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Guest Column: The confusion of a 
Covid diagnosis

By Brian Ricca

I moved out. 

Not like that, but we had Covid in our house. 

Here’s what it looked like. 

Our oldest son had a teammate who tested positive. We used the test kits provided to us by the school, even though we had no symptoms, to ensure that our boys were negative. And they were, on the first day. The next day though, when we tested again, Patrick was positive. For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, one of the Riccas had Covid-19. 

So we had a decision to make. 

The guidance at the time indicated isolation at least through Day 5 and return to school after two negative antigen tests. 

What if we all isolated together? Would it be like chickenpox? I remember in the early 80s, when one of my siblings got chickenpox, we were all thrown together, and we ended up getting it around the same time. 

Unfortunately, Covid is not that predictable or logical. If we all came together, there was no guarantee that we would all get it with any expected timeline. One of us could show symptoms in a day; another could show symptoms a few days later. We might never show symptoms. This is life with Covid-19. 

I have always known my wife to be a selfless person, but what she did next brought the concept of selflessness to a whole new level: She chose to isolate with Patrick. Even though she was symptom-free, she and Patrick went to our master bedroom and shut the door. They would stay there together over the next several days, and I would stay in our guest room. 

So I moved out. 

I took toiletries and clothes into another bedroom, most recently occupied by my wife’s grandmother at Christmas. Our youngest son and I wore masks in the house. We were never within 6 feet of either Patrick or Michal for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period. We were determined to do everything we could to keep Covid away from Brendan and me. 

First, I must acknowledge the amount of privilege my family has. We have the space and the room to isolate. We have multiple bathrooms and bedrooms in our home. We have the flexibility to work from home. We can handle the disruption that Covid brought to us. 

Second, I must also acknowledge how challenging this was. I have a brand new perspective on what it’s like to parent during this time in our world. At times, it was confusing: Our son tested negative at home on day four but tested positive in school on day five. What did that mean? No one knew at the time. We placed phone calls to doctors’ offices, nurses’ offices and read the guidance. None of it made sense. We rarely got the same answer twice. 

So we did the only thing that we knew to be clear. We stayed isolated at home for the entire 10 days. Patrick was finally able to get a negative antigen test on day nine and went to school for the first time since the winter holiday break.

Even still, we remained masked at home, and I stayed in the guest room until this past Saturday. So far, it’s working. We are all symptom-free, and it’s clear that the guidance is changing at some point this week. 

I’m left stunned by two things: one, the selflessness of my wife of 17 years. Talk about falling on the grenade. She truly took one for the team.

And two, the level of confusion and chaos that we felt was humbling. As a superintendent, I thought it was easy to follow the guidance, quarantine and come back to school at the appointed time. As a dad, I learned how hard this really is. 

Moving out taught me a lesson in empathy. One I soon won’t forget. 

Brian Ricca is a Williston resident and superintendent of schools in St. Johnsbury.