Manu + Laser + Covid-19 = New York Salad


Since I’m getting a bunch of (understandably) concerned messages by email and on Twitter, I’m going to write this down here, point people to it and avoid repeating myself (occupational hazard!) :-)

Short version: During an epic escape from France to the US via the UK, I got myself my very own bunch of Covid-19 but I only got mild symptoms, they are starting to disappear, and I’m doing fine.

On the night from March 11th to 12th, I was in Paris for my usual round of medical visits, and jetlagged (having flown from the US a week earlier), when I heard that the US was going to soon impose a ban on travelers from the Schengen area.

I rushed to place a booking for a flight to New York the next day (12th), but weirdly the booking wasn’t confirmed immediately (you usually get a confirmation email within a few minutes). I suspected that people were buying the last few tickets.

At that point, things were a little rushed and I didn’t know that, thanks to my green card, I would still be admitted (worst case, quarantined for a couple of weeks). And even then, a green card isn’t very helpful if all flights are cancelled.

So I took advantage of a (not very hard to find) loophole by first taking a train ride to London, from which I would then fly to the US, since London wasn’t included in the travel ban (yet).

One detail that didn’t simplify things is that I had just undergone a skin laser treatment (to treat a condition where my cheeks get a bit red), and I looked like this:

(No, the weird-looking messy hair is normal – but look at the face dots.) I guess I could have said I’m following a new cult where you’re supposed to spray your face with red paint through a colander.

Now I know there’s no way anyone would think of a coronavirus causing this – still, in that general atmosphere of suspicion, it was slightly weird. I was planning on staying in Paris for a few more days, mostly working indoors. Instead, I would have to get stared at quite a bit, smile at the border officer in the UK and the US, and generally do as if all was normal.

Yes, I tried using foundation, I had to use so much of it that my face looked like it was made of plastic and I gave up (better not let immigration officers believe I’m trying to hide something).

Just after getting off the plane from London to New York, I started having the tiniest of urges to cough. Oops. Nothing terrible, I would just need to cough lightly once every few minutes. But definitely noticeable. Was it just a coincidence? I felt totally fine otherwise. Anyway, since I was coming from the UK and had been in France in the past 14 days, I had to go through CDC screening. All good, I was just given this card:

Over the next couple of days, I woke up slightly sore and had some light headaches. Nothing alarming nor very different from a common cold. Then on March 18th, I noticed while having dinner that the food tasted extremely bland. Was it just me? It was take-out food (because self-quarantine), Chinese dishes with pretty strong flavour, so something was off. That symptom (anosmia) usually comes with a very congested nose, but mine wasn’t – in fact I didn’t have any respiratory symptoms. After a few days of it not getting better, and using all sorts of solutions with salt and sodium bicarbonate to clear what I believed to be some sort of sinus infection, I did a little more research, and read in many different sources online that anosmia without any nasal congestion was actually a very specific symptom of covid-19.

Hey look, I’m fashionable. Whatever Prince Charles, Tom Hanks and Justin Trudeau have, I just gotta have it!

To be clear, I haven’t been actually tested. Since I’m not an essential worker, I am at the back of the line to get tested. But the sources I read were quite clear that abrupt anosmia without any other respiratory symptom, these past few weeks, usually means that medical people find it unnecessary to even test (and I had advice from a family member who is a clinical professor). Nothing is 100%, though, obviously.

Since the symptoms appeared around March 16-18, I’m guessing I got infected when I was in London, on the flight to New York, or maybe on the train ride from Paris.

As of today (March 30th), I’m still in New York, which by the way looks like a ghost town:

I’ve been only having mild symptoms: anosmia, some headaches, soreness and weakness, so I’ve been sleeping a lot, monitoring my vitals, and shooting myself with vitamin C and paracetamol. Anosmia is still here, but other symptoms are starting to go away. And I’m obviously staying inside to avoid contaminating anyone else (except to get some groceries, wearing an N95 mask, lucky me).

The good thing is that since food has no taste anyway, I might as well eat healthy stuff. So I’m glad to report that I’ve already eaten my quota of salad for the next decade. It will be donuts only from here on, thank you.

With a little luck, a serological test will come soon, and assuming I test positive for that, I will have some paperwork proving that I’m now immune, and fashionable again as I fly on mostly empty planes. /Evil grin/