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Dear close contacts

I am COVID-Patient 612 of Agoo, La Union. My COVID journey consists of 23 days of strict home quarantine. I was symptomatic. I decided to humanize my story by writing a letter to all COVID-19 patients’ close contacts.

Dear close contacts:

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How are you? How did your quarantine go? How are your family members? I sincerely hope that by now, you and your family are gradually getting back on your feet. I hope you feel better, and in isolation you feel the spirit of our warmth and company.

First, I’d like to thank you for your understanding and cooperation. I know it was hard getting notified about having been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Especially if it is your first time. But I appreciate your checking on me even when you had to go through the same protocol.

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I am writing this letter not to unload the guilt I bear for putting you in a stressful situation I also did not plan to be in. I am writing this to let you know how deeply sorry and unaware I was of the events that led to our unfortunate circumstance. I know that you are discerning enough to understand that the pandemic was not my fault and that the enemy is nowhere to be seen. Please know that no matter how careful, physically distanced, and masked-up I had been, the virus still entered my body without consent or caveat.

I regret that you and your family needed to separate. But I will never apologize for the time we talked, because it was a worthy and productive moment.

I never wanted to contract COVID-19, and I never wanted to disrupt anybody else’s life. Identifying and giving away your name as my close contact was not an easy task. It was heartbreaking to disrupt not only your daily routine but also your work productivity. But I hope you never backed down from that fear of possibly getting the virus. At a certain point, I realized that there are other things scarier than COVID-19: isolation, uncertainty, overthinking, work expectations, stigma. And, say no more, the swabbing.

I know how you and many people fret about getting swabbed. I got anxious, too, thinking about it. It was tearfully and particularly painful to the nose. I am sorry you had to go through this procedure, but I believe it was for the best. I also know that the most difficult part of getting swabbed happens after getting swabbed. It is the waiting. Waiting for three to five days for the result prolongs the agony and the days we spend in our isolation facility or homes. But I hope you had productive or fun things to do than wait.

I hope you had access to the internet and watched YouTube and Netflix. I hope your friends checked on you while in isolation, just like how my friends checked on me. I hope you had supplies that lasted for the entire period you were quarantined, especially when you chose to stay at home. And I hope you finished the book you had left midway because of your busy work schedule.

I felt bad that you had to go through nights overthinking or anxious about the days to come. I, too, went through these nights. But I was reminded that sad days do not last forever.

I hope you are one of those COVID-19 suspects who did not lose their sense of taste, because it was one of the most grueling moments in my coronavirus journey. Losing it was like losing the taste of home. If you did lose it, I hope you regain it very soon.

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I hope you did not overwork while in isolation. I tried squeezing in some easy tasks, but I really could not finish a major task. We were advised to take some rest and regain our strength as much as possible, so I hope you did not burden yourself too much with work-from-home expectations.

There will be people who will step back from you when you go out, but please do not take it against them. There were instances when a neighbor did that; a random colleague covered their face around me; and a workmate subtly asked me to distance myself from her, ending her statement with some Bible verse. I understand the stigma people have against COVID-19-positive patients and close contacts. Let us give them time to also recover from their negative beliefs about those who contracted the virus and recovered. They are also a product of beliefs shaped by social institutions beyond our control.

I look forward to seeing you again when you finish your quarantine. We will be more careful next time, but we will not cease from talking to each other, especially if it’s about work or something funny. Continue practicing social distancing, handwashing, and face-masking especially in crowded places. Get jabbed once you have the chance.

Sincerely yours,

Confirmed and recovered COVID-19 patient

* * * 

Ronald Bracero Bustos, 28, is a state university instructor from Agoo, La Union. He contracted COVID-19 in late June and finished his quarantine in the second week of July.

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TAGS: close contacts, COVID-19 patient, Ronald Bracero Bustos, Young Blood
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