Story written by: Preston A. Thompson
Your COVID-19 Results Are Now Available is the title of an email Davis Young nervously reads from his phone. The email notification appeared on his screen shortly after clocking in for work at 6:00 am. He could have opened it then, but his work bro, Karl Stanley, was walking beside him talking about his weekend and how his ninth-grade son scored twenty points, two assists, and one rebound coming off the bench for the high school varsity basketball team. “I’m tellin’ ya, Davis!” Karl said. “My son spendin’ one year in college then he’s going pro! You heard it here first!” They both laughed.
Davis is hiding in the last stall inside of the men’s bathroom. It is a routine he does every other day since being promoted to lead chemical operator. He hides in the stall to escape the mental demands of being a lead while staying on the clock for pay; however, today is different. Not only is he hiding, but Davis has been waiting for his Covid-19 test results since getting tested two days prior.
Davis presses on the “click here” link found in the middle of the email which slowly loads a new page. A drop of sweat rolls down his forehead entering his left eye. The sting felt from his eye does not bother him because his focus is on the anticipated Covid-19 results. On this day, the 5G coverage is producing weak signals on smartphones throughout the job site while the WiFi is down for a scheduled monthly security maintenance. A company-wide email was sent by IT reminding all employees about downtime from 9:30 am to 10:30 am.
The time is now 10:41 am according to the digital clock with red numbers above the men’s bathroom door while Davis’s phone reads 10:38 am. “Typical IT!” he says to himself out of frustration.
The link from the email finally loads a new page with Davis’ test results. He skims through the top to verify his personal information then scroll to the SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV Results paragraph at the bottom. Suddenly, Davis’s attention is interrupted when he hears the urinal flush several stalls down. From the stall’s door small opening below, he sees a man’s black suede shoes walk towards the sink and stop. The squeaking turn of the faucet handle then noise of water rushing out of the faucet echoes in the bathroom for five seconds then stops. The black suede shoes bypass the paper towel dispenser and hands-free hand sanitizer heading out the exit.
He barely washed his hands! That’s how this thing spreads, a lack of personal hygiene. He looks back at his phone. Ok. Back to the results.
Davis finds the SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV Results paragraph again and begins to read:
Based on the test results, your sample has ****
A text notification from his wife interrupts. He quickly presses the notification with his thumb, and the page instantly switches to the text app.
Good morning husband! I love you and hope you have a wonderful day at work! Dinner will be ready tonight! Your favorite!
Thank you, Honeydew! I love you too! I can’t wait!!!
Davis slightly swipes upward to see all opened apps and clicks the email app to enlarge the page. He continues reading:
Based on the test results, your sample has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV confirming your match for the COVID-19 virus. Please follow****
Davis cannot read anymore for the word “positive” was all he needed to see. A tear falls from his eye as he reflects on the people he been around last week. His family, wife, twin boys, friends, and coworkers could all be affected. He thought to himself about the mask mandate and admits he does not wear it properly especially when being around the same people. He barely maintains the recommended social distancing of six feet out in public. Thinking to himself how he thought he was invincible, but only followed safety guidelines just to protect the interest of the public. Despite the rise in daily new cases reported on the news, he did not know anyone personally who had the virus. Davis believes he is the first amongst the people he knows to be positive for COVID-19.
NO! He says to himself. No one will know I have Covid! I feel fine…no symptoms…I’m asymptomatic. I will go back to work and go home like normal. This will all be over in a week. Davis flushes the toilet, walks out of the bathroom stall, puts his hardhat on, puts on a mask he had stuffed his pocket before entering the bathroom, and goes back to work.
Davis has a successful workday completing every task given. Before going home, he stops by the local grocery store to buy his wife her favorite bottle of wine. In fact, he wanted to splurge so he bought a more expensive wine hoping it could cover any suspicion his wife may have about him. At home he helps his twin boys, David and Daniel, with homework, sets the table for dinner, eats, and talks about his day. He does not mention his positive test results for Covid or getting tested two days prior. That night he tucks the boys in bed and then sits downstairs with his wife drinking a glass of the expensive wine.
