Chaya Kasse Valier
Chaya Kasse Valier

When You Test Positive for Coronavirus in Israel

I recently tested positive for the coronavirus, and 10 days later finished my isolation. Here’s what happened and what didn’t, including how those in isolation might fare better both physically and mentally.

Day #1 Tuesday

Went to get PCR tests for me and my family. I had had mild symptoms for five days, and we wanted to make sure that if I/we were positive, we’d get over it in time for Passover seder with my in-laws.

Day #2 Wednesday

7 am: Test results ready for view on the Maccabi (HMO) website. 

Me: Positive. 

Rest of family: Negative.

8:15 am: Moked haCorona (Corona Control Center) Phone Call

The initial intake:
You tested positive for Corona. I will need to ask you a few questions, OK?
How do you feel? 

Thank God, fine.

Do you have symptoms? Not anymore, no. 

Which symptoms did you have?

A bit of a cough for one day, mild nausea for a few days, and a fever for two hours once. 

When did your symptoms begin?

Friday.

Who did you meet with starting five days before your symptoms began?
Where do you work? From home? What do you work in?

Why does this matter if I work from home?

I just need to ask you these questions.

(Never mind, just answer her questions. She’s a 20-something who needs a job.)

Who lives with you?

Everyone on your list. (I know she has, right on her screen, every child of ours listed.)
She starts to name off all of the names of our children.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

And your husband is…
Yes.

Anyone else live with you? 

You and everyone in your house must go into bidud (quarantine). 

Everyone testing negative in your house needs to be in separate isolation from those testing positive. 

If those testing negative do not separate from those testing positive, they will need 14 days of additional quarantine starting from when the positive-testers finish their Corona isolation. In other words, they will need double quarantine. 

(If they remain symptomless, and do two negative tests — one at least 24 hours before the 9th day and one on the 9th day, they can shorten their quarantine to 10 days.)

You may not — ever — leave your house during bidud. You may not go out.

So, would you like to stay in one room, or go to a motel? (The motel is completely tax funded. The people there all tested positive for the coronavirus, and therefore it’s like a vacation oasis — no masks, no social distancing required. A dream these days. G-d knows how much tax money is being poured into those motels.)

9:00 am: Ministry of Health 5 SMSs one after the other — for each kid having to go into bidud.

9:30 am: Maccabi nurse. Calling to tell me I tested positive. No $#%^&.
How are you feeling? Do you have the number for the nurse’s station in case you need it?

2:00 pm: Maccabi automated phone call — “If you want to listen to the results of your Corona test, press 1.” OK, this is the FOURTH way I will have found out.

3:00 pm: Shabak (Israeli FBI) SMS. You tested positive for the coronavirus and according to an epidemiological investigation (that’s code for cell phone GPS tracking), you were near others recently. Your phone will be used to track others. This is only for the health of the public and then the information will be deleted. 

6:00 pm: Maccabi automated phone call. Press 0 or 1 (for each kid): Press 0 for yes and 1 for no. Fever? 0/1 Trouble breathing? 0/1. (The answers will determine whether they will qualify for the 10 days of bidud  instead of 14.) Oh whoops, I make a mistake the first time —  I hit 1 for Yes, and 0 for No. In what binary understanding does 0=yes and 1=no? I worry this kid will now be flagged in the system for having any symptoms and therefore their bidud can’t be shortened to 10 days.

Day #3, Thursday

Municipality phone call to my husband to see if we need a food package (that’s nice). We’re good thanks. How about the kids — how are they doing with bidud? Would you like us to bring them some games? Sure, we’ll take some games.

Day #4, Friday
(Noticed Saturday night after Shabbat.) Missed call at 6:30 pm. Shabbat came in an hour prior so yes the Jewish state is calling people on Shabbat, whereas otherwise government-sponsored activities never take place on Shabbat. Benefit of doubt: Maybe they think they will be saving lives so that’s allowed on Shabbat? But in my case they have on record (based on all of the above) that I’m not in the 0.5% at-risk category.

Day #5, Saturday Night

Above number calls again. Yes, I have no symptoms besides lack of smell/taste. 

OK, but I still need to ask you a few questions:

Do you have a fever?

Trouble breathing?

Coughing?

Did you pass urine in the past six hours?

Vomiting?

Diarrhea?

Can you eat?

Can you drink?

Did you get the immunizations? Did you manage to get them? Not any? Not even the first one?

Do you have any questions?

Yes. My symptoms ended five days ago. Can I shorten my bidud time? (I know she will say no.) Note: The CDC says transmission can happen up to 10 days after onset of symptoms — for me that ended 3 days ago already. Why is our Health Ministry going overboard? Maybe that don’t want to rely on people’s symptom reports, and only on the positive PCR test date?

End your bidud early? Noooooo — that’s the Heeeeeealth Ministry’s pooooolicy.

Are you suffering from any mental problems — do you need to talk to someone? 

Yes, bidud is causing people to have mental problems. Why are we separated from our family and society when the virus is only dangerous for less than 1% of the population who test positive, or 0.07% of the entire population — the majority of whom have now been fully inoculated? Why?

That’s the Heeeeealth Ministryyyyy…

I know you’re not the Health Ministry — but you CAN pass on this question about why are entire families — including children who are not at risk, and entire classrooms, are being subjugated to bidud? Why?

Are you yourself suffering from a mental problem?
No, and I still want you to escalate my question.

