COVID in the house for the holidays

Finn O'Donnell, center, has finished his quarantine period after testing positive for COVID-19 on Christmas Eve. His stepfather Rico Quirindongo, left, and his mother Kate Dean, both of whom have received vaccines and booster shots, have tested negative numerous times since exposure. Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
Written by Publishing Team

PORT TOWNSEND – On Christmas Eve, Finn O’Donnell received a text from a friend.

“Just to let you know, I woke up sick,” he began. Two COVID tests followed, his friend wrote. Both positive.

O’Donnell, 18, was back home in Port Townsend during winter break from college and invited his close friends over for dinner on December 22. All were vaccinated, but not all had received a booster.

As it turned out, the recall made a big difference in what happened next.

O’Donnell’s mother is Kate Dean, the Jefferson County District 1 Commissioner who has spent the past 21 months listening to Drs. County health workers Tom Locke and Allison Berry.

“I had dinner with all the kids,” said Dean, herself vaccinated and boosted.

When the text message arrived, the household jumped into high gear to test for COVID – which they were going to do anyway was the night before a big Christmas dinner with the grandparents and various members of the family. family.

Dean and her husband, Rico Quirindongo, also vaccinated and boosted, tested negative. O’Donnell’s sister, Rennie, 14, has tested negative. She wasn’t boosted, but she hadn’t been in close contact with her brother either.

Dean and Quirindongo had stocked up on home test kits before the holidays, so they used several until they could get to Jefferson Healthcare Hospital for PCR testing after Christmas. With several inches of snow covering Port Townsend and cars Dean calls “wimpy,” the couple walked 40 minutes from their Uptown home to the test site.

Each time they tested negative. They had already sent O’Donnell into segregation in the upstairs bedroom and bathroom, and had canceled all extended family visits.

The teenager considers himself lucky for several reasons. His COVID case came without severe symptoms and he was able to stay home.

“We had a space where I could isolate myself. We have had access to testing, “he added,” and most of my contacts have been boosted. This is one case where boosters work, and it shows the importance of testing. ”

Dean, for his part, acknowledged the paradoxes of COVID entering his home: She and her husband were fully immune – and cautious in groups – and they had good access to information about the virus.

Then there’s the fact that her son, a student at the American University in Washington, DC, one of the country’s hotspots, didn’t catch COVID there. He caught it from his friend in Port Townsend.

Also ironic is the fact that O’Donnell received his recall during the day of December 22. He didn’t have time to protect him before his exposure that night. Another friend who came to this dinner was also not boosted, he said, and also tested positive.

O’Donnell’s positive result was not determined to be the omicron variant, he added, but given the rapid spread and high transmissibility of this strain, he believes the odds are good. .

Since the virus became “the most unwanted vacation host,” as Dean said, she has learned a lot. In a December 27 Facebook post, she listed some of the lessons.

First: “I’m lucky. My son’s case is mild and asymptomatic, which is not always the case, even in young people who have been vaccinated, ”Dean wrote.

Second: “Science is legitimate. We followed the rules and limited this tricky virus to just one case. Vaccinated people are vulnerable to Omicron, people boosted less. Our family followed science, and it worked.

Dean added that she is privileged: able to work from home while delivering food to her son throughout their quarantine period. These are good meals, O’Donnell said, joking that it was like hotel room service, handed to him through a curtain by a masked mom.

“We had all this rich food,” it would have been a Christmas dinner for 15 people, Dean added. There was a prime rib as the main course. And the patient’s father, Will O’Donnell, brought in a spicy seafood stew to deliver upstairs.

There was a day when everyone was in a bad mood. It was too cold for anyone to go out for a walk. O’Donnell said his sister was particularly annoyed with him, so he wrote her a card to apologize for ruining Christmas.

By New Years Eve, everyone in the household, including O’Donnell, had tested negative for COVID-19. However, masks are still part of the routine, especially for Dean when she is with his daughter, who is vaccinated but underage for a booster.

O’Donnell will return to Washington, DC this Friday with “superimmunity,” his mother said, having been vaccinated, infected and boosted.

Dean also expressed empathy for other families as they navigate vacations, gatherings and what she called “ever-changing directions” from public health officials.

“I know a lot, a lot of people are struggling with COVID right now. I hope you feel supported and free from the stigma, ”she wrote in her Facebook post.

“There is a lot we can do to prevent the infection, and there are many ways it can keep creeping in. Let’s support each other anyway.”


Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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