Christmas Wildfire

I went on a short trip to my uncle Ted’s funeral in Tampa. I left on a Saturday the 11th afternoon, and returned on a Tuesday the 14th afternoon, with just one plane transfer in Seattle.  My sister, a Navy grad, arrived on a similar schedule, after attending the Army Navy game with her son on Saturday.

I roomed with my sister in a hotel. We used my nephew’s car – he’s a sophomore at the University of Tampa.

The wake and funeral were relatively small affairs, mostly in open rooms with high ceilings. Few were masked, as nearly all, from what I know, were vaccinated and boosted like my sister and I.

I returned home on Dec 14th. That night, I helped the local church pastors package money donations for deposit, as I do each Christmas season. We sat across from each other at a folding church table, so not real close. None of us were masked, as we’re all vaccinated. We were in a church with high ceilings and lots of open air.

The next day, I had a checkup with my doctor and his nurse. All of it was done in masks.

That evening, I helped again with the church donations, and then attended the scout meeting. At scouts, we’ve continued to mask. I was not within 6 feet – and more like 10 ft – from anyone at the meeting.  All of us – including the kids – are vaccinated.

On the 16th, two sisters who we consider nieces brought over food in the mid-afternoon that their mom had just cooked, as they know we love their ethnic dishes. The 22 year old and 10 year old sat about 6 to 8 feet away for about 20 minutes. All of us were unmasked and vaccinated.

In the early evening, I again helped the pastors with donations. After that, our good friends here brought over a rhubarb pie for my birthday, which was the day before, and we shared that. I was at 6 to 8 feet from them at the house. All of us were unmasked and vaccinated.

I remember I did feel exhausted just before they arrived. I just thought it was jet lag.

When I went to bed that evening, I started having chills, then fever and sweats, and a cough. It progressed to a crescendo overnight, and I slept little. By the morning, it had broken.

Sara said I better test for Covid.  She ran to city hall and got take home tests. She was negative. I was positive.  Sara moved to a hotel in hopes she might stay negative so she could still go to see friends for Christmas as planned, and I might join after my 10 day isolation.

I contacted my sister. She said she’d had a bad sore throat ever since she got back home, but had tested negative twice so didn’t think it was Covid and didn’t contact me. After I told her I tested positive, she tested a third time. Positive. And two of sons were positive, with no symptoms. And her husband.

I then contacted all of the contacts listed above to let them know.

On my Isolation Day 4, Sara left in the morning from the hotel for our cabin near her friend. She was still testing negative and had no symptoms. A good friend took her to the airport, and both were masked. She spent the day with her friend after the short 1 hour flight.

Late on Isolation Day 4, the husband of the pie gifters texted me. He was positive. Mild overnight symptoms just like I’d had. His wife was still negative.

Sara thought she should test again, even though she had no symptoms. She was now positive. So Christmas for her would now be in isolation at our cabin, and her friend on watch. On Isolation Day 5, one of the church pastors notified me. He, his wife and another pastor, and one of his children were positive, along with a cousin of a pastor who had returned to her nearby town. The cousin’s sons and father now also tested positive.

The pastors and their family had planned to take a family cruise this Christmas after 2 previous tries were cancelled due to covid. Looks like this one might not happen as well.

On Day 7, the wife of the rhubarb pie bearers tested again. Now she was positive. The annual solstice bonfire they put on each year was now cancelled.

So just like that, over a dozen people infected, with no warning. Thankfully, this was all post-vaccine development and thankful those we associate with were vaccinated.

As the isolation days progressed, I had time to put a new front bumper hitch and plow set up together on my truck. And reflect on the start of year three of this pandemic.

First, I thought how lucky I am to live in Juneau, Alaska. The city council and mayor, from day 1 of the pandemic, took the measures necessary to protect our citizenry.  Some – myself included – thought at the very beginning that pandemic measures were overboard. That this was “just like the flu” and the “regular flu kills alot more people than this Covid does”. What nonsense that all sounds like now, 2 years in.

After seeing how fast this thing spread just from me, and to vaccinated people, I look back and think what would have happened without the hunker down measures implemented when there was no vaccine.  WIthout the measures, we’d have lost hundreds of people in our little city – at minimum. Thousands would have been infected before the first people even had symptoms, just as happened with me, but at so fast a rate that contact tracing would have been near impossible. By then, it would have been too late. Our leaders led when we needed leadership.

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