Years of Pandemic Precautions Vs. One Coughing Doctor

I have made it through two and a half years of this pandemic without catching COVID-19. It is entirely possible I was asymptomatic at some point, but I’ve tested every time I’ve had a potential exposure to the virus or any of the symptoms and come back negative every time. So far as I can tell, I’ve managed to avoid getting sick through a combination of good masking habits, having the privilege to work from home as needed, and keeping my exposure to the public at large to a bare minimum. Now, as I spend a week working from home that was supposed to be in the office, coughing and sniffling my days away, I find myself struggling to accept that I might have gotten it from a doctor I saw earlier this week.

Now, I’ve tested negative for the virus so far, but I’ve only been showing these incredibly mild symptoms for the past two days. It might take a few more days to actually test positive since I’m vaccinated, boosted, taking an anti-viral for the eye problem I’m having (which is, coincidentally, why I saw a doctor two days ago), and only experiencing incredibly mild symptoms, so I’ve been isolating at home while I wait for my symptoms to clear up, get worse, or for my tests to stop coming back negative. Preferably, I’d get better and not test positive [which is thankfully the result that has played out by the time this post goes up]. I’d really enjoy being able to maintain my current COVID-free streak rather than have to start over again, but with the US abandoning even the occasional pretense that we’re still in a pandemic, it is starting to seem like I’m going to get sick eventually no matter what I do.

After all, I was wearing an N95 at this doctor’s appointment and called out the doctor for improperly wearing his mask, but he was in just a surgical mask rather than an N95 and he had to touch my face a whole bunch as part of my eye exam. Plus, by the time the he’d started sniffling and coughing and I had a reason to object to his presence, he’d already touched my face a whole bunch. Which even completely ignores that his first set of coughs might have been enough given that I spent another thirty minutes sitting in the small exam room after he coughed a bunch inside it. Now I’m sniffling and coughing and just incredibly annoyed.

The most frustrating part, of course, is that I didn’t need to even encounter this sniffling, coughing doctor at all, since he was resident and not the doctor I was there to see. I don’t mind residents showing up in my appointments since I know my eye problems are probably a lot more interesting and informative to examine than most of the run-of-the-mill stuff (current record for one of these appointments was three residents), but I also feel entirely justified in my anger that this one decided to go to work while sick and now I’m sick as a result. I wonder how many other people got sick because of him.

Maybe I should have requested a new room. Maybe I should have made a bigger deal out of it at the time. Maybe I should have focused more on getting more sleep and rest in the days since my encounter with doctor coughing contagion carrier. There’s only so far that individual responsibility will get you in a pandemic, though, and I may have hit that limit. I’m just so tired of reading all of those articles about how rare it is that someone didn’t have COVID, how everyone has probably had it and just not known they did, and how we should just get used to the idea of getting sick with COVID like it’s just another thing to deal with every year like a cold. I’ve put in a lot of work to keep myself safe and to keep the very few people I spend time with safe by limiting my exposure vectors and I’m just so mad that all of this effort was defeated by a doctor who went to work sick.

I get it. Things are slammed in the medical system of the US right now. Doctors need to finish their residencies so they can go on to do their main focus stuff and we need to help make that happen because we need all the doctors we can get right now, between losing people to COVID and burnout. That’s still no excuse to show up to work sick, not wearing an appropriate mask, and not even wearing that mask correctly (it was one of those masks that has two sets of ties and only the upper set were tied, allowing the mask to drape straight down from his nose and flutter around as he coughed).

I did not need this right now. It woulda been really nice to just not having something bad happen for a little bit longer, to keep recovering and resting for another full week, but here I am. All I can do is hope at this point that it is just a cold that’s started circulating as the temperatures unexpectedly dropped a bunch and not the current form of COVID. It’s really difficult to tell from mild symptoms alone, which sucks, but the fact that all my symptoms are mild so far is something I make sure to appreciate every time I think of it. I’m gonna go take a nap now. By which I mean I’m gonna lay on my futon in the dark while listening to a podcast and do my best to not have thoughts for half an hour. I hope your week is going better than mine is right now.

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