Staff reflects on a COVID-19 infected holiday

L-R: Callie Fausey, Zoe Binder, Lucia Verzola, Megan Robertson, Sammy Berlanga PHOTO BY BEAU TATTERSALL/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

Upon returning home for break, almost half of the Foghorn staff contracted COVID-19. They have since recovered and returned to campus.  

Zoe Binder – Opinion Editor

Location of testing positive and quarantining: Zurich, Switzerland

When I flew back home to Berlin in mid-December, I was relieved to test negative for COVID-19 and to continue to test negative for the few days following. I was nervous about contracting the virus on the long flight home since I was waiting to get boosted in Berlin. My sister arrived from Los Angeles a week after I did with what she thought was a cold, and we traveled to Zurich to my parents’ house. 

I soon contracted the “cold” my sister had, and knew from my symptoms that it was something more severe. After a day of mild cold symptoms like a sore throat and a runny nose, I had a hard time sleeping because of intense joint pain and muscle aches. Sometime that night I could feel myself getting feverish, but my high temperature only lasted for a few hours. My sister and I tested ourselves the next morning with a pack of 15-minute antigen tests that my dad managed to find, and we were positive for COVID-19. Soon after, my other sister and my mom, who were both fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive as well. The only anomaly was my dad, who continued to test negative for a few days. According to the December COVID-19 guidelines in Switzerland, he was still supposed to go to work, even though he had been in close contact with people who tested positive. Through some strange coincidence, my dad arrived home from his last day of work and finally tested positive for COVID-19.

My family’s symptoms varied, but all were either as severe or less severe than mine. We had to cancel everything that we had planned for the remainder of the holiday, which forced us to stay together for longer than we had expected, something I consider to be the silver lining of the whole situation. Like the timing of my dad’s positive test, another coincidence occurred when my sister and I tested negative in time for New Year’s Eve. We decided to celebrate that night with my grandparents in southern Germany, who we couldn’t see over Christmas. 

Lucia Verzola – Editor in Chief

Location of testing positive and quarantining: Lansing, Kansas

I began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms on Christmas day, waking up congested but blaming it on the fact that I had gotten my booster just two days previously. I was boosted just after flying from San Francisco to spend the holidays with my family in Lansing, Kansas. I was eating brunch with my family and by the end of the meal, I couldn’t taste or smell anything. Throughout the day, I kept telling myself that it was just a bad cold and that since I was fully vaccinated and took all precautions up to that point in the pandemic, there was no way I could have gotten COVID-19.

It took two days for me to find a COVID-19 test at a local urgent care clinic just outside of my hometown — something I had to pay out of pocket for because all free tests within an hour’s drive were booked days out. My fears were confirmed when my results came back positive. I panicked knowing my five siblings, mom, and grandma, who I was spending the holidays with at home, had all been exposed to me. My family went through the same process as me, each member struggling to find a test and feeling like we struck gold when we discovered a handful of at-home tests at a local grocery store. Thankfully, my 86-year-old grandma tested negative and only half of my family ended up testing positive. Those of us that contracted the virus had traveled from the coasts to return home and experienced relatively mild symptoms. I believe I didn’t contract the wildly contagious omicron variant, but delta because of my loss of taste and smell. I was grateful that within a week, both of these senses returned.

The last month has reminded me how we are still very much in a pandemic and that each of us needs to continue to do our part in keeping each other safe. It has also shown me that although COVID-19 is scary, those like myself, who are vaccinated, boosted, and in good health, will recover. 

Megan Robertson – General Assignment Reporter

Location of testing positive and quarantining: Dalton, Georgia

As the winter holidays rolled around in December 2021, I went back to visit my family in my hometown in Georgia. I quickly transitioned from Christmas presents to N95 masks, after testing positive for COVID-19. My younger sister had just gone back to high school for the new year when she was notified that she had been exposed. 

