During the last week of March, my older brother came home from work one day a little sneezy. The following day I began to sneeze. I hoped it was seasonal allergies. I did not want to assume the worst.
My brother works as a supermarket clerk, delivering groceries. Our family is practicing social distancing and staying home as much as possible. So when my brother comes home from work, before entering the house, my mother has him take off his shoes outside the door and put his outer clothes in a bag. He walks directly into the bathroom to shower. We all wash our hands frequently.
My mom has the news on all the time, and we see the number of deaths rise every day.
Both my parents are out of work right now. My mother has told my brother, “Be more cautious when you come back from work. If not then you should stay home.”
My brother stopped sneezing after two days and had no other symptoms. He went back to work.
Trying Not to Worry
I only sneezed for one day, but the next morning during breakfast I announced, “I can’t taste or smell the food.” I was eating a Dominican dish, mangu con los tres golpes (mashed plantains topped with sauteed onions). The plate also comes with fried cheese, fried egg, and salami.
I googled to find out why I might have lost my taste and smell. I read allergies or a cold can be the cause. I couldn’t find information connecting COVID-19 and my symptoms. So I tried not to worry.
A few days after my brother came home sneezing, my mother exhibited flu-like symptoms including chills, a fever, sore throat, headache, and a slight cough. Then my father showed the same symptoms. I wondered if maybe my brother or I were carriers of COVID-19. My brother was out every day, but I was home most of the time.
I went out to the pharmacy wearing a mask and gloves to buy some medicine for my dad, but couldn’t find anything. When I returned home, I did the same procedure as my brother, leaving my outer clothes and shoes outside.
The night my mother got sick, I went into her room and I saw her teeth chattering as she was shivering. “Don’t touch anything in the room, leave, and close the door,” she said.
Questions About Quarantine
My parents quarantined themselves there. In the rest of the apartment, I wiped down every surface, disinfected all the doorknobs, and anything else they may have touched. Then I realized, What If I’m carrying the virus? Is it useless for me to be disinfecting if I could be the one who is potentially infecting?
On April 1, my mother called a number she saw on the news to see if she and my dad could get tested for COVID-19. When my mother described their symptoms, she was directed to another department that handled COVID-19.
My mother was on hold for about a half hour before giving up. Her long wait on the phone emphasized to me how thousands of people were dying in New York because they couldn’t get the necessary help. Early data shows that Hispanics comprise more than one-third of deaths in the city, the highest percentage of any ethnicity.
That day, I watched a show in Spanish that was about COVID-19. They interviewed a celebrity who had the same loss of taste and smell. His doctor told him he most likely had the virus.
A few days later, though, my mother is fine and my stepfather is recovering. He is now less weak and is more active, and his temperature has been dropping. Because of the lack of tests, none of us know if we had the coronavirus. My brother stopped working so that we are staying home to avoid spreading it.
It’s been several days since I lost my two senses, but I am glad I have no other symptoms. I can’t taste yet but the smell is returning slowly. I was making coffee yesterday, and was able to slightly smell it.
Having no taste or smell has made me lose my appetite. All I want to do is enjoy my food but I can’t. Everything is like a mush.
I can’t be sure if we had the virus, but I’m glad that my family is recovering from being sick. I’m grateful that they didn’t have to go to the hospital because many hospitals are so crowded and lacking resources right now. I feel lucky that things didn’t become worse for anyone in our household.
The Centers for Disease Control is continually updating information about COVID-19.
Here are their recommendations for taking care of someone at home. As Marvin writes, loss of taste and smell has not been officially listed as symptoms of COVID-19, although people who have tested positive have experienced these symptoms.