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My family got COVID-19 — here's what I wish I knew

MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle shares what she learned after she, her husband and their three children recently tested positive for COVID-19.

I’ve been covering the COVID-19 pandemic for the past 10 months, and I’m embarrassed to say when it hit my own house, I wasn’t prepared. When my husband’s rapid test came back positive the day before Thanksgiving, I felt shocked, foolish, scared and most notably, unprepared.

My family didn't have a COVID-19-positive, quarantine plan. I quickly realized the nuts and bolts of effectively isolating are difficult. For example, when you get a positive result, you can’t simply run out to the pharmacy or the grocery store. And you certainly can’t send your kids to a grandparent or a neighbor.

Looking back, I could have been more prepared. My advice? While you are healthy and if you have the financial means, organize a “COVID-19 prep kit” now in case you or someone in your family does get sick.

Put together a resource list with local testing locations (hours, patient requirements, cost, turnaround time). Remember: There are many types of tests and results turn-around time is problematic and inconsistent.

Also include contact information for your family doctor and a list of local grocery stores and pharmacies that deliver.

Stock your house with items you would need and won’t be able to run out and get. This includes:

  • Frozen, prepared meals
  • Pantry meals
  • Chicken broth
  • Easy comfort food your kids can prepare (make sure they know how to use the microwave and dishwasher)

Your kit should also include the following:

Stephanie Ruhle, with her husband Andy Hubbard and their daughter, Drew.Courtesy of Stephanie Ruhle

Thanks to extended family and neighbors dropping off meals and lots of FaceTime calls with my kids asking “which button turns the heat up,” they got through a week of modified “pirate living.” Teeth weren’t brushed, but I’m proud to say showers were taken, while I was in a separate space over the garage.

I know how rare it is and fortunate I am to have close friends and family nearby to help with supplies, so it’s important to understand what resources you have and what you need. And make a plan on how to get that help if the time comes when you need it.

That may mean relying on your neighbors. Even if you’ve lived in your house for 10 years and barely waved to them, now is the time for a “hey neighbor” Zoom call. Consider organizing contingency meal drop offs if you or they get sick and need support. Do the best you can to create a support network.

While I have not felt great for a few weeks, more than anything, I feel grateful.

Fortunately, my employer provided me with some at-home tests, which again is a privilege most people don’t have. All three kids ended up testing positive. They had been isolating for a week and had no symptoms. They would have met the guidelines to return to school. Had they not taken the test, we would have exposed three schools to three positive COVID-19 cases.

I’m so grateful we didn’t.

I have grave concerns about this winter, especially given inaction from Congress and denial from our administration.

We remain in the eye of this COVID-19 storm and our most vulnerable communities are in crisis.

A vaccine is coming, but it’s not here today. Today we have COVID-19. And we need to better prepare.

A version of this story appeared on Know Your Value.