In North Georgia public schools, masks are not enforced and COVID-19 positive students are allowed to return to campus if they are vaccinated — a deadly situation that left my entire family, all vaccinated and boosted, with breakthrough infections. I ended up not feeling that sick, thanks to the vaccinations; my illness was a very mild head cold, with me testing negative in less than 10 days. While I was grateful for my health, I was enraged that my sister had been exposed in the first place, that the educational and governmental systems had failed her and other students. What if we were not vaccinated, I wondered? What if we had not been boosted? What if we had been immunocompromised? 

Returning to San Francisco last week, I was grateful to be surrounded by so many COVID-19 precautions again. These are steps of prevention that should be taken everywhere for those more vulnerable to the disease.

Sammy Berlanga – Social Media Manager

Location of testing positive and quarantining: New York, New York

Another Christmas, another COVID-19 surge. New traditions have become social distancing from family, prioritizing gifts less, and an emphasis on being grateful for being indoors. When I applied to colleges across the country from my hometown, I never thought a global pandemic would occur, making traveling home a potential major health risk. Last winter, 2020-21, I took the risk of traveling to see my family. I hadn’t seen them in over six months. Although I took every precaution, I contracted the virus while traveling. In the process, I exposed my family, causing my mother to contract it as well. Thankfully, we were all able to recover without serious complications. 

This winter, nearly exactly a year later, I traveled again. Now fully vaccinated and under the impression that my risks of getting COVID-19 were far less likely, I thought I could see my family safely. I tested negative when I landed in New York and quarantined away from my family just to be safe, but it seemed nearly impossible to avoid infection when the omicron variant began surging. Within just a week of my arrival, New York started to echo the familiar horror of the first 2020 wave of COVID-19. Although cases seemed to be just as severe, if not more, the city persevered and did not shut down, with a few exceptions. 

After a week of being home, my father tested positive for COVID-19, though fully vaccinated. Soon after, my mother and I tested positive for a second time. Our symptoms this time around were extremely minimal. The first time, I suffered from long-term congestion and fatigue even when I was no longer contagious. My family and I are considered breakthrough cases (minus my mom who wasn’t boosted when she got sick). Though my family contracted the virus despite being vaccinated, our recovery has shown that the vaccine does work. It may not prevent you from contracting COVID-19, but it does minimize the severity of the virus. 

Returning back to in-person classes and finding the rhythm of a new routine again feels somewhat off-putting. I feel guilty about continuing in-person classes considering the risks for immunocompromised and disabled folks. The reality is I don’t have control over the world around me and I cannot just make time stop. All I can do is my best. 

Practice social distancing, wear N95 masks and get vaccinated and boosted. Be transparent about how safe you are being before seeing others and gauge people’s levels of comfort when taking off your mask. Continue to act on behalf of our community’s health and well-being.

Callie Fausey – Managing Editor 

Location of testing positive and quarantining: San Francisco, California

I tested positive for COVID-19 about a week before resuming classes. It’s likely that I got the virus while traveling back to the city on a train from Santa Barbara, but I can’t be sure. Initially, I was worried for my family, especially my grandmother who I had seen only a few days prior, but they tested negative, fortunately. 

One of my other housemates also tested positive on the same day I did. Interestingly enough, my boyfriend, who I live with, didn’t get the virus (he took three tests at different intervals after I tested positive and they all came back negative). 

My housemate and I only really experienced mild congestion, a runny nose, some fatigue, and a minor headache. I’ve been vaccinated and boosted, so that might have something to do with not my lack of severe symptoms. I think it’s also probable that I had the omicron strain. Though some symptoms have lingered a bit, mostly the headaches and fatigue, I am coming out of it. 

I tested negative only 6 days after my positive result. I was super anxious about testing positive and being restricted from going to class since PCR tests can sometimes still detect the virus for up to 90 days. Some of my friends that I spoke to on the first day of classes were not even aware that they needed to get tested before returning to campus. 

I hope that going back to school won’t expose me again after having it for the first time. But with how much it’s spreading, I’m not positive that I’ll stay negative.

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