I don’t have coronavirus, or maybe I do — it’s hard to tell in Houston County, Georgia

Click here for my Day 4 quarantine blog update.

Day 2 of quarantine … still alive!

That’s right, I’m on a 14-day self-quarantine, along with my wife. It’s sort of a staycation with coughing, except that I’m able to work from home, and she’s trying to figure out how to do it in this nation of no guaranteed sick leave.

Over the weekend, we both developed coughs, and my condition felt almost exactly like the pneumonia I was diagnosed with in January. That pneumonia was never confirmed because apparently you need an X-ray to confirm that, and, you know, this is America, so definitive diagnoses are often cost-prohibitive. I tested negative for the flu and strep throat back then, so, yeah, they assumed pneumonia. (I sometimes wonder if I had coronavirus back then, before it was cool. Barbara Mandrell was country when country wasn’t cool, so you never know.)

We called the doctor’s office and got a 3 p.m. appointment for Monday and hoped we could get a coronavirus test … just in case, just out of an abundance of caution. Nah, not happening. Then, I learned that someone I’ve been in the room with recently has a child diagnosed with it. That was different.

We had a phone consultation to see if a test was warranted. I haven’t had a fever, so I was not too worried about it anyway. Then, they got back with me and said, “Yes, the Department of Health says you should have a test. But they don’t have any in Houston County. The closest they could find was in Decatur. So, we recommend you not get the test and just stay home in self-quarantine for 14 days since any symptoms began.”

Yeah, that Decatur way up in Metro Atlanta. But nothing here in Houston County, Georgia, population 155,000-plus — at least none for me. This is one of the top 15 counties in terms of population in this state, a state with 159 counties. I seriously doubt the lack of testing is unique to this major county. I called the county health department today and, sure enough, they have no tests and didn’t sound optimistic about having any anytime soon. They were very polite and apologetic.

My doctor explained that even if I tested positive, there really wasn’t any treatment available anyway. So, it didn’t make sense for me to leave the house, much less to travel that far. Agreed. The test is really just so that we get a count of the virus and its spread. As of yesterday, the confirmed cases of people carrying the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was just 121 in Georgia and 4,500 across the U.S. Wow, it really is under control! Now I see why people are fussing about closing schools, shuttering restaurants and cancelling sports seasons!

UPDATE (2:10 p.m., March 18): The doctor’s office just called and said they got their hands on a few coronavirus testing kits and to come get tested. UPDATE (3:05 p.m.): The doctor’s office says they can only get 10 tests, and they’ve got to reserve them for only the very sickest folks. I asked them where are those millions of tests Vice President Pence talked about last week. They chuckled. And said they can’t imagine what he was talking about. So, carry on.

The problem is that the numbers barely scratch the surface of who has the virus. We now know that people with no symptoms at all can be carrying it. Young and old can carry it. Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator for the federal response to the virus, recently noted that someone could test negative for the virus and be positive for it 12 hours later. So even if you get the test, it may not be definitive and can get you a false sense of security. If you can get the test, of course.

But unless you have NBA-level hoops skills, can pass yourself off as Mister Rogers on the big screen or look like Idris Elba, you’re likely not to get a test at all. And I know I have the best doctors in Houston County, and they bent over backward yesterday trying to find the right thing to do — for me and for everyone else. Based on the proximity of the nearest test, I agree with their decision. Besides, I believe my private health insurance company would find a way to bill me for the test, regardless of what they all told President Trump. I pay them an awful lot of money each month, but I do not trust them in the least. They are far more likely to kill me than the coronavirus.

Still, I’d like to know for sure. And I won’t. My cough is better today, so maybe I’ll live. Maybe I’ll beat this cold, or pneumonia, or Covid-19. And I’ve learned two things for sure:

(1) I am really, really good at self-quarantining at my house. If they change the quarantines to 21 days, I got this.

(2) Those reported numbers of coronavirus and Covid-19 cases mean absolutely nothing. There may be 4,500 cases, 450,000, 4.5 million or 45 million. And unless we all change our names to Idris and learn to dunk, we may never find out for sure. I don’t know how to fix the testing situation, but I do know that the numbers you hear are about as worthless as a warm bucket of hamster vomit. And, no, please don’t eat from that bucket, even if it is a delicacy in your neck of the woods — you just might start Covid-20.


  • Hi there! I’m from Fulton County & I’m on day 13 of a severe cough, the fever and body aches finally left. I went to urgent care during an acute asthmatic exacerbation & I tested negative for the flu. My daughter’s school confirmed one parent who tested positive. I have been on a “waiting list” to get tested for days. This is this worst I have ever felt…. My parents have caught it (Houston County) and my Mother in law has as well (Cobb). Quarantine wouldn’t be so bad if I could do something other than wheeze and hack my lungs out. I just want me and my family to feel better.

    Hope you and yours stay safe from this mess.

    • Hate to hear you’re not doing well. I’m getting better, so I guess I’m in the clear. But no one seems to know definitively what’s going on with such limited testing.

  • My question is how were the local confirmed cases confirmed? Considering that they had no tests and are saving the 10 they have for the most severe?

    • I’m not sure. It was my doctor saving their 10 tests. I don’t know where that “confirmed” case was tested. Since they were apparently a health care professional, they obviously made it a priority, which makes sense.


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