avoid it, hence letting their guards down. That is not a good thing.

This is why maybe it is also important to get tested, to get reassurance that we can avoid it and were on the right path taking precautions as a collective. There is of course an element of luck at play but that, for sure no one can control, just like life.

Despite the fact that test results aren’t 100% reliable either. But we got to start somewhere, trusting something, or else we will never get out of this bag of worms. Just like we all thought at the onset, and like they did in Cuba, mass testing does prove efficient.

When I walked in the testing place, it was just because I’d been meaning to do so for some time now but it was either not possible yet, and then when it was, the line was huge every time I walked past it. But last Thursday, there was no line, so I walked in. I wasn’t really sure anymore what was the point of getting tested, if basically the minute we walk out of there, we could potentially get infected by someone or something. Eventhough at the onset of the pandemic, all we could wish for was to get enough supplies for everyone to get speed tested so that we would know who needed to self-isolate right away, and the rest could just go about regular life. That was I believe, the hope we all had collectively.

As many others probably felt in this state of confusion, living in such a dense populated city as is NYC, the small part fatalist in me started to believe that no matter how careful I was to try to avoid getting the virus, no matter how hard I tried, I was bound to get it. And thats true to some extend, as I wrote at the start of all this, 70% of us will eventually get it in a 3 years time frame.

Another selfish part of me also started to wish I had antibodies, contracting the damn virus previously without noticing it, be done with it and resume life. Well I didn’t. And for a minute there, I wasn’t sure if I felt disappointed or happy.

It quickly became clear. I actually succeeded at keeping the virus at bay. That the collective efforts weren’t in vain. That doing the social distancing thing, wearing a mask and washing hands all the time does works, to some degree even in rat packed NYC and is totally worth it. And so I shall continue to do so without questioning it.

The will to pursue dodging the virus was never motivated by a fear of dying. Of course I don’t want to die, but my chances of dying from the virus are not much more than those of getting hit by a car. Not saying it can’t happen, this thing is so unpredictable for now, but so is life. At the same time, just like I’m not going to throw myself at a car just to test the odds, I’m not going to test the odds with the virus either. Not sure about these kid’s logic going for the “lets all try to get it” approach. I understand the feeling behind it, but the logic seems flawed. However for some people, the odds of dying from this virus are clearly way higher. As an individual, selfishly, I wanted to get it already. But for the greater good, I didn’t because the virus would be transmitted to others, maybe at risk, through me. So I was always and will continue taking a part in this collective magma of will to break the chain of spreading. Because if I get it, asymptomatic or not, I will potentially and unknowingly transmit it. And I can’t live with the idea of potentially affecting or killing someone else unknowingly. And whatever nature is testing us to do to prevent this, and by extension what our civic duty is requiring, isn’t really that difficult to do.

We’ve had 3 months of “training”. Because yes these practices require a bit of adaptation, as to not be forgetful, being aware that whenever you touch a door knob or package, come in contact with someone, these are all possible hitchhikes for the virus. And so you must wash your hands, make sure the mask is tight enough around your face else whats the point etc. But once we integrate all these processes, they become second nature. Its not difficult, it just takes practice until they become automatic, just like when learning an instrument for exemple. And so it becomes less daunting or annoying, depending how you look at it. We all (or at least those willing) had a chance to learn, and some like me, even had the luxury to do so without having the pressure of learning all these new habits while interacting with others by necessity hence exposing yourself and others to more risk.

Since the start of the lockdown, I’ve been wearing a mask from the moment I step out my door until I come back. I don’t even think of it anymore. Its really pointless to fight it, the sooner you get the habit in, the faster you adapt, the sooner you can start doing things without it being in the way. I go out, it comes on. I come back, wash hands, take it off, and yes wash hands again. I haven’t found a better solution yet, so the hand washing twice avoids the mask washing more often… Masks and packages go into a sort of “possibly contaminated” area. Far from the rest. Social distancing as much as possible while still keeping somewhat sane, and obeying these rules set for myself back in March at the start of all this. First rule being to wash hands every time i feel or need to touch my face. So would I be pissed if I got the virus after doing all this? Probably. But its not like we have a choice to not try. At least for me, as always, I give it everything. And if it fails, so be it. But I can sleep at night (well, this isn’t one more thing to keep me awake anyway) and I know I’ve done all I could to protect our humanity. Not just friends and family, but everyone.

Moreover, what it means is that the more people succeed at this new job we have, of breaking the spreading chain link, the more time doctors and medical field can find better treatments, and the least people die.

* Update 06/27/20: for more information about antibodies, read I’m a viral immunologist. Here’s what antibody tests for Covid-19 tell us (Opinion | The Guardian)