“Honey,” said Dayla. “This wine is wonderful! It’s not my usual. How did you find this one? I love it!”
Davis shrugs and takes a sip of wine, “A coworker told me about it.”
Dayla guzzles down the remaining amount of wine left in her glass. “I love it! Tell that coworker he has great taste.” She thinks. “What’s the special occasion? You only buy expensive things when something good has happened.”
“Honeydew! I wanted to be different, spontaneous. I thought about you all day at work and wanted to make you feel better. I love you so much. You just don’t know how crazy I am about you! All the guys at work get tired of me talking about you and our family. Even Antonio gets tired of me.” He begins to laugh.
Dayla’s heart is filled with love. She leans over and kisses him on the cheek. “You are a wonderful husband, now let’s go to bed.”
A little after 2:00 am, Davis wakes up to look at his wife. She is sound asleep. Her face is in total bliss while snuggled under the comforter. That was a close one! The nice gesture I did makes her unaware of what is going on inside my body. I better get my rest. The alarm will sound at 5:00 am. When I wake up, I will delete the email and go to work like normal.
Davis’s phone alarm sounds at 5:00 am for him to get ready for work, but Davis wakes up to the worst headache he ever had. I forgot that red wine gives me a headache. As he gets out of bed, he begins to have feelings of his body burning from the inside. Mucus rushes from his nostrils and breathing begins to feel like a cheesecloth was placed in his throat overnight as he stands up. Am I having an asthma flare up? As he turns and walks towards the master bathroom, exhaustion begins to overtake. Each inhale radiates pain from his lungs as the exhale temporarily soothes it. Davis is experiencing the symptoms of COVID that he remembers reading from online articles when it first made headlines in the United States.
What is wrong with me? Staggering to the bathroom, he looks back at the bed to see his wife still sleeping in a blissful state. Once inside, he lightly closes the door and begins to catch his breath. He stumbles to the medicine cabinet below the bathroom sink and grabs a thermometer. He stuffs it in his mouth waiting impatiently for a reading. 101.9!!! The shower he takes, dressing in his operator’s uniform, and even walking down the stairs exhausted him. I must stay strong! I can make it…this will all be over in a few days.
During his commute to work Davis stops at the 24-hour pharmacy near his home to buy ibuprofen because he once read it can lower a feverish body temperature. Sitting outside the pharmacy parking lot he takes two pills with a drink of bottled water. Halfway to work he feels his body temperature return to normal, but the exhaustion remains.
After parking his car in the farthest parking spot away from the work building, he painfully gets out of his car. He takes a long look at the crescent moon in the sky wondering if he should continue keeping his illness a secret. Although the early morning outside temperature is warm, Davis is having body chills as he stares at the moon and stars above. He slowly walks towards the employee’s main entrance. With each step energy is rapidly draining which causes him to breathe heavy. He pauses midway to catch his breath putting his hands on his hips for balance. When he gains a little strength and slightly normal breathing, he continues his walk towards the entrance. There, he is met by a security guard standing behind a glass barrier with a small hole in the middle. This is part of normal protocol before entering the worksite. She holds a non-contact infrared thermometer between his eyes through the opening. She squeezes and holds the trigger until it makes a beep sound then draws her arm back through the hole looking confused at his temperature reading from the mini screen. “This thang ain’t worth the money they spent on this.” She looks at him with a straight face. “It’s reading 99.9 which is too high for you to enter…hold on.” She begins to shake the thermometer a few times then slaps it with her other hand. “Put your head down, Davis, and let me try this again. I swear!” Davis lowers his head as she reaches her arm holding the thermometer out of the glass opening towards him. This time she places it on the left side of his forehead, squeezes and holds the trigger until she hears the beep sound. She draws her arm back towards her, reads the temperature, and smiles. “Ok, 99.1. It’s a little high but normal. I will let you go. I swear, this thang been reading everybody’s temp a little above 98.6 lately, but management said if it isn’t above 99.5, then it’s ok to let employees pass. You may enter. Have a great day, Davis.”
