Josh Bergeron: Voting came first after negative test

Published 12:02 am Sunday, October 18, 2020

It probably says a lot about me that I went to vote Friday as soon as a Rowan County Health Department staff member called to say my COVID-19 test came back negative.

The call came in at 1:09 p.m. Friday. By about 1:20 p.m., I was in line at the West End Plaza voting site. At 2:07 p.m., I took a selfie outside of the Rowan County Board of Elections Office after voting. It was a longer wait than in past elections, but that’s a sign of extra health precautions and excitement about voting rather than problems with the logistics of the polling place. People who show up during the first days of early voting tend to be among the most enthusiastic about voting, and there have already been thousands of them in Rowan County this year.

Since missing out of the 2012 presidential election because, as a college student, I was too lazy to register, I haven’t missed an election. And since living in North Carolina, I’ve usually voted early to allow for a little bit of extra sleep and reporting time on Election Day. After seeing lines of people on the first day of early voting, I wanted to get in on the action, too.

Out of an abundance of caution, I was tested Wednesday after waking up sweating and with a migraine and a cough. I’d been tested for COVID-19 antibodies in May because I believed I’d contracted the virus in March, but those results were negative. So, barring inaccurate test results, I was still susceptible.

Getting tested is about what you might expect if you’ve had friends who have done it and seen any news footage or pictures in the previous few months. I drove to the Rowan County Health Department, where there is drive-thru testing this month every weekday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a special testing time Oct. 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. I filled out a form that asked for some demographic information, had both nostrils swabbed and left with a packet of information about what to do next and a free cloth mask that’s too small for my big head.

Health officials recommend people who are tested stay home and quarantine until results come back. In my case, results were back in about 48 hours.

A former political reporter and news junkie, those 48 hours were particularly tough. Working from home isn’t for everyone. Sure, you can keep on sweatpants and take a walk during a short break instead of standing up from a desk and getting some water, but it’s easier for some, including me, to be distracted at home. And there’s something enjoyable about working in a newsroom with other people, particularly during election season. So, even as working from home has become more fashionable, I’ve chosen to keep a regular schedule and travel to the office — my way of keeping something normal even as everything else was changing.

The waiting wasn’t made any easier by the fact that a home remedy of chicken noodle soup with hot tea, honey and lemon got rid of all the symptoms after the first day.

But I can now say I’ve voted in the 2020 election and that I’ve been tested for COVID-19 and for antibodies. One of those has got to count for something, right?

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.