For a moment it felt like a return to a kind of pre-COVID normal was almost within our reach.
I am not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID, I haven't been to the Crossroads Hotel at Casula or Thai Rock restaurant at Wetherill Park. Actually I haven't been anywhere of note, but here I am, in the place I really don't want to be, with a swab stuck way too far up my nose.
On Sunday, I heard the news. Six cases detected at Batemans Bay linked to the Soldiers Club. A million thoughts raced through my head. The first was to call my family and tell them the breaking news. The next was "should I get tested?"
I haven't been down the coast. But my family has. My dad was at the Soldiers Club at Bateman's Bay on Thursday July 16 and I saw him on July 17 and 18. Do I need to get tested? I discussed it with my housemates, we're all in our twenties, pretty relaxed. They were like, "maybe". I asked my family, they weren't sure either. Dad is now required to self-isolate for two weeks. He didn't find it easy to get a test. Should I be tested?
There is a lot of information available online from both state and federal government, but I am still uncertain of what action I am supposed to take. Got a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, or a fever to be tested, no matter how mild the symptoms might be, the NSW government says get a test. That's clear.
No symptoms but you've had contact with a confirmed case: that's my dad. The government says self isolate and find out about testing. A little less clear.
Then there's me, I've been in contact with someone who has been in a hotspot but is showing no symptoms. I don't have symptoms, neither does anyone in my family, but we did spend Saturday night together (without masks or social distancing) and shared a meal. Is that enough for me to contract COVID? The Crossroads cluster had tertiary infections (where a close contact of a close contact becomes infected). The numbers in Victoria jump every day due to uncontrolled community transmission. And the hotspots keep popping up in NSW.
On Sunday, I was thinking I didn't need to get tested but it weighed on my mind. The government messaging is all about being community conscious, thinking of others as well as yourself.
By Monday, I'd turned and felt obligated to get tested. I psyched myself for an hours' long wait. Mum and dad had twice queued for hours in Sutherland Shire on Sunday to get tested only to be turned away. My housemate kindly drove me to the nearest pop-up clinic where I discover I'm clearly not living in a hotspot. There were less than 10 people in line for the COVID-19 mobile testing van at Maroubra. Meanwhile, in the Shire, my parents made a third attempt to be tested, this time at Sutherland hospital, where a nurse told them to "not believe everything they hear" when they explained why, despite being asymptomatic, they were seeking testing. Only after she went away and confirmed Bateman's Bay was indeed a hotspot, was my dad granted a test. Mum, on the other hand, was refused.
In Maroubra, my nurse warned "it's going to be uncomfortable, okay? but it will be quick" as she took my temperature. I knew roughly what I was in for but people's experiences of the test seemed to differ. A co-worker said it was incredibly painful and unpleasant, while a close friend assured me that it was quick and easy, and reminded me to breathe out of my mouth when the nose swab went in.
Funnily enough, for me, it was the throat swab I struggled with most. The first time was a failure, as I immediately gagged it out. "Is it all right if I hold the back of your head?" the nurse asked, anticipating my reaction to the nose swab, given how I'd responded to the throat one. I managed to get through it, my pride a little wounded.
Next came the wait. My dad, who was also tested Monday, received a text Wednesday at 6pm, advising him his COVID test result was negative. He's still in self-isolation until July 30. I didn't get my clearance text until later the same night. At 8pm, feeling both impatient and curious, I had texted the hotline to see if they would respond. They did, texting me the result, which I received again, through normal channels, at 10pm.
So, my family and I are COVID-free for now but it got me thinking about a second wave. For a moment, it had felt like a return to a kind of normal was almost within our reach. I'd gone back to work in the office, to catching the light rail, seeing friends, going out for meals. Do I keep doing that? That sliver of unease is back.