Whatever It Was

The worst of the past week’s viral blast has passed. First symptoms showed up last Tuesday, 9/14, and as of today the onslaught has dwindled to a cough. Now, with the deepest of deep inhalations possible, there comes an exertional tickle, what you’d imagine a balloon at its limits feels like could it feel anything at all. I’m in Michigan, and on Monday morning, I did try to set up a phone consultation with my doctor in Blacksburg, but the receptionist put me through to the scheduler, and the scheduler told me Doc was out sick and nobody else in the practice would be available to talk with me until at least Thursday. She wanted to make plain that she wasn’t a nurse but said, free advice being free, my best option was to monitor my O2 levels and to drive myself to a local Urgent Care if the fever roared back or if O2 levels went below 92. Saturation was 92 upon waking up Monday morning, but it hasn’t been that low again since. I just now checked it, and it was 99. On the mend is what I think that means.

Was it Covid? Was it not Covid? Omicron variant, maybe, or pi (n.b., this is me being playful; I really don’t know whether these are valid variants, and I have no reason to believe any specific variant was to blame). The PCR test administered on Thursday afternoon returned a negative reading by late Friday night. So what. I didn’t pursue another test. Here are a couple of things I learned (or wish to hold onto):

  1. The certification of illness as Covid or not Covid matters for mitigating transmission. Had I known definitively that it was Covid, I would have had slightly clearer protocols to follow insofar as isolation/quarantine. But I did that, anyway. There was no particular relevance otherwise in having validated whether this was a breakthrough case or not. I was vaccinated with Moderna in early April and early May. I was sick in a special and distinctively severe way in mid-September.
  2. In the midst of succumbing to this particular virus, the surest decision aids were 1) loved ones checking in with me regularly and reading back to me impressions of just how dilapidated I seemed to them, 2) a good thermometer, and 3) an oximeter. Loved ones could text and ask about my temp and O2 levels. And among the three decision aids, I could more or less lucidly make judgments about whether it was time to go to Urgent Care or an ER.
  3. The two scariest nights were when I did not yet have the oximeter and when I turned in nighty night having read among many accounts of Covid (breakthrough cases and regular cases) about how dark and long is the night. Raised doubts, small questions about seeing another day, and those questions can grow from one hour to the next. This was not quite an “oh shit, I might die” scenario, but it played out at a narrower edge of self-attentiveness than I’ve dwelt at in some time.
  4. About the symptoms: most were erratic, clutching and releasing from one hour to the next, then redoubling and doing the same with rangy intensity for the messiest 72 hours of the ordeal. Peak temp was 101.7F/38.72C. I don’t have a scale here in Michigan, but I’d guess I shed 5-8 lbs./2.3-3.6kg (from my usual weight of 213lbs/96.6kg). O2 was from Saturday through Monday between 92-95. One reading of O2 came in at 87 on Saturday. The morbilliform-like rash was the most unfamiliar and unpredictable symptom. In varied densities, it appeared everywhere except my hands and feet, with especially dense clusters on my torso. But it was only faintly uncomfortable; more like my skin reporting that something deserving of a fever was brewing on the inside.

I think that’s it, just about everything worth sharing.

Coronavirus Questions

Today circulated a Facebook, Reddit, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube statement on misinformation related to COVID-19, or Coronavirus. The statement is laudable and timely; its goals are sound. But it also sidesteps the wide gulf between facts and uncertainties in a messy and complexly unfolding public health crisis. Turn to social media with wonder, fine. Express curiosities, unknowns, and so on, yes. Speculate and even sense-make together. This is slow-built knowledge, and it’s especially messy when it intermixes non-experts, heightened anxieties, and unverifiable contagion. I have questions, too, and I’m no expert on viruses, much less the Coronavirus.

