By Rev. Jim Doepken
Let me begin by saying that three out of six household members tested positive for COVID-19 last week after being fully vaccinated. This includes me. All three of us are asymptomatic and are halfway through our period of isolation. We are optimistic and being vaccinated increases our optimism. But our positive test results reaffirm to us how dangerous COVID can be.
This is how it happened. A weekend ago, two of our children had a very slight chance of exposure at an event where participants were vaccinated and masked. Because the two were fully vaccinated, we were told we only needed to isolate or test if they had any symptoms. But, being overly cautious, I took them for tests. And, because I, too, was waiting in line for 30 minutes, I figured I’d get tested as well, “just because.”
The next day we found out that two out of three of us were COVID-positive, and life came crashing in quickly. We made lots of calls to people with whom we had spent any time. We canceled appointments, a volleyball team was sent home from school, a guest preacher called, and other family members needed to get tested right away. One more positive test followed. This meant someone else would miss ten more workdays, and we divided the house into COVID and non-COVID areas.
But what is so scary is not only that this sneaky virus got to us when we were following all the rules and guidelines but that, without any symptoms, we have no idea how long any of us were contagious before that positive test. Who might we have unwittingly exposed when eating at the lunch table or talking with colleagues or visiting with people after church? Had we let down our guard anywhere? I was on the GNW COVID-19 Response Team. Where did I mess up?
We don’t know the answer.
My parents, who are 80, have said they need to assume everyone around them has COVID to protect themselves. But, more, this experience has reminded me that we need to assume that we have COVID to protect everyone around us.
Rev. Jim Doepken serves as pastor of The United Methodist Church of Chugiak, Alaska, and has served under appointment in Alaska since 1997.