Covid Testing: Do I Have To?

As I write this, there have been 672,393 coronavirus cases recorded in New York State, and 34,473 deaths.  The number of new cases has risen in recent weeks, but the number of deaths per day, after spiking at about 1,000 per day in early April, has stayed at a tiny fraction of that since June.

Across the state, which has a population of 19.5 million, there have been 19.1 million tests performed.  Manhattan and Staten Island have the distinction of having more tests than people.

The virus is indeed spreading, perhaps because we’re indoors more as the weather gets colder, perhaps because we’re tired of listening to Uncle Andy, perhaps simply because we’re testing more and looking for it.

And then I came across this on the subway the other day:

NYC Covid Testing Announcement

So I should get tested, even if I’m feeling OK.  Why would I want to do that?

First, I have to make time in my schedule, either make an appointment or wait in line, and get a swab stuck up my nose.  These are all things I’d rather avoid. 

And then, if the test is positive, I’ll have to drop whatever I’m doing and quarantine for two weeks.  I’ll have to isolate myself from everyone else, including my wife, unless she takes a test at the same time and her test comes back positive as well.  (I don’t know for a fact that I’ll be able to quarantine with my wife: they may indeed require us to isolate from each other.)  And I’ll have to explain my whereabouts for the previous week to the Covid police, aka the Test and Trace Corps.

As long as I’m feeling OK, and I’m not specifically required to get a test by a client (as happened in July) or a civil authority, I’m not getting tested.  In fairness, the two might overlap: if the Test and Trace Corps tells me I may have been exposed, they might not have the authority to direct me to take the test, but one of my clients has standing rules to that effect.

The bottom line is that I won’t get tested until I get sick myself, or someone makes me.

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About the same time, I read the following in Crain’s, a local business news magazine:

Dr. Christina Johns, senior medical adviser in New Hyde Park at PM Pediatrics, a nationwide provider of pediatric urgent care, said relaying information to patients is an important part of Covid testing….  People who think they might have been exposed to the coronavirus on a Tuesday morning, for instance, might decide to seek out testing that afternoon, she said. If someone is asymptomatic and has been exposed, however, the right thing to do is to quarantine and then obtain testing four to eight days after the exposure.

Crain’s New York Business, 16 Nov 2020

So if I think I might have been exposed, I should drop what I’m doing, isolate myself for a week, and then get a test.  I can imagine the conversation now:

“I’m sorry, I have to take the rest of the week off in quarantine.  I think I might have been exposed to Covid.”

“How do you figure that?”

“I was sneezed on in the street this morning.”

“Bullshit.”

New York State has released a coronavirus tracking app that one can run on one’s phone.  It would issue me an alert when someone that I’ve crossed paths with, who is also running the app, has tested positive.  OK, that’s a bit more than getting sneezed on in the street, but I still think I’ll pass, at least until Uncle Andy makes its use mandatory.

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