Davis thanks the woman and walks through the doors still hiding the bodily pain he feels. The sound of the reactors makes his headache worse while the bright lights shining from the rafters hurt his eyes. Davis drags his feet across the floor. His steel-toe boots are feeling heavier than before. Sweat pours from his head wetting the top of his uniform as the muscle aches intensifies and breathing becomes heavier and even more painful.
I need to call off, this is ridiculous. I cannot go on like this. I need to end this game I am playing and get help. He suddenly realizes his own plan. No! I cannot. My wife would kill me if she found out I tested positive. Then the secret’s out on how I may have contracted the virus. But this is the price I must pay.
Each second at work feels like minutes to Davis as he tries to maintain a normal posture. Operators and managers have been coming in and out of the workshop he leads unaware of his illness. Only one operator, Antonio Thomas, knows about his positive COVID test. Antonio and Davis have been best friends since third grade. They call themselves “work bros.” He helps Davis by diverting any attention Davis receives to himself. Antonio even does double the workload.
During lunch break, both join two other work bros at a table away from other employees in the breakroom. The round table is in the far corner wall beside a soda canteen. Each guy removes their mask and places it respectively in front of each other at arm’s reach.
“Don’t feel bad man,” Lamar Keith, Davis’s best friend since tenth grade, who also was his best man in his wedding nine years ago, “we tested positive, too.”
“Yes.” said Antonio Thomas. “When I felt sick, I told only you three about it, and that’s it. Not my wife, momma, children, only you three because we were in it together.”
Karl has a look of concern. “Yo Davis man! You good? Don’t even trip. We are going to get through this!”
Davis looks up from the table appearing sicker than this morning. “I’m ok man. It’s just…I don’t understand.” He takes a deep breath then lets out a faint exhale. “How am I…sick…but” he lets out a soft painful cough on a napkin, “but you aren’t?”
Their conversation pauses as they hear high heels clapping against the floor. With each step walking towards them, the sound gets louder. Mrs. Trinity Walker, the company’s leading business accountant, walks past the men to the soda canteen. The “beep” sound echoes to the table as she presses its buttons to get a soda. She takes out her husband’s credit card and inserts it into the canteen card reader. She presses “No Receipt” on the screen, turns around with the soda in hand and waves at the guys.
“Hey guys!” Trinity cheerfully says. “Hey Mrs. Trinity!” the guys simultaneously respond back.
Trinity makes eye contact with Davis. They both smile. “It’s that guy!” she points at Davis in a two-gun draw pose. Davis points back, “I am that guy, Trendy Lady!”
“Ok, have an enjoyable day! See you around!” She smiles, lightly touches Davis’ shoulder, and walks out of the breakroom. The echo of her high heels clapping against the floor with each step fades away.
The guys turn back to the table and shrug their shoulders. “I guess we are asymptomatic.” Lamar says. “We have no mask on right now. Don’t want management all in our business. We can’t spread it to each other. The spread happened man, that’s all to it.” He looks at his watch. “Break time over. Come on Davis, pull yourself together. Remember, no one knows about this. We could potentially lose our jobs for breaking safety protocol the Friday before last!” They all laugh as Lamar pats Davis on the shoulder. Each man puts on their mask and heads back to the workshop.
“Hey Antonio! When you get back, cut the CV Reactor up to forty. Make sure the temperature is higher than 200 degrees C. I’m depending on you, my dawg! I will be back there in a few…And, can you work on Mixer-20? I don’t have the strength to tighten the screws today. Thanks man!”
“No problem! I’ve had your back since eight!”
Davis’s energy decreases as he fights to keep a normal posture during the final four hours of work. Constantly looking at the clock, he begins to think about his family. My family has no symptoms, but why am I keeping this a secret? They need to quarantine…I know what I can do! When I get in the car, I’m going to tell my wife they need to quarantine because one of my operators will be out sick with COVID and could have spread it to us. Sounds like a plan!
