It’s been a fun couple of weeks down here at Chorizo Chronicles headquarters.
Mainly because I, your humble author, spent most of it having the coronavirus.
I’m fine, actually.
Just another fun thing 2020’s brought my way.
How did I get Coronavirus, exactly?
Well, I’m not sure.
If you recall, I was down in Madrid a few weeks ago.
I saw all my friends, walked all over the city, and generally spent 10 days going to every bar and restaurant I could.
(Wearing a mask in public all that time, by the way, because the law.)
I’ve since checked in, and my friends are all fine. I guess it’s possible I got it from some bar, or on the train back to Barcelona.
It’s really sort of a mystery. But somehow I got the coronavirus.
A few days later, back in Barcelona, I tell Morena, “It’s like I’ve been bitten by giant mosquitoes.” I have a few big bumps on my legs, but otherwise I feel fine.
It’s hardly a rare thing, mosquitoes in a humid climate…
I don’t think any more of it.
But a couple days later, I realize I’ve got more bumps, all the way up to my knees.
Still, I think it’s mosquitoes.
The next morning I wake up and realize I have no sense of smell. None. I can put my nose right down in a pot of coffee and… nothing.
Just a cold feeling in my face.
So I put two and two together. Skin rash plus loss of smell could be Covid.
I call the health center. No answer.
The government information line, 061, has a guy who takes my information and promises to pass me to a doctor.
After 12 minutes of hold music, I hang up.
A friend down in Madrid tells me I need to call back and be prepared to hold for an hour or more.
Not bloody likely. I decide to call the health center again later. This time they manage to answer the phone, and schedule me for a test… in two days.
“Quarantine until then”, the woman reminds me. “And if you’re living with anyone, make sure you stay away from them.”
Staying away from Morena in a one-bedroom flat is also not likely to happen. But I agree and hang up.
Two days later I’m outside the health center first thing in the morning.
It looks like they’re doing regular blood tests, as usual, and then a few PCRs.
There are only 4 of us doing the Covid test, and the woman in front of me is coughing like crazy. Then again, she looks like she’s got about 58 years of hard living behind her, so she could be coughing for a number of reasons.
The test is painful, but quick. Q-tip up the nose. The doctor counts as she twists it in my right nostril: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then in the left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
It burns like a mofo, but it’s over in about 15 seconds.
“Get your results online”, she says. “Tomorrow morning, most likely.”
Getting Covid test results in Barcelona
The next day is Saturday, and I try to log onto the government health website. Of course it doesn’t work.
The Catalan internet is closed on Saturdays. Duh.
There’s also an app, which appears to be exactly the same thing as the website… and which is apparently also down for the weekend.
So I guess we wait for Monday.
Morena’s been coughing all week, but by this point I’m feeling fine. The skin rash lasted for a few days, but by the time I got tested it was mostly gone.
My sense of smell (and taste) is even coming back, a bit.
So Monday rolls around, and I finally get the website to work. But my results are nowhere to be seen.
Around 10 AM I get a call from the health center to do contact tracing, which is funny, since I haven’t tested positive. At least I don’t think I have. And the person who calls, of course, knows nothing.
Anyway, I haven’t been hugging massive numbers of people. I haven’t really been “in contact” with anyone except Morena.
I call back in the afternoon to see if they’ve made progress on the test, and they promise to call me back the next day.
Which they do.
“The test came back positive”, says the doctor.
“So what are the next steps?” I ask.
She’s puzzled by the question.
“What am I supposed to do?”
I have to ask some very specific questions to get more out of her. She wants me to keep quarantining for 14 days from the beginning of symptoms. No need to do another test. If I feel fine after 14 days, I’m good.
Well, that’s nice.
What’s the coronavirus response in Spain like?
Well, I guess I can’t talk about other parts of Spain. Every regional government has its own health system, so here in Barcelona I’m dealing with CatSalud, run by the Generalitat de Catalunya.
The people in La Rioja, presumably, are dealing with the Rioja regional health service. Back in Madrid we had a whole ‘nother system.
It might be better elsewhere.
But the Catalan coronavirus response has been pretty unimpressive.
All in all, from the first day I called the health center till the day I got the results, it was a full week. 7 days.
To be fair, people who have actually been hospitalized with severe cases have said that everyone did a good job.
But 7 days to analyze a Q-tip seems like a bit much.
I’m lucky my symptoms were mild – so mild I didn’t even think I “had” anything until I woke up without a sense of smell.
Morena, incidentally, tested negative, even though she’s had a cough. Maybe she had it before, and was over it by the time they tested her. Maybe not.
We don’t know.
In any case, we both seem to be fine. Our brush with Coronavirus has left us feeling strong and healthy.
The only thing I’m worried about is how slow and half-assed the testing process was.
Remember when the government said, back in spring, that they were going to spend the summer ramping up for the second wave?
Well, apparently they did nothing of the kind.
In Madrid, they fired 10,000 doctors.
Because apparently, even doctors and nurses often work under very temporary contracts. A friend who works as a nurse told me she’d signed more than 20 one-day contracts in the last year.
Hired and fired on the same day.
(She’ll soon be moving to Sweden in search of a better life.)
Anyway, as I’ve made clear many times, I love Spain.
It’s generally, I’m convinced, one of the best places in the world to live.
But goddamnit, Spain.
Seeing how badly they’re dealing with this (relatively important, I’d say) national crisis, I’ve never been less optimistic for the future of this country.
And I was around for the Great Recession, too.
Looking on the bright side…
The bright side here is that I’m feeling fine, and that it’s day 14 from my first symptoms. So as of tomorrow, I’m back to normal life.
(I’ll avoid lots of socializing for a few more days, just in case.)
I still don’t have some sort of big conclusion here. And really, we’re probably nowhere near done with the whole ‘Rona Adventure 2020. So it might be early for big conclusions anyway.
But I’ve found that this year has put some things in perspective.
Being healthy is – obviously – very important. So work out, get some Vitamin D, and try to move around as much as you can.
(Looking at you, office and work from home types. Lifestyle diseases kill people every day too…)
And I don’t expect many things in my life to suck as much as the lockdown earlier this year did, but at this point, who knows?
Let’s just say that this year has made me appreciate the small things. A good meal, some reasonably-priced wine… a walk in the sun.
All good things we shouldn’t take for granted.
So let’s go outside and enjoy life.
(Tomorrow, in my case.)
Yours in sickness and in health,
P.S. I’m sorry to have written these previous 1400 words without adding a single “your mom” joke, a “wood” reference, or even a quote from The Notorious B.I.G. I’ll try to do better next time. Just in a serious mood today.
P.P.S. Updating this 3 weeks later, I’m still fine. And Morena tested negative again, both for antibodies and for the regular virus. So who knows? Maybe the tests are wrong… Sometimes. Or maybe not. History will tell.