Dr. Lucy McBride has been educating her patients and the public about the dangers of COVID-19 on her blog since the start of the pandemic.
But now she’s getting personal and revealing what can happen as soon as we let our guard down. It’s an important message to consider as coronavirus fatigue sets in and cases spike and winter approaches.
"If you take your eye off the ball for a minute, COVID-19 is right there waiting for you," Dr. McBride said as she sat at home – in quarantine.
Until now, she’s been seeing patients in-person as a physician at Foxhall Internists in D.C. – and writing a weekly newsletter to help people keep up with coronavirus news. But over the weekend, things got personal when she learned the virus was inside her home.
"I was shocked because my husband has been so, so, so careful," Dr. McBride said.
She says her family has been vigilant for the past nine months, taking all the precautions, until a single, spontaneous moment with a trusted friend threw life into a tailspin.
"Like all of us, he was experiencing pandemic fatigue and had a moment of unbridled joy at seeing his friend on his birthday," she said.
Dr. McBride's husband shared a beer with their neighbor in his house for just 10 minutes, but that was enough time for him to get COVID-19.
Fear turned to action. She then had to call her parents to warn them about their own exposure.
"We were outside with them on Thanksgiving, distanced, but still, we had to tell them, you know, the remorse my husband felt, and remorse I felt was enormous," she said.
Dr. McBride and their three children are staying in the house and wearing masks to manage the risk. Her husband, isolating in the basement, is recovering after a rough 48 hours with body aches and sore throat.
"So the rest of us are doing fine. We feel well. We've had PCR tests, but as you know, the virus can show up at any moment," she said.
So far, no one else has gotten sick or developed symptoms. They’ll get tested again after seven days and if the results are negative, the quarantine ends.
Dr. McBride says she’s sharing her story publicly to remind us we are all vulnerable to this virus.
"You cannot be perfect every single minute of the day," she said. "And let's also face the fact that our mental health is suffering as a result of being so, so isolated from other people."
Your Chances of Encountering the Coronavirus at an Event This Holiday Season
This map, based on a model by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, uses real-time data to show the risk of attending an event given its size and location. The risk level refers to the probability of encountering at least one COVID-19 positive individual, and the model assumes there are at least five times more cases than are being reported.
Source: COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool
News of a coronavirus vaccine is promising, but winter is coming and Dr. McBride hopes her story serves as a wake up call.
Her message is to cancel holiday travel plans and really lock down with a small circle of friends and family and to wear a mask and stay socially distant from others.
Until there’s a vaccine available to the masses, human behavior is still our strongest defense from COVID-19.