Indeed, it did sound like a plan; however, Davis’s brain fog caused him to forget to call on his way home.
As Davis parks his car in the driveway, he is met by his twin sons, David and Daniel, rushing out of the house to greet their dad. Hmmm…this is odd. They normally don’t meet me at the door. Why must everything go wrong? Nervously, he gets out of his car. “Sons!” I guess I hug them. Sweat pours down his face and onto his already drenched operator uniform as his sons hug him with one to the left of him and the other to the right. His wife walks out the door adding on to his nervousness. Davis removes his mask as Dayla kisses him on the lips, “Baby! You are a sweaty mess!” It is hot outside during his encounter with the family. Thank you, Lord, for making today a hot day!
“What can I say?! This is what money looks like!” He nervously laughs. The family walks through the front door with Davis going in last. He looks around at the neighbors’ homes. There is no activity going on at any of the houses. He looks at a few cars parked on the side of the road two houses down from where his family lives.
“Come on, daddy!” His twin boys say from inside. “Coming!” Davis replies as he staggers walks into the house and shut the door behind him.
Davis began to feel better, but the symptoms remained. His breathing hurts more with each inhale and subsides after each exhale. To his surprise Dayla has not noticed any of his symptoms. That night Davis falls into a deep sleep. He gets up and repeats the process for the remainder of the work week. Davis has never been the self-examining type, but over the course of the following three days he pays close attention to his temperature and symptoms as well as taking the ibuprofen 30 minutes before getting his temperature check at work and 30 minutes before he arrives home.
On Friday, Davis’s health improves dramatically. He has no pain when breathing, the sweating decreased, and his strength improves gradually. He begins to feel normal, but what amazes him more is that no one noticed his symptoms. Yo! I’m really that guy! Thank you, Lord, for blessing me through this! I know it is a sin to lie, but no one asked so I did not tell. Keep me and my family safe during these challenging times. Next time I promise to be careful. No more gatherings without wearing a mask for me. And I might consider getting the vaccination.
Davis walks into work on this beautiful Friday with a smile on his face and added confidence. He puts on his operator uniform as he looks at his reflection in the mirror. “I am Davis the Lead Operator! I am bigger than COVID!” He does a little dance as he walks out of the men’s locker room.
“Davis, my guy! I see you got that swag back!” Karl says.
“Yes sir!” He replies. “No more symptoms! I’m that guy!” They laugh and fist pump each other.
Davis walks to his production department and begins working on the broken mixer. It sucks Antonio cannot fix this thing. I asked him several times this week, and it never improved. Oh well, he’s my dawg! The managers need to spend money on improving our equipment rather than fund golfing trips with clients. Suddenly, his phone vibrates and sounds. He picks it up to see a message notification from his wife. “What does she want?!” He clicks on the text notification which immediately opens his text app. Using his thumb to swipe upward through several text conversations headings, he presses on the heading that reads Honeydew with a picture of his smiling wife on the left side.
Davis. This morning the boys and I could not get out of bed. David soaked his bed with sweat, and Daniel has a temperature of 101.3. I am having body aches and my stomach is in so much pain. I am taking us to the ER right now because I have a little energy. In the meantime, you need to warn your management that we may have come down with COVID. You will need to get tested and quarantined until we know our results. This pain is terrible. I am so sorry, and I love you dearly!
As Davis closes his phone leaving the text message on read, his heart begins to pound and sink to his stomach. Terrible thoughts of losing his family from COVID complications flood his mind. He tries to imagine them overcoming the virus while blaming himself for being selfish. What have I done? What did I expose my family to? What about the kids, what about their friends in school, what about their friends, family members, what about my wife, what about her elderly family members? How many people did I expose? How many lives have I forever changed? He sits down on a bench near the lead operator’s office feeling deeply depressed and concerned about the drama he may have caused.