‘What If You Just Don’t Tell Anyone?’


THE ATLANTIC —

What do I do now?

COVID-19 diagnoses start with a barrage of grueling decisions and paralyzing worries. Did I infect anyone else? Whom will I tell? Where can I isolate? Should I go to the hospital? Will I be okay?

Millions of Americans have fallen sick with this virus, and we’ve seen the full kaleidoscope of ways people react and cope with illness. Some have dutifully rung up contact tracers and locked themselves in total isolation. In March, after a 63-year-old man in Los Angeles broke out in coughing fits and couldn’t get hold of a coronavirus test, he spent five days quarantining in his 2009 Mercedes. Other people have been an epidemiologist’s worst nightmare. Someone in southern Oregon kept going to work after falling sick, super-spreading the virus and killing seven people. A groom in Texas reportedly tested positive one day and went on with his maskless wedding party the next. “Oh, no, no, no, don’t freak out,” a bridesmaid told the very freaked-out photographer. “He doesn’t have symptoms. He’s fine.”

Then there’s a more curious response. Some people tuck away a bout of COVID-19 like it’s a deep, dark secret. Even among those who have been fully responsible about quarantining, at least a small number have decided not to tell their closest relatives—or their friends, or anyone at all—that they are sick in the first place. Long after they recover, they hide what they’ve been through, resorting to lies and subterfuge.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Ricardo Huñis

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