In the past few months, our relentless work and school routines have given way to Zoom conferences and social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For me, this has meant secluding myself in the confines of my bedroom, only leaving to use the restroom, cook food or go out for a walk. Even these activities were restricted when I found out I tested positive for COVID-19.
I was first exposed to the novel coronavirus a few weeks ago when a close family friend visited my house but later became ill with COVID-19-like symptoms. He refused to go to the hospital because he does not have health insurance, due to his immigration status. Like many other undocumented immigrants, he cannot afford to spend a night at the hospital or even pay to get tested. At the insistence of my family, he checked himself in at Stamford Hospital and has been there ever since, slowly recovering.
Naturally, my family suspected that we had all been exposed to the virus through our friend. While we did not present any symptoms, we decided to self-quarantine to avoid spreading it. This was the most challenging part because I felt like I was confronting COVID-19 alone—without seeing my friends and making physical contact with my community, a luxury that we have come to cherish. Eventually, we were able to get tested at one of Stamford’s testing sites. Getting tested was the scariest experience. I was tested on a cloudy Friday afternoon on one of Stamford’s beaches. When I arrived, I had to show a person wearing a white suit my driver’s license through the car window without rolling it down. Then I drove halfway into a tent that was set-up in a parking lot. There, I rolled my window down and a doctor conducted a nasopharyngeal test. A few days later I received a call notifying me I had tested positive.
Initially, I did not share my test results with friends and family members (though I self-quarantined). Before I had gotten tested, I had seen the distance that the pandemic had created between the rest of the world and myself, and I did not wish to enlarge it. To an extent, I also felt ashamed that I had tested positive. Did it mean I did not practice enough social distancing?
I found consolation in the support I received from my family and the brave efforts of the Stamford community and first-responders. I am grateful that I survived the devastating effects of COVID-19, but I am still grieving the loss of many community members and friends.
I urge everyone to continue practicing social distancing even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. While I feel isolated from my community, I know staying home is the path to recovery and saving their lives. I urge everyone to reach out to friends and family and let them know that they should feel comfortable sharing their experiences rather than ashamed. If you know undocumented folks in your community, reach out to them and let them know that there are resources available to them. In the end, our health is more important than any status and we should protect it whether we experience symptoms or not.
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Michael Hernandez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.