  1. How did it begin? From a March 12 Vox article, “The genetic evidence and epidemiological information, according to three esteemed infectious disease researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, ‘implicates a bat-origin virus infecting unidentified animal species sold in China’s live-animal markets.'” There are numerous other conspiracy theories. Those aside, to the point of this “bat sniffles and some other succession of animals” theory, what does this mean for continued contagion that moves between humans and animals? I’ve read of swine flu and bird flu resulting in the slaughter of carrier-animals. In the case of COVID-19, is it clear yet that animal cross-contagion is not an issue?
  2. If there aren’t enough tests (yet), or if the tests are sparingly issued such that everyday people calling their general practitioners to disclose symptoms are being told, you don’t meet the CDC criteria for testing, how are the rate of spread analytics considered reliable? Word of mouth indicates that some people with symptoms have been told they do not qualify for testing. They wait. But this alone would indicate serious limitations on what is knowable insofar as rates of spread.
  3. How lightly experienced are the most lightly experienced cases? That is, can someone have Coronavirus, experience negligible or mild symptoms for only a short period of time, and thereafter carry on (after two weeks) without putting others at risk? Without further risk, themselves? Does the lightest possible case of Coronavirus generate in a system the antibodies that will mitigate future risk of susceptibility or contagion?
  4. What is the relationship between viral load and severity of symptoms? If someone is exposed to a high viral load, is that person more likely to contract a serious case? Is the gravity of the illness linked to the viral load exposure? Does viral load in a patient fluctuate throughout the arc of affliction (the duration of the illness)?
  5. What is the relationship between the number of tests given and the number of people tested? Does one test mean one person has been tested? Two tests mean two people? Are most people who are tested tested twice? Is anyone tested more than twice? Are tests yielding inconsistent results counted as tests given?
  6. Has anyone answered directly/concretely how the Utah Jazz and other NBA teams were so swiftly able to get their player personnel tested? Or how an asymptomatic Idris Elba was tested? Are these simply matters of income or celebrity capitalizing on improved medical treatment?
  7. Is there any credence to homeopathic interventions, whether tinctures, infusions (vinegars), kombuchas or other fermented drinks, probiotics, or atmospherics (smudging)? That is, are there any dietary or physiological aids in anticipation of continued spread that chance mitigating the grip and spread of infection? Health advice circulating seems status quo generic–“take good care of yourself, eat right, get exercise, and so on.” Is there anything else likely to reduce or disrupt vulnerability? Like gargling salt water, taking extra vitamin C, use of a humidifier, and so on?
  8. Is there anything at all to be said for sequestered acceleration clusters (e.g., teams of ten who intentionally contract but who do so in isolation), particularly for intentionally getting some responders ahead of the curve? This is perhaps outlandish, and yet it chances being a reasonable tactic, if after contracting it and recovering, one’s system is emboldened so as to be better positioned for aiding others.

I realize the questions here cover quite a bit of range–from speculative scenarios to highly pragmatic decision points. They’re not meant to inspire misinformation but instead to put a finer point on concrete details that, to be fair, perhaps just are not known or knowable at this time. I’m wholly on board with curtailing the circulation of misinformation, but I hope can do better to express uncertainties as questions that might find their way to those who can–sooner or later–answer them well.

Free Cantons



A classical view (based on the unity of the human person): stupidity is an
hysteria: it would be enough to see oneself as stupid in order to be less so. A
dialectical view: I agree to pluralize myself, to permit free cantons of
stupidity to live within me.

Often he has felt stupid: this was because he had only an ethical
intelligence (i.e., neither scientific nor political nor practical nor
philosophical, etc.). (RB 110)

Yesterday was the
Barthes of
, the day of the year that has, around here, become blogically devoted to
excerpts a la Roland. Oh how nice it would be if this–missing Barthes Day–was
the only thing off a little bit these days. Decrypted: I’m still on the
rebound from that flu bug (it was a damn fine foe), and, as luck would have it,
Tom Brady was my number one pick on my fantasy football team, which, pity that
it is, still makes me wonder why, if it’s fantasy, he can’t be healthy
and put up big numbers this season.


Somewhere along the way, I acquired a Solstice cold. Judging entirely from the
phlegmatic emanations (coughing, sneezing, and wheezing), I drafted the
following schematic, which I will carry to my doctor later this week (only if
absolutely necessary). It is a preliminary attempt to characterize the
great range of unpleasant sounds and sensations associated with the bug.

If I know my doctor, she will take one look at this and say,
"Yes, you do indeed have a cold." At which time I will resume heavy dosages of
Vitamin C and Tylenol Cold (i.e., crunching down those buggers like a warm box
of Good & Plenty) and hope they sustain me until I am well again.