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Exposing Your Ignorance (And Exposing Everyone Else)

, , , , , , , , | Working | November 20, 2022

During the worldwide health crisis, my city set up one of the largest emergency homeless shelters in the country. Over the eighteen months that it operated, the services offered expanded from basic shelter, hygiene, and meals to include navigation services to help our clients connect with service providers and employment and housing programs.

As a member of this navigation team, all my teammates and I were required to test for the infamous contagious illness every week. If we tested positive, we were not permitted to work for at least two weeks. This story happened a few months before we shut down.

On the day after our mandatory testing, [Coworker #1] came in coughing and complaining about being tired because she couldn’t get any sleep. Our manager told her that, since she was having symptoms, she could go home and rest. She refused.

Shortly after we opened the doors to the office, I heard this exchange between her and another coworker. [Coworker #1] had her mask down to her chin, and [Coworker #2]’s nose was sticking out of their mask.

Coworker #1: “It’s all bulls***, anyway. I took one of those at-home tests a few days ago, and it gave me a false positive. There’s no way I have the [slang for illness].”

Coworker #2: “Right, those tests are so inaccurate, always giving false results. I don’t know why anyone is still testing.”

Coworker #1: “Because they get a whole bunch of money from every test. I bet they get more from positives, too — which is f***ed because, of course, then the people they’re lying about have to miss work.”

Coworker #3: “Wait… Did you say you tested positive?”

Coworker #1: “It was a false positive! It was probably because my son sneezed on it while I was waiting for the results. He had it last week.”

Coworker #3: “Wait, your son had it?! And he’s not quarantined?!”

[Coworker #1] coughed directly into her hand.

Coworker #1: “Relax, he’s not even sick. It’s not like you can get it from someone who’s not even sick.”

At this point, [Coworker #3] joined me in the far back of the office, where we wiped down and sanitized everything and kept carefully away from everyone else for the rest of the day.

The next morning our manager — who missed that exchange due to never being in the office when we were actually open — told [Coworker #1] that she had tested positive and needed to stay home.

[Coworker #3] and I worked in the shelter as a whole for over a year, and in the navigation office for almost six months. Neither of us ever tested positive, despite almost certainly being exposed almost every day.

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