By Mariah Perry / NM News Port
When COVID-19 entered the world, I didn’t know it would enter mine.
Now, as New Mexico reaches 100,000 cases and just set another record high for daily number of deaths, I’m one of the lucky ones.
But this pandemic is real. It’s taking a toll on families. It took a toll on ours.
My little sister, Aliyah Perry, is 21, works at Dion’s, and is a full-time student at the University of New Mexico. She and I have been very close since we were little. We still love to go on late night ice cream trips.
“I told my manager on November 11th that I did not feel good and could not go to work for a few days,” Aliyah recalled. “I told her I was going to get tested because I was having COVID symptoms and she immediately took me off the schedule for the week.”
I remember Aliyah complaining of body aches, headache, fatigue, a runny nose, sore throat and chills.
“My back was hurting so bad that I couldn’t stand up,” she told me. “I also couldn’t sleep because I was having bad pains in my legs that felt like needles.”
She went to Duke City Urgent Care to get tested. They tested her and sent her home with instructions to wait for her results. They said results would come in the next three days.
“I felt so sick and they had me sitting in my car for an hour and a half — just for them to tell me to go home and wait for my results.”
She waited and waited. After three days, with no results, she got tested again, this time using the clinic serving TLC Plumbing, where our dad works.
That’s when we got the results we were afraid of: she was positive for COVID.
When I heard the news, I was really scared. Aliyah and I aren’t just close — we actually share a bedroom.
“I couldn’t believe I was positive. I was worried about the rest of the family…especially my boyfriend’s high-risk grandmother,” she said.
All hell broke loose. I had stayed in the room with her the first week she was sick. I quickly moved all my stuff out and made the living room my new bedroom.
I didn’t have time to grab many things so I only had a few outfits and was basically living out of a little closet under the stairs.
I felt bad she would be locked in a room for two weeks, alone.
But we had to isolate her. She could get the rest of the house sick. This was a big risk. There are seven people living in the house.
“It was hard being locked up with no interaction with anyone!” Aliyah told me.
At least Aliyah had a bathroom in her room which worked out well. Our room is a casita connected to the house, so there’s a door that goes straight out to the porch and we used that as a delivery door and ensured no contaminated air was entering the main house.
My brother Jeremiah is 18 years old and a student at Central New Mexico Community College. He was so worried that we would all get sick that every hour he was running around the house spraying disinfectant on everything.
Aliyah told me, “It was funny to have my family deliver me food because after each delivery everyone would wait at the window waving at me until I closed the door.”
When one person tests positive for COVID, everyone in the house has to assume the worst. After my sister got her positive test results, the doctors told her to quarantine for 10 days, until she didn’t have symptoms. But that meant everyone in the house had to quarantine because we all had contact with her.
Eventually, we all went and got tested. The rest of us tested negative.
Of course it wasn’t just our household that was in danger of the virus. Before she knew she was infected, Aliyah had her boyfriend Grant staying over at the house.
“I had Grant stay with me because I never thought I would have COVID,” Aliyah said. “I thought it was just the flu.”
Grant, who is a full-time student at UNM and a full-time employee at Whataburger, went with his family and got tested on Nov. 20 at Kindred Hospital.
His family members received negative results on Nov. 27. As of this writing, Grant has still yet to receive any results but his symptoms have gone away.
Grant had a lot of contact with Aliyah. His mom made him quarantine for the safety of his 80-year-old grandmother who lives with him.
When Thanksgiving arrived, we couldn’t do our usual celebration. In fact, Grant was forced to spend the day alone in his room.
As of this writing, Grant has been quarantined for almost 14 days and says he thinks he is positive because he lost his taste and smell, but he is doing well.
Remember Aliyah’s test at Duke City Urgent Care? Well, Aliyah finally got a call from them on Nov. 24, 11 days after the test. Of course, she already knew she was positive, and the new (old) results found the same.
“I understand that the labs are backed up right now but it is kind of hard to quarantine when I don’t know what I am quarantining for,” Aliyah said. “I was frustrated because I needed my results back for work.”
This upset all of us because the testing situation was urgent for our family, but there was no rush on their end. If she hadn’t gotten the test from my dad’s work, the whole house could have gotten COVID.
“Testing centers need to rush results more because someone could think they are negative due to not receiving a phone call and spreading the virus to more people without knowing, especially people with no symptoms,” Aliyah said.
Contact tracing is complicated too. You have to think about everyone and anyone who might have been in contact with the sick person.
“I texted my manager informing her I tested positive and she took me off for an additional two weeks,” Aliyah said, referring to her boss at Dion’s.
Dion’s traced the people Aliyah came in contact with and had them get tested. None of them tested positive.
The CDC says that most businesses do not have to shut down if they get a case of COVID, but they must do a good cleaning to disinfect everything.
Meanwhile, my dad, Sam Perry, could not work for two weeks until he got three negative results, all spread out over that time.
Luckily, my dad didn’t have many problems not being able to go work because he could do a portion of work at home on the computer and some by making phone calls, as he’s a salesman at TLC.
In my dad’s words: “I did not mind going into work until my house was cleared for COVID because I wanted to make sure everyone was ok and my daughter got better,”
My dad has returned to work but must go to the clinic at 6 a.m. every morning for 10 days to answer COVID screening questions and get his temperature checked.
I thought my dad was pretty lucky. TLC was understanding and allowed one of my dad’s coworkers to see his clients for him.
“I am glad Aliyah is better,” Sam said. “I was worried about her and I hated not being able to help her.”
He’s a good dad.
Aliyah is doing well now. Thankfully, she got a negative test back on Nov. 24. She was happy she got to spend Thanksgiving with us and not locked in her room by herself.
“I felt frustrated because I was following all the protocols such as wearing gloves and a mask, washing my hands, and not gathering. All of my friends have gone out partying and I have not gone anywhere other than work and I still got COVID,” Aliyah told me.
Of course, now the slightest symptoms are cause for high alert. After Aliyah was cleared, she started having pain in her throat with swollen and white tonsils. Back to Duke City Urgent Care!
“When I got there, the first thing they told me was that they think it is COVID. I told them that I just got over COVID and then the doctor refused to see me even though I tested negative three days prior to going in!” Aliyah is not a big fan of this clinic.
They made Aliyah wait in her car again for 30 minutes and said the doctor would Zoom call her.
“When the doctor called me, she asked what was going on and made me put my camera in my mouth to show her my throat,” Aliyah said, demonstrating how she held her phone camera up to her open mouth.
“She then proceeded to tell me that everything looks fine and to go home and drink warm tea,” Aliyah said. “I told the doctor multiple times that I could not breathe and she still sent me home.”
We’re hoping it’s just a case of strep throat, but with the virus’s lingering effects, we’re not sure what to think.
I hate that Aliyah is going through all of this. She’s my sister and I just want her to be healthy again.
So, what does this all mean? For one thing, I don’t think a lot of people are taking COVID seriously. People need to because if you are going out and not following the protocols, how would you feel if you got your family sick and something happened to them?
I also know that many people are tired of being locked up and so now they want to go out and have parties. I think this is selfish because it’s not only about you getting sick, it is about your family as well.
COVID-19 is serious and can catch you at any time, even when you are being safe. So, stay healthy, stay safe and wear your mask.
Mariah Perry is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MariahP93714334