It happened. The one thing that we always knew could happen, that was always nagging in the back of our minds before any new country, it happened. A positive Covid test.
We had just returned back to the US for a week to visit family before starting Phase 3 and traveling to Southeast Asia. Our plan was to rest, hang out with family, and debrief Phase 2 before heading to Singapore. All went to plan until the day before our flight. Singapore required a negative antigen test to board the flight, so all four of us got in the car and took our quick antigen tests. After a delicious “final” (or so we thought) breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa, we got our test results. Asher, negative. Gloria, negative. James, negative. Me, POSITIVE!
We were very shocked as I had no symptoms whatsoever. Hoping it was a false positive, I took an at-home antigen (also positive) and the official antigen again (positive x3!). Knowing that it was definitely positive, I was forced into my room to quarantine. Luckily, we had good wifi, and I had all my technology so I wouldn’t get bored. One upside of being quarantined was that I got delicious, homemade meals delivered straight to my bedroom door. Our neighborhood in Carson City was not crowded, so I was able to go on short, masked walks or bike rides without bumping into anyone.
After four days of quarantining, I took an at-home antigen test which came back negative!
We were all very excited and having decided to skip Singapore, we booked our tickets for Cambodia (the only Southeast Asian country with no long quarantine period on entry). I was able to wander around the house, just masked, as CDC recommendations said I should remain masked around others for an additional 5 days. A couple days before our flight, we drove over to CVS to get our pre-flight PCR test. Much to our surprise, it came back positive!
We canceled flights again and learned that Covid particles can remain in your body for months after antigen tests come back negative. This is because PCR tests can detect even the tiniest particles in your system, even dead virus, while antigen tests are designed to work more quickly and detect the higher viral loads of someone who is definitely infectious. Even though my PCR was positive, my antigen was negative, meaning that I couldn’t spread Covid to my family.
We had booked another set of tickets to Cambodia, hoping that my next PCR test would come back negative. But, worried that I might test positive on PCRs for months to come, we started looking into countries that did not require PCR tests to enter. The time came for the PCR test and we returned to CVS where the pharmacist recognized us from a few days ago. Unfortunately, it came back positive again. We decided we would try one more time. If it was negative, we would fly to Cambodia on our re-re-rebooked flight. If it was positive, we would fly to Egypt, which just required a negative antigen.
We took our third PCR of the week, which was a spit PCR rather than swab-up-the-nostrils PCR. We spat 5 ml of spit into a tube which is much more difficult than one would imagine.
That night, we all huddled around the screen when our results came in. Asher, negative. Gloria, negative. James, negative. Me, NEGATIVE! We could fly to Cambodia!
The next evening, we drove 30 minutes to the Reno airport, took a 45 minute flight to San Francisco, waited 8 hours in an empty SFO, flew 17 hours on United’s longest flight (UA1, SFO – SIN), waited 10 hours in an empty Singapore Changi Airport, flew 2 hours to Phnom Penh, had issues at customs (since we didn’t have printed copies of our PCR tests), took our on-arrival antigen tests (all negative!), drove 20 minutes to our hotel, and promptly collapsed after our 40+ hour travel “day”!