Thomas Reese on Being Released From Quarantine Into Social Distancing

The Jesuit Residence on Eye Street NW in Washington, DC, was under quarantine. RNS photo by Thomas Reese, SJ

The Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest, is a Senior Analyst at RNS.

After 14 days in quarantine, my Jesuit community in Washington, D.C., has been officially released from quarantine. We’re happy and lucky that none of us caught COVID-19 from our brother who contracted it.

Then again, it’s hard to take too much joy in being released before infections have even peaked in the United States. It feels like being released from jail into a war zone.

We went into quarantine when one of our members, the Rev. Steve Planning, tested positive for the coronavirus on March 14. He is still in isolation, but since we have been symptom-free and avoided contact with him for two weeks, we have been released. That means we can leave the house but must continue to keep social distance, wash hands, disinfect surfaces and practice all the other preventive measures recommended by public health experts.

We still must follow “stay at home” rules and social distancing like everyone else. Being released from quarantine does not mean that we won’t catch COVID-19; it only means that we are not currently infected and therefore not a danger to anyone else.

We are in this disaster because our country failed to follow basic public health protocols. We failed to adequately test for the virus and trace down and quarantine those who had been in contact with anyone infected. If every early victim of the virus had been isolated like Steve, if everyone in contact with an infected person had been quarantined like us, our nation would not be in the situation we are today.

Since I work from home anyway, being quarantined was not all that bad. I do not see my life changing much in the next few weeks. I am going to continue self-quarantining.

Being quarantined is a minor place in purgatory compared with the hell of having the virus itself. Steve never got so bad that he needed hospitalization, but considering the hell he went through, I would hate to be someone who had to go to the hospital.

The coronavirus hell has multiple levels, some worse than others, just like Dante’s Inferno.

The worst is for those who get so sick they have to be hospitalized. Their families and caregivers are put through the hell of trying to alleviate their suffering while trying to avoid infection. New York has shown us that hospitals can be overwhelmed and people can die.

What happened in New York is going to happen in most major cities. Ultimately it will spread to rural areas where there are few hospitals and doctors.

Then there is the hell of not being able to support your family because your employer laid you off because his business has been closed by the pandemic. Although Congress passed a rescue bill, it would be naïve to think that government is going to make everyone financially whole who has been hurt by the virus.

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Source: Religion News Service