I agonized for weeks over the decision to send my kids back to school. Like most parents, I was afraid of what it could mean. Would they be safe? Would our family be safe? Would the teachers or families of all the other students be safe? With so much unknown about COVID-19, the decision was daunting.
Ultimately, when I decided to send my three elementary-aged kids to school full time, I was aware that there would be risks involved. I even felt it was inevitable that COVID-19 would eventually make its way into our school. What I never imagined, however, was that we would be the family to introduce it.
How COVID-19 Hit Our Family
We will never know for sure how we were exposed to COVID-19, but given our family’s abundance of caution, our best guess is that it started with my husband. He was required to return to the office after working from home during the initial shutdown. But one day, he was sent back home after a coworker had tested positive. A week later, my husband was experiencing cold symptoms, but tested negative. I had what I thought were bad allergies, followed by a sore throat. Neither of us had a fever or felt very sick, so we assumed we just had colds.
How We Found Out
My six-year-old daughter had a headache one day. Two days later, she had a low-grade fever, so I kept her home. The school nurse informed me that with two symptoms associated with COVID-19, the school’s new protocol required her to either stay home for ten days or to produce a negative COVID-19 test. As she was fever-free and feeling fine just hours later, getting her tested so she could return to school as soon as possible seemed the obvious decision. The school nurse and my daughter’s pediatrician agreed with me. Her pediatrician even helped me figure out which testing site would produce the fastest results to get her back in school after the weekend. To everyone’s surprise, three days later, the test came back positive.
It wasn’t until receiving her results that I began to wonder if my own symptoms had been more than just allergies. Out of curiosity, I was tested for COVID-19, too. Three days later, I found out that I was also positive.
What Came Next
Our testing results were automatically reported to our county’s health department, our pediatrician, and our daughter’s school. A day or two later, I received a phone call from the county health department instructing me on quarantine procedures. They asked a lot of questions and answered a lot of my questions. They were able to tell me exactly when and under what circumstances we were able to end our quarantine and my kids were able to return to school. They also thoroughly contact traced us, starting with everywhere we had been for the two weeks prior to symptoms and with whom we had been in contact.
An email was sent out to our entire school, letting them know that there had been a facility exposure to COVID-19, with a separate email going to families of my daughter’s classmates explaining that their child may have had low-risk contact. No further steps were necessary for the other students.
How We Contained COVID-19 in Our Family
Basically, we didn’t. We were told to isolate my daughter as much as possible for ten days after her symptoms began. Since she is only six, however, this proved too difficult for us to maintain. This meant that our entire family needed to quarantine for fourteen days after her ten-day contagious period. If any other member of our household showed any symptoms, our fourteen-day quarantine would reset to the end of that person’s ten-day contagious period. There were more mild symptoms. As I write this, we’re still in quarantine. By the time it’s over, it will have been four weeks at home.
What You Should Know
- Familiarize yourself with all the symptoms of COVID-19 and don’t take them lightly. Although many symptoms are the same as the common cold, don’t make assumptions. My family’s symptoms were so mild that I never would have know if we hadn’t gotten tested. Only one of us had a fever. To prevent further spread, presume any symptom to be COVID-19 and follow isolation and quarantine procedures.
- Find a free testing site to rule out COVID-19 if quarantining isn’t possible or practical. Check with your county’s health department (Johnson County, Jackson County) for free drive-through or walk-up testing appointments. Many pharmacies offer free drive-through testing with an insurance card for people twelve and older. Call your primary care provider to schedule testing with them or to be referred to another site.
- The current swab tests are slightly uncomfortable for adults, but traumatic for children. After my daughter’s experience, we treated my other kids as presumed positives once they showed symptoms.
- Prepare yourself in advance. Make a plan in case you or your kids get sick. Create a COVID-19 home care kit. Early on in the pandemic, I made sure we had both adult’s and children’s Tylenol, hydration tablets, and a pulse oximeter to monitor breathing. Luckily, all we ended up needing was the Tylenol.
- Know when to seek emergency care.
While our quarantine period hasn’t been easy, keeping our community safe from spread is important to our family. I hope hearing about our experience helps you navigate your own if you find yourself in a similar situation.