As our car slowly inched to the entrance of the COVID-19 testing tent, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was a character in an apocalyptic movie. We were in the parking lot of a rundown mall, a once popular site reminiscent of my preteens and early mornings shopping for Christmas, while various individuals in full PPE and face shields with masks waited for us to approach. I could feel my palms begin to sweat as the thought of a swab tickling the upper recesses of my nasal cavity was not how I wanted to spend my Thursday morning. I was never able to handle getting the back of my throat swabbed for strep, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through this.
As I rolled down my window to give them my information and prepare for the test, I was met with a sweet woman asking how my day was, followed by her handing me and my dad a couple of tissues. We continued to blow our noses and proceeded to the main tent for our tests. I had watched countless videos prior of individuals receiving the COVID-19 test to see what the typical reaction was to the test to prepare myself physically and mentally. In general terms, the most common reactions were watering eyes, sneezing attacks, general uncomfortableness, coughing and tears.
A young woman kindly asked me to lower my mask to just below my nose and to rest my head back. To my surprise, in just ten seconds, we were on our way home. I will admit that the swab is extremely uncomfortable – it truly feels as though they are tickling your brain – but I found it to be a bit more tolerable than a swab to the back of the throat. There is a residual burning sensation in my nose, but shortly after it went away.
According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Safety, there has been a total of 55,428 positive cases in the state with 2,593 positive tests in Douglas County in the last 14 days as of Oct. 16. On a national level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been a total of 7,958,254 positive cases with a total of 216,917 deaths from COVID-19.
While the act of receiving a COVID-19 test was not as stressful as I had anticipated, the reality of the pandemic in our country is terrifying. The number of positive cases and deaths in America continues to increase at an alarming rate that should leave all of us worried. But as I scroll through social media, particularly Instagram, I am seeing more and more people in large gatherings with little to no masks worn.
With autumnal festivities occurring across the Omaha area, such as Junkstock and the opening of Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, it seems as though more people are venturing out with families and friends and sharing their fall outings over social media. Posts display large groups posing in front of piles of pumpkins or inside a restaurant enjoying essential fall treats. While I think social interactions are incredibly valuable and necessary for the upkeep of our mental health, we need to remember that we are still living through a global pandemic that continues to take the lives of many loved ones, including one of my own.
There are those who are being smart about their autumnal plans as they safely practice social distancing in very small groups and continue to wear their masks during photos if they choose to go out in public. However, for those who still make the decision to attend fall gatherings with a large group of friends or family members and are not following proper guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please do not think that you are exempt or excluded from potential contraction.
I do not wish the sickness, the pain and grief from COVID-19 on anyone, but it is important to emphasize to those who are unwilling to take the pandemic seriously that the virus can affect anyone. Just because the Halloween season is in full swing does not mean that the pandemic magically disappeared. A seemingly harmless get together with friends to the pumpkin patch or to a haunted house could mean the contraction of COVID-19 amongst friends, workers or even family members at home.
Although I encourage you all to embrace the Halloween season, there are other ways that you can do so in a safer environment and manner. If you do decide to head to a local pumpkin patch, plan on going at a time where there will be smaller crowds and drive in your own vehicle if you do not live in the same household. Bring plenty of hand sanitizer, avoid areas where there might be a lot of foot traffic, and please wear a mask, even during photos.
Also, it is still possible to enjoy fall from the safety and comforts of your own home while we continue to quarantine! (And yes, we should still be doing our part in decreasing the amount of times we leave our house.) Bake some delicious fall goodies such as pumpkin bread or apple crumble! Watch a spooky or heartwarming Halloween movie with a cup of apple cider! Support local artists and businesses like ordering horror books from an independent bookstore or art that you have seen shared on social media! Have a virtual tarot night!
There are so many ways to enjoy this autumnal season while trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves that we are still living in a pandemic. The holidays don’t erase the unfortunate effects of the virus. And please, wear a mask and get tested. I promise you, it is much appreciated.