She didn’t mince words.
“I feel like crap,” she announced.
Patty Jafari hadn’t yet confirmed the cause of the crap when we spoke Thursday, though that wasn’t for lack of trying.
She had a terrifying feeling it was COVID-19.
What she didn’t have was a COVID-19 test.
Many of you know that feeling, yes? Finding a test site with open appointments or stores with over-the-counter test kits lately has been like trying to find toilet paper in the early pandemic days.
Clearly, though, thousands of people have found ways to get tested, and thousands of them each day have tested positive, according to the terrifying numbers released almost daily from the New Mexico Department of Health.
Shortages of test kits have been reported across the country as the extremely contagious omicron variant of the virus spreads with lightning speed. Catching it almost seems inevitable, even for those who, like Jafari, have been vaccinated, boosted, masked and scrupulously careful.
(It should be noted, though, that the vast majority of us who are fully vaxxed and boosted endure our turn with the virus with milder symptoms than nonvaxxed folks. Just 0.16% of vaxxed and boosted folks who contract COVID-19 wind up in the hospital; 89.1% of those who died from COVID-19 since Feb. 1, 2021, were unvaccinated, according to the state Department of Health. So, yeah, get vaccinated.)
Like many of us, Jafari has comorbidities, which makes catching COVID-19 in any variation unnerving. And she has a 95-year-old mother in hospice she can’t see if there is even the slightest chance she has COVID-19.
There is a more than slight chance she does. She traces the possibility to Jan. 9-10 when a friend of hers from out of state was in town for a visit. On Jan. 12, the friend called Jafari to tell her she had tested positive for COVID-19.
The next day, Jafari said she woke up with a sore throat. Her eyes burned, her nose ran. She felt achy, lethargic, as if a flu was coming on.
She hoped it was nothing. Allergies maybe. A cold. She had been so careful. It seemed such a cruel irony.
By Jan. 16, she knew it was probably not nothing.
She started looking for a test to allay or confirm her fears. But the search proved harder than she expected. For four days she hunted, making calls and checking the websites for the state Health Department, Walgreens, CVS, her insurance company and others every morning. Each time, the slots were filled.
“I’d check at 7:30 in the morning, and the appointments were already taken,” she said. “It’s just really crazy. It’s so frustrating.”
She called some of the sites, hoping to make an appointment in advance, but that didn’t work, either.
Her symptoms grew worse. Her husband, the only other person she’s had contact with, felt sick, too.
Finally, on Thursday, she snagged an appointment at a Walgreens. Test results are expected in 72 hours.
Now she waits.
Help is on the way for those of us similarly hunting for tests. The Biden administration will begin distributing 500 million rapid COVID-19 tests for free as soon as next week. Every U.S. household is eligible for four free at-home tests by requesting them at www.covidtests.gov.
Private insurers will also be required to cover the cost of up to eight over-the-counter at-home tests a month once supplies become available.
Already, New Mexico is providing free at-home tests to residents upon request under a partnership with Vault Medical Services. Check it out at learn.vaulthealth.com/nm/ or the New Mexico Department of Health site at cv.nmhealth.org, which also has an exhaustive link to all the testing sites in the state.
You clever folks offered other suggestions:
• The Albuquerque International Sunport, via Southwest Labs, offers different tests ranging in cost from $59-$259 near the TSA checkpoint. Get information at abqsunport.com, 505-609-5227.
• Check out urgent cares such as Duke City and Rio Grande. Some readers have had success by showing up early before the facilities open and waiting in line. As always, appointments are best.
• Pathology Consultants of New Mexico with the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors hold free no-appointment drive-through testing 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (lunch break 1-1:30 p.m.) weekdays, 1635 University NE. You don’t have to be a Realtor but do need to show medical insurance. 575-622-5600.
• Many folks have found at-home tests at Amazon.com. Other online suppliers are also listed on www.FindaCovidTest.org.
• Besides places like Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Target and Smith’s, check out unusual sites like Speedway gas stations.
• Beware of “pop-up” test sites, which may be scams. Check credentials.
• When all else fails, call the New Mexico COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
Be well, y’all.
UpFront is a news and opinion column. Reach Joline at email@example.com.