What Happens When the Test Comes Back Positive?
By Zella Milfred
La Follette sophomore Jayquan Jaeger couldn’t smell onions. Not even when he held one up close to his nose. He, along with his father and two sisters, had just tested positive for COVID-19.
Even with state-wide precautions and regulations, Wisconsin has surged with coronavirus cases and many have gotten sick, including young people. According to local public health officials, among 10-19 year olds in Dane County, there have been 6,300 confirmed cases, 14 hospitalizations, and one death (as of Jan. 10, 2021). It’s not just names in the news, or numbers on a graph. It’s people right here in our community and at our school.
When Jaeger received a positive test result on a late-October morning, he was filled with shock and worry. His body has always reacted stronger than usual to the common cold, so his family was concerned about how he would be affected by this virus. His symptoms resulted in a loss of smell, a stuffy nose, and an irritated throat.
Due to the timing of his sisters and father’s positive results, his family quarantined for an entire month and a half! Jaeger’s socially distanced Saturday meet-ups with friends were canceled, and his family began ordering groceries online. The coronavirus became a hot topic in his household as they tried to understand the source of their exposure and why only some of the family had tested positive. Luckily, he was able to continue his boys choir practices and LHS book club meetings virtually during this time.
Jaeger advises students who confront the virus to continue getting exercise in the house, relax, and stay hydrated. “Your experience really depends on how it affects you,” he said. For example, his cousins, who also tested positive, grappled with fevers and vomiting.
La Follette sophomore Katie Sanchez Gutierrez went to the Alliant Energy Center to get tested after her mother began losing her sense of taste and smell. They both received positive test results in late-October. Her only symptom was a loss of smell, and she says, “I’m very thankful it didn’t affect me as much.” After working at Pick n’ Save throughout the entire pandemic, she was surprised when she actually got the virus. During quarantine she missed her routine trips to work and the gym, and her mother was also forced to stay home from work. Sanchez hopes that students take the coronavirus seriously and wear their masks because “it isn’t a joke.”
La Follette’s Coordinator of Student Engagement, Molly Hayes, remembers stopping dead in her tracks when hearing that her family had been exposed to COVID-19. “My heart dropped a bit, a sense of worry goes over you,” she remembers. At first, only her husband and eldest son tested positive, but upon further testing, her entire family did. They likely contracted it from her son’s participation in flag football last fall. She says the hardest part was making phone calls to those they’d been in contact with to inform them of the bad news. This included her parents and in-laws who are currently in their 60’s and 70’s. “The amount of guilt you almost feel that you’ve hurt someone else is the hardest part,” she says.
Out of her family, the virus affected her husband the worst. He lost 20 pounds due to a severe loss of appetite, and he stayed in bed for three days straight with body aches. Hayes says that her symptoms didn’t catch up to her until everyone else in the household was feeling better. “I tried to put mind over matter,” she said. “I didn’t want to get behind in work, I have all these kids and my husband is really sick.” In the end, she had a sore throat, loss of smell, and extreme fatigue. “That’s what I think the scariest part of the virus is, you just don’t know [how it will affect you].”
Contact tracing is the practice of informing people when they have been exposed to COVID-19, helping them get tested, and encouraging them to self-quarantine if they were in close contact with the virus. When students who are learning online become ill, such as Jaeger and Sanchez, Public Health Madison & Dane County handles the contact tracing for the community. At La Follette, though, there are still a select number of staff and special education students who have continued to work face-to-face within the school. When these Lancers come in contact with the virus, it is La Follette Nurse Margaret Corbae who handles all of the contact tracing. In this role she is incharge of monitoring quarantines, providing safety education, and distributing protective equipment to staff. “School nursing is a lot of community health,” Corbae shared.
Though Corbae is not the contact tracer for students learning virtually, she still regularly connects with all students and families who get COVID-19. “The numbers at La Follette are significant,” she says. “There have been cases with staff, in-person students and virtual students.” From what she’s seen, the racial disparities that exist in Dane County data are equally evident at La Follette, and the risk of high school age individuals spreading the disease seems to be similar to that of adults.
The district has announced that we will continue with virtual learning until at least April 24th. Hayes, much like Jaeger, feels optimistic about the distribution of a vaccine and hopes that La Follette will be able to do a graduation ceremony for our seniors at the end of the school year. “I could cry I miss La Follette so much, I thrive off that energy of the building and those connections,” she says. “Mask up and do your part so that we can be back together soon.”