I had a COVID test this week – after being notified via the tracing app that I was a close contact last week. I’ve been self-isolating, monitoring for symptoms, and trying very hard not to freak the heck out about the worst-case scenario. I’m double-vaccinated, I wear KN95 masks whenever I go out (baby pink with ear loops which my mother bought me because I am that millennial), I scan in everywhere and obviously the Bluetooth is working. I even got my booster shot the very day I was notified about the close contact.
So the odds were pretty strongly in my favour. Not that that did anything to reduce the anxiety, especially when it comes to having a small baby with a history of pulmonary issues due to her heart condition!
The queue at the testing centre in Porirua was long. It opened at 9am; I arrived at 8:20 and the line of cars was already around the block; I was out with a sore sinus and very watery eyes at noon. That’s a heck of a long time to be sitting in the car with nowhere to go, and I definitely felt the glute cramp when I got home. But I had water, snacks, a full phone battery, podcasts and knitting.
(And between starting this draft and posting the finished product, I got a negative test result! Yay!)
More importantly, I had someone at home who was watching the baby.
There were a lot of people with kids in their cars, waiting in that queue. Some probably had to get their kids tested, which is a whole other nightmare I never want to have to face. But I’m sure many more just didn’t have a choice. There wasn’t any other option – no one to watch the kids, no one who could take sick leave, stay home from their paid job, spare a completely uncertain amount of time while the driver went and sat in that queue. Nobody available at short notice, or nobody who could take the risk of looking after kids who might themselves be household contacts of a soon-to-be-diagnosed COVID case.
It seems like the smallest amount of support imaginable – just having another adult around, parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt or older sibling or neighbour, to watch the kids for a couple of hours – and yet a lot of parents don’t even have that. Don’t have the financial means or flexibility to manage sudden upheavals in the usual routine. And the consequence of that is spending three-plus hours with that kid in the car, getting increasingly and very understandably hungry, tired and cranky.
The pandemic has really laid bare a lot of problems in our communities. Things that weren’t quite at breaking point but snapped once they encountered all the pressure of anxiety, illness, insufficient infrastructure and inadequate support systems at once. For the rest of us it can highlight the small privileges we don’t even think about on a daily basis.
I was very grumpy and tired and sore when I got home from my COVID test. But there was a whole huge chunk of care and anxiety that I didn’t have to deal with. The question is, how do we make sure no one has to?