We came here knowing that this trip would be different but it was more challenging than we expected. Prior to heading to NY for a week in the Catskills, all three of us had gotten COVID tests in order to conform with the current NY state guidelines. These guidelines stipulated that we could come to the state provided that we’d had a negative COVID test within three days of arrival and we would agreed to quarantine for three days upon arrival. We would be released from quarantine after getting another COVID test with negative results on the fourth day. In theory this sounded feasible. In practice we faced many hurdles.
Since the rates of infection have been rising around the country the strain on the labs is starting to show. Each of us got tested on the Wednesday before our trip. My son had it easiest because we were able to get an appointment for his test. We got his results within 24 hours of his testing. My wife and I were unable to get appointments which meant that we had to go to free testing being offered by the county board of health. This was a minor inconvenience but it was manageable. After waiting outside in the wind for an hour and forty five minutes, I’d been swabbed and was told I’d have my results in three to five days, despite it being a 24 hour rapid test. My wife and I went to different testing locations due to our respective work obligations. She was also told three to five days.
We were really on the fence about whether we should go or not, in part due to the unknown test results and in part because we knew that things were going to be different when we got to NY. I went to bed Friday night believing we were not going to go. Saturday morning though, we had a change of heart and decided to go with the agreement that we could shorten our stay if we decided to or needed to.
New York required us to register online upon arrival and I was relieved that the form did not ask for me to upload documentation confirming my negative test result. I got my results after registering with the state, however my wife did not get hers until today (Tuesday — and nearly 7 days after her test!).
I have been receiving text messages daily (several a day) asking if I have any symptoms and instructing me to get a COVID test if my status changes. Nothing onerous, but mildly inconvenient since it’s hit or miss whether the system seems to get my responses and asks the same question multiple times a day.
We did our part and quarantined as much as we could, only going out to pick up food and to go for walks by ourselves. This was largely what our existence has been at home as well in recent weeks. None of us are leaving the house for work or school at this point. The only contact we make with others is at the grocery store. So, I don’t feel guilty about the few minor contacts we made given that two of us were confirmed negative and we were pretty certain that the third was as well.
Prior to coming to NY, I’d looked online to see about getting the follow up tests once we’d been in the state for the required time. I found a few options, but these options were far from plentiful. I accepted that this would be the case since we were going to the mountains — it made sense that there might not be a COVID test unit on every corner, but it did seem a bit sparse.
What I hadn’t counted on, and in retrospect should have expected, was that getting the follow up test would be a giant pain in the ass. None of the places I’d identified would let you make an appointment until the day of the appointment at 12:01 AM online. They wouldn’t make appointments over the phone and only did same day appointments in person. The slots filled up quickly, we were told. Beyond that, most of the places were prioritizing people with symptoms for the rapid tests and requiring asymptomatic cases take the tests that take longer to get results. And as in Maryland, even the rapid tests were not coming back rapidly.
It quickly became apparent that we might not even get our results back before it was time for us to leave with the Thanksgiving holiday in the mix. So, we decided that we should just make our way home. We were facing as much as a week of not really being able to go out and do anything while in NY.
I had hoped that we would be able to see my wife’s family at least, but they were not too keen on getting together even with the knowledge that we’d all been tested and were negative. I can’t blame them. New York was the epicenter last spring and her mom and dads are in their seventies and eighties. It makes sense to take strong precautions. We did see them for about an hour, outside, with masks.
This is not the way I would have liked things to go on this trip. I would have liked to spend more time in the mountains. I would have liked to have visited the shops of New Paltz and Woodstock. I would have liked to have Thanksgiving dinner with our family. I would have liked to for things to be normal.
But things aren’t normal. We are in the midst of a pandemic, cases are surging in the United States and around the world, and while there is hope on the horizon with promising vaccines and a President Elect who believes in facts, trusts science and takes the pandemic seriously, we aren’t going to see the end of this for some time.
So we are headed down the NY Throughway on our way home, where we won’t be subject to a strict quarantine but we’ll be sticking close to the house anyway. I’ll cook something for Thanksgiving, though it may not be turkey with all the trimmings.
I am reminded of page 417 in the Big Book:
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life—unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment…Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.