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The Coronavirus Diaries: Testing Positive

The Coronavirus Diaries: Testing Positive

Wednesday September 9 2020

The Rev Mark Harper is Pastor of the Covenant Presbyterian Church, Athens, Georgia of the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA)


BACK in June, my 25 year-old son Gabe and I tested positive for Covid-19.

Neither one of us had any symptoms, but we had been working in our church food pantry with someone who had tested positive a few days earlier. So we drove to the parking lot of Gabe’s old middle school and proceeded to wait in the hot Georgia sun for over five hours before pulling off our face masks and undergoing a nasal swab at one of our city’s few drive-through testing sites. It was also the only site that advertised immediate results. Because we had health insurance, there was no cost; had we been uninsured, like so many of our neighbours, the tab would have been $175. A few minutes later a nurse walked over and informed us that we were both positive and should quarantine for the next 14 days.

Over the course of the next week, word began to spread that the results from this particular testing site might be unreliable, especially since there had been an unusually high percentage of positive results. Was it possible that our own readings had been false positive? While we continued to self-isolate, we decided to get re-tested at a free site run by our local public health department. When we received those results by phone a week later it turned out we were both negative.

I still don’t know if my son and I really contracted the coronavirus, though if we did, we thankfully remained asymptomatic the whole time. What I do know is that we’re living in a state that, six months after the first reported cases of this horrific pandemic, still has no unified plan of response to serve the health and well-being of its citizens. Government officials on a state and local level pay lip-service to social distancing, but testing availability remains inconsistent while contact tracing is almost non-existent. In the meantime, those of us who live in this college town dominated by the University of Georgia are literally holding our collective breath as close to 40,000 students return for the start of a fall semester that many hoped would proceed entirely on-line but so far is not. 

For those of us who are trying to follow Jesus instead, this is a long season of lament, grief, and exhaustion. As others have already said, the year 2020 has offered the unwanted but necessary gift of perfect visual clarity when it comes to seeing how far we still need to go before finding the Beloved Community that lives in the heart of God.

Even so, perhaps God’s providence will reveal itself yet. I recently heard an interview with Chilean novelist and Professor Ariel Dorfman who suggested that the pandemic might help us Americans envision a new reality for our nation that we had not been able to imagine before. He reminded us that refugees and exiles have, by necessity, had to let go of so much of what they thought they knew in order to lean into the new life in front of them. They normally have to endure the kinds of pain and loss that some of us are facing for the first time, including saying good-bye to relatives that we can no longer see or touch.

And yet, somewhere deep in our spiritual DNA, isn’t this something that God’s people should know? We have always been strangers living in a strange land, relying on grace and a vision of a new world that we cannot create on our own. May we keep our eyes on the prize, and hold on to one another.

Arel Dorfmann – “we might all learn what it’s like to be refugees, to live in exile.”


The Coronavirus Diaries: updates and reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'