“This is important!” Mrs. Shibuya, my flustered biology teacher’s words echo these times.
Sitting in our high school science lab, she was particularly enthused about new discoveries in RNA sequencing. Monoclonal antibodies, single cell composition, Ro or ‘R naught’ – these terms seemed trivial to me at 15 and now at 32, writing this piece after an unsettling election, 10 days into a 14 day quarantine, I am settling into the realization that far too many of us Americans lapsed better judgement in what to pay attention to during our lessons in the sciences.
I was mid-sketch on a cartoon of antibodies with different shaped “mouths” ready to attach, only able to protect the cells to which it matched perfectly.
“You must pay attention to this, ladies, I can’t tell you how important this is…as important as primordial soup!” The class of women erupted with laughter, “No one in this class will ever need this stuff, really, Mrs. Shibuya” a girl remarked. I could see how it stung Shibuya, the students’ words lingered and in an air of defeat, we received our assignments for the week.
I have been thinking about Mrs. Shibuya often. What she would think about a couple holding hands — one is wearing a mask, the other isn’t. I think of her when I overhear chatter waiting for the cashier, “We tried this social distancing thing and it just doesn’t work for our family.”
I think of her while cutting construction paper hearts to go in meal boxes for those facing food insecurity, some of whom haven’t seen a family member or friend since March. I yearn to hear her take on covid-19. I know no one, personally, within the scientific community and even if I did, despite the limited known knowns, chances are there still are too many known unknowns- one being that my husband and I don’t have Covid-19.
I have taken multiple PCR tests for work assignments since March—all free, mostly through Curative LA. When donating blood last month I learned I have zero antibodies, but recalling Shibuya’s lecture, antibodies present in our blood don’t translate to immunity. Very bare bones Google searches brought up articles on the efficacy of Covid-19 testing. I leaned towards two studies from Harvard and Columbia, landing on this very significant fact: tests are not 100% accurate, particularly rapid tests.
Three weeks ago my husband began preparing for an essential work trip to a country that definitely has a better grip on the pandemic than we do: UAE. He was mandated to have two PCR tests, considered to be the most accurate that we have: one to board the plane, and one to be let back into the United States. I was on my way back home from San Francisco to meet with my husband for the first time since his trip, when a tweet popped up on my phone. New County Guidelines: All travelers re-entering LA County are recommended to quarantine for two weeks.
At first my husband wasn’t particularly thrilled about the idea of quarantining. For one, no one was enforcing this. If we had tested positive we would have gone into ‘isolation’ which is something different altogether. Either way, it was our choice to participate. Second, he would have to explain to his work what he was doing.
I share with pride that this paper has been brought to fruition in the midst of a pandemic, the entire team working remotely, and my handful of close friends wouldn’t expect anything less from me. I eagerly considered this circumstance as an opportunity to participate in an experiment in real time.
We weren’t prepared for a quarantine, as most won’t be. Perhaps this will motivate you to consider what you would want or need taken care of around your dwelling, including pre-ordering medication refills or listing what your kids or pets may need.
Our shelves were low from traveling and we made do with “what can we make out of nothing?” recipes for a few days (until one really odd lunch that lingered). We regularly shop at Canyon Gourmet and the General Store but in order to avoid contact with the community, we downloaded all the delivery apps, only to discover at check out we were out of their delivery zone. Amazon Fresh is new and did deliver to our neighborhood, although it is not sustainable long term for those on a budget, and when trying it today, no delivery times were available.
To creatively keep track of the days, I watched one film a day. Some new, others classics to my heart. Our projector was a great investment this year. I opted to spend the time I would have gone hiking reaching for new reading material, like delicious shorts from The Best American Short Stories 2019-2020. We had no visitors for two weeks, with the exception of a great horned owl who decided to regularly ‘gift’ us pellets – an unusual opportunity for yet another experiment to dissect them.
At the precipice of the holidays, so many want to see their loved ones. By the time you read this, Thanksgiving has come and gone. This quarantine experiment will be over.
I don’t know what the tail end of 2020 will look like. I can say with assurance that this year has embedded in me an ‘expect anything at any given moment’ outlook for the foreseeable future. What I can report is this two week quarantine fostered in us both a newfound appreciation for our teachers, essential workers, neighbors and most of all, this place we call home. A strict two-week quarantine with your household could factor in to be the safest experiment in seeing a loved one this Christmas, just remember to keep your ‘bubble’ in the single digits.
Curative Covid Testing www.curative.com