Sniffing around COVID-19 concerns

Out of an abundance of caution when I thought I had allergies, before finishing packing for a work conference, I took a rapid test, and within a minute, tested positive for COVID-19. Now, a week later, I am finally feeling more like myself, but the experience has left me with lingering concerns.

First off, I worry that two years in isolation has compromised our immune systems. Since restrictions have been lifted, I’ve now had COVID twice and strep throat once. I still practise increased hand washing and social distancing. Granted, the spring is my annual strep throat window, but still, this year has been particularly bad.

Second, because I thought vaccinated people got fewer symptoms, I believe that my booster is either no longer boosting, or perhaps more likely, that I have just had the Delta variant. What I experienced in Greece was only two days of complete exhaustion, with few lingering side effects. This time, I had all the nasty symptoms, and the chest congestion, sinus pain, and ear pressure have decided to hang around, along with the loss of sense of smell. According to one website only 17 percent of patients have loss of sense of smell with Omicron, whereas it is over 50 percent with the Delta variant.

Third, the loss of the sense of smell takes some getting used to. On the good side, I can’t smell the litter box. On the bad side, I don’t know if my garbage needs changing and is stinking up the house (or if I am). My appetite has also been lessened. Thursday, when my kind neighbour dropped off a loaf of homemade bread, I instinctively took a long sniff of it, and said: “Smells delicious.” We laughed when I corrected myself to say it looks delicious. I’ve also never waited to cut into a loaf before, but without smell, the bread’s siren song was not smelt.

I figured out that I had lost my sense of smell because the crackers and peanut butter that had been sustaining me for days no longer had an odour. The extent of my loss of smell was proven when I put Vicks VapoRub on my chest, and couldn’t smell the “mentholly” vapours.

Fourth, work restrictions need to be reviewed. There is no way that I could have rejoined the workforce after the recommended five days of quarantine. Employers need to be aware that not only are the strains different, but so is the severity with which it hits people. Just because you only experienced cold-like symptoms doesn’t mean that I wasn’t contemplating hospital admission several nights when I just wasn’t sure I could manage alone. Similarly, workplaces can’t require a positive test to start COVID compensation if you can’t access testing. You can’t get a test done at the COVID centre anymore unless you are in a high-risk group. It’s also getting harder to find rapid tests.

Which brings me to my fifth point. If I hadn’t had a rapid test at home already, would I have tested before travelling and cancelled my trip? How many COVID positive people aren’t testing,? How many know they are positive and are still travelling? Either way they might be sitting on the airplane beside us on our next flight.

I’m for removing restrictions, but our wastewater samples continue to show high COVID levels in the community. If anything, access to rapid tests should be increasing as we try to self-diagnose and not impact our workplaces, friends, and strangers around us. Cases aren’t decreasing, reporting is.

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