Covid-19 Testing Privilege: Are we really all in this together?
After experiencing some symptoms on the Covid-19 list, I booked off school and set out to get tested. I wanted to make sure I would return to my school Covid free, keeping my students and my school safe.
This was my second time getting a Covid test. In April of 2020, it took 4 days of waiting before I was able to get a Covid test. It took me over a week to get the results as the website told me I needed to speak to a nurse several times … what! Did I have Covid? The answer was no as the website/system was not working properly. I hoped that the second time around would be easier and faster as I had to self isolate for 10 days.
It took me a bit of time to figure out where I should go for a test as the available options were not evident. I found many websites with contradictory information as to whether I needed an appointment or not. After trying to book an appointment online with little success, I opted to book my appointment over the phone.
I wondered about a possible source of my undiagnosed symptoms. As I purposely keep my contacts to a minimum, only going to school and back home, I knew if I was infected the source would be my school. I also knew that if I was off, it was unlikely that I would have a supply teacher cover my class.
The person on the phone asked me if I had been in contact with an infected person. I responded that I was not sure as there were four cases of Covid in my school and two closed classrooms. I had no idea which classrooms were closed as staff were not told. I also had no idea which students were in these classes. As my classroom is near the Behaviour Teacher Assistant’s room, I interact with many students who pass by.
The person online stated that I should be fine since “students were learning with social distancing in place.” I almost peed my pants at the statement and corrected the person saying that students in my school were in crowded classrooms sitting about six inches apart … instead of six feet. I did not give the person on the phone a hard time as I knew they were just doing their job. After five minutes, I had an appointment the next day.
Waiting at the hospital
As my partner drove onto the hospital grounds, I noted a very small line for Covid-19 testing. It was easier than the first time as I had a short wait to get into the hospital to be processed. As I knew what to expect, the very long probe that was inserted into my nose (almost touching my brain) was not a big deal. The drive, test, and return home took 40 minutes.
While waiting in line, I spoke to a woman with her grandchild. It turned out that he was her great grand child! She told me that she spoke to her mother every night on the phone before they retired to bed. Wow, five generations in one family as the boy had a living and healthy great-great grandmother.
Privileged assess in health care
As I looked around, I noted that the people in the Oakville hospital, like me, had a great deal of privilege. The people all arrived to the testing location by car. Women could get tested without their children in tow, as they had adults to watch their kids. People had extra money to pay for parking their cars and access to Internet and/or a phone to book an appointment. Due to lower Covid outbreaks in Oakville, the testing lines were shorter than lines in Toronto, Peel, and York.
Challenges of Single Parenting
As I reflected, I remembered the days when I was a single parent. My children were four and six years old. My son, TWS, had undiagnosed ADHD and he was a tornado of a child, never able to stay still. As a single parent, it was taxing to take him anywhere.
Due to the challenges of both parents working, my children’s father and I decided that one of us would stay home to care for our children of 3 and 5 years old. As a result, I was the one to quit my well-paying marketing job. About a year later, my children’s father wanted a divorce. I was in an abusive relationship and I had to get away from this abuse.
I had no income, no vehicle, and few resources. As I could not afford a babysitter, I often took my children to my doctor’s appointments. While I attended an appointment, my son decided to rummage through my “talking “doctor’s reception desk resulting in him being covered with stamp impressions. Another time I had a PAB test done while trying to distract my daughter with a toy.
As a single parent, I could not afford cable TV and we made do with three channels using a “Rabbit Ears” antenna. I could not afford a cell phone until after I got a job as a teacher. I certainly would have not been able to afford internet.
Covid Testing as a Single Parent
As I have become more aware of the privilege I carry in my life, I considered my experience as a single parent going for a Covid-19 test. I imagined this experience through the lens of my own life as a single parent with my own children.
I know I would have had a challenging time booking a Covid-19 test as I only had a landline. It would have taken me time to figure out which location would be best for my circumstances. With no car, I would have had to take public transit which would have meant keeping my son, TWS, from not pulling the “stop request” cord. I would also likely have to transfer to another bus route making the journey more challenging.
Once at the testing location, I would have had to keep my children occupied while we waited. Further, I would have also decided to get my children tested. My daughter, KIS, would have complied to a test as long as there was some reward after. As I could hardly get TWS to agree to swallow medicine, I know he would not have agreed to have a very long probe shoved down his nose … he would have needed people to hold him down. The whole experience would have been a calamity.
After this ordeal, I would have had to get back on a bus to go home while giving my children snacks as a couple of hours would have passed. Exhausted with no extra support, we would have arrived home to have an early dinner and then bedtime.
Service Industry Workers
Most people in the service industry do not have many or any paid sick days. With testing, single parents and their children would have to self isolate until results were posted. This would result in a loss of pay for a parent and a loss of time in school for children. I could write an entire blog about the precariousness single parents face in their employment when dealing with their own health and the health of their children.
With privilege comes more available resources
I acknowledge that I have a great deal of privilege as an educated, employed, English speaking, non-immigrant, married, mobile (not physically disabled), White woman with resources like a car and working internet. As my children are now adults (now almost 27 and 28 years old), I am also relieved of the parental responsibilities of childcare and the monetary need to support them. Not all parents have these resources or privilege.
Are we really all in this together?
Regarding COVID-19, I’ve heard people say “we are all in this together” … but are we? The people who live with limited resources via housing, funds, and access to health care do not have the same privilege as people in higher socioeconomic circumstances. People who must work for minimum wage in service industries such as factories, warehouses, groceries stores or in long term care facilities do not share the same privileges. This community of people only share the disadvantage of being economically insecure which makes them more vulnerable to infection from the virus. As a result, they are not those with resourced privilege and this is likely why the virus is raging in their communities.
So, if you go for a Covid-19 test, remember how privileged you are to have easy access to getting this test.
Deb Weston, PhD