If I’m doing my math correctly, we should have been in quarantine for over three months by now. Keyword: should.

I know each state is different, but in my home state of Illinois, non-essential businesses such as hair salons, golf courses, and tattoo shops have been open since the beginning of the month. After two months of social distancing, wearing masks, and working from home, indulging in these re-opened “freedoms” seemed exciting. Now, I didn’t run out and get a new tattoo, even though I deeply wanted to, but I did put my guard down in terms of safety concerns. But one slip up is all it takes. And I slipped up.

Last Sunday, my friend and I decided to pick up food, have a picnic, and go for a walk at one of the local nature preserves. The prior week, we had a similar socially distanced hangout, but we drove separately. Neither of us experienced symptoms. She only left her house to go on walks and go to work at an essential business, where she always wore a mask.

I knew where I had been, which was my house 95% of the time. If not in my house, you could bet your ass I was wearing a mask and social distancing. Also, I fortunately live with my family right now. At the start of the pandemic, we decided that only one of us would do the grocery shopping to limit our entire household’s exposure. For all of quarantine, I was confident that I hadn’t come in contact with COVID because of all the precautions my family and I had taken.

After considering all of this, I thought it would be okay to not play by the rules. The one time I thought that was the time it counted because three days after we hung out, my friend told me her brother tested positive for COVID. Her and I had driven together to the nature preserve. There was a good chance she had it and passed it on to me since we were in such a confined space.

By that Wednesday, my friend told me that both she and her brother had low-grade fevers and body aching. She was still awaiting her test results.That night I barely slept a wink. Between this and the anticipation of finding out whether or not I got a new job, my anxiety was at an all time high. My one slip up could mean getting COVID and potentially spreading it to my parents and younger brother. I was so mad at myself. I still am.

On Friday, my friend told me her test came back negative but she was still experiencing symptoms. Part of me knew that no matter what the results were, my anxiety wouldn’t subside until after the two week incubation period. False negatives are incredibly common. She lives with someone who has COVID and is symptomatic. We were about one foot apart in her car, and spent hours walking together without masks on. The test result doesn’t erase those facts.

It’s now nine days since I saw my friend. I’ve been checking in with her every single day and thankfully, she and her family aren’t experiencing severe symptoms like difficulty breathing. I’m so glad for that. Selfishly, I am still ridden with anxiety and I know that I will be until Sunday, after the two weeks have passed. I haven’t been feeling any symptoms, which is a good sign, but it could still crop up. Since I learned about my friend’s family’s status, I decided to self-quarantine again in case I am carrying it. I can pray as much as I want that nothing will happen to my family or I, but what’s done is done.

I hate watching positive cases rising partly because many people decided a pandemic was “inconvenient.” I consider myself guilty of this too because even being around one person, not social distancing, and not wearing a mask, can spread the virus. That’s why it’s absolutely infuriating to open up Twitter or Instagram and see hundreds of people entering public spaces without a mask on or throwing parties where it’s impossible to social distance.

Nobody likes being in quarantine. Some people think it’s a political choice when it’s not. It’s a scientific fact that COVID-19 is killing humans being at an alarming rate and the best thing we can do to flatten the curve is to social distance and wear masks. Thousands, if not millions, of more people will become positive because of state’s early re-openings, the President’s actions towards the entire pandemic, and apathy. But take it from me, you can never be too safe. Far less people will die if we continue following safety precautions. You don’t want to be in my position, wondering if you’ve infected yourself and your loved ones. And you definitely don’t want to be in the position of burying your loved ones because COVID took their lives. Please, think for the collective and not for your individual desires. Lives are at stake if you don’t.

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