Day #6, Sunday

9:00 am SMS from the POLICE. 

Following your coronavirus test result, here are instructions. Click here. 

Opens to a full-page document: Bidud is a complicated and tough situation… 5,000 NIS (US$1,515) for violating it.

10 am Maccabi SMS
Fill out this survey to let us know how you’re doing. (Same questions as Saturday night: Fever? Trouble breathing? Urine? Drinking? Eating?) 

And then: Do you have an oxygen monitor (madad situatziat chumtzan) in your home? (Uh, no.) 

Excuse me — I tested positive a week ago. NOW they are asking me if I am monitoring my oxygen? OK benefit of the doubt — perhaps if I’d ever said — in any of the myriad surveys above — that I had breathing problems, then they MIGHT have gotten one to me earlier?

Day #7, Monday
2:00 pm Maccabi phone call.

Did you get a package from Maccabi?
I’ll have my family check. (Because remember, I cannot leave to check my mail even. She says she’ll call back.)

She calls back — no they didn’t see any package.

OK I’ll look into it.

Um, what is this package?

“Madad Situatzia” (had I not read the above survey, I would have wondered what “situation” they are measuring).

What for oxygen? Oh thanks — thank G-d I do not need that.

Day #8, Tuesday

9:00 am Municipality calls about delivering the games — verifying our address. It will come sometime this week.

Day #9, Wednesday

7:00 am My entire family goes for their 9th-day Corona test. If even ONE of them tests positive, they will be required to do bidud again because they live in the same house. This could go on for months, we worry.

9:00 am Maccabi automated phone call. Same as 6:00 pm on the first day: Fever? 0 for yes, 1 for no. Trouble breathing? 0 for yes, 1 for no. Etc

9:10 am My GP calls. I had made an appointment with her (a phone appointment, duh) in order for her to issue me a “discharge letter” tomorrow so I can “be released” on the 10th day. This is “allowed” because I have shown no symptoms for at least the last three days of the 10.

When on the 10th day?
In the morning.

What time in the morning? Midnight?
No, like real morning — you know, like 7:00 am.

Why?
Well you’re not allowed out at night — it has to be daytime. If you go out at night you will be going against the law.

Ponderings::
-Why does one need a discharge letter from their own home? They’ve made the entire country into a military hospital.

-Why is the Ministry of Health dictating when people can reenter society, rather than the doctor — based on the patient’s individual symptoms or lack thereof?

8:30 pm – One daughter cannot smell nor taste. Rest of family members freak out thinking that she might turn up positive, landing them all in bidud again.

[Meanwhile, I check the Maccabi website results off and on from 6:30 pm. I say I’ll do it once an hour. I start checking every 15 minutes.]

9:30 pm – Test results in. Everybody in my family tests NEGATIVE. They are now free to leave bidud. Everyone breathes huge sighs of relief. Life has become your Corona status.

Israel’s Coronavirus Green Pass
As for me, on the 10th day (really 11th day) I’m now labeled “recovered from coronavirus,”  a status which reportedly lasts a year. I get the Green Pass, “allowing” me to enter a synagogue, gym, restaurant, theater, and other public spaces. You qualify if:
a) You’ve tested positive for the coronavirus and finished your isolation
b) Are one week past both doses of the inoculations, or
c) test positive for the relevant antibodies via serological test.

I do not buy into the Green Pass discrimination and will not use it unless I really have to. The reason it’s discrimination is that the immunizations are not proven to prevent transmission — though we know they at least reduce symptoms. So if the government wants a policy whereby no one with symptoms is allowed in somewhere, that would put people on equal ground. Instead, they’ve created a mythical “pure/impure” for the Green Passers and the Non-Green Passers. Some are calling it “selectzia.” I think this Holocaust-invoking analogy is inaccurate, however the policy is definitely creating first-class versus second-class citizens. The inoculations are a drug which people can choose or not choose for themselves and their families (anyone 16 or older can get the shots in Israel). But the coercion is systemic: people are being fired — or not hired — if they do not have the Green Pass. High schoolers are being “encouraged” to take it so that the Ministry of Education will give the school benefits (yes I got an email from my daughter’s high school to this effect just two days ago).

The main advantage of the Green Pass is you no longer have to go into bidud if you’re near someone who got Corona. This advantage is another reason people are getting the inoculations — just to not have to be imprisoned in their homes again and again given the prevalence of transmission in this country.

Day #10, Thursday
9:15 am Check Maccabi website — the doctor’s discharge letter is uploaded.

10:00 am Maccabi SMS – You have a letter from your doctor, which is worthwhile viewing. Click here.

10:30 am Maccabi automated message: You have a letter from your doctor, which is worthwhile viewing. To view it, go to the Maccabi website and click on…

11:00 am Email from Maccabi: You have a letter from your doctor, which is worthwhile viewing. Click here.

12:20 pm Maccabi automated message: If you want to hear the results of your [children’s] Corona tests, press 1.

4:00 pm Games from the Municipality arrive. Note that this is the last day of bidud.

Day #13
Health Ministry SMS: You recovered from Corona, therefore, you have a high chance of possessing antibodies. You can donate these antibodies via plasma in order to help others recover from coronavirus. To find out more, click here.

THIS SMS MAKES ME HAPPY.  I click and schedule to be called for a donation time.

* * *

WHAT’S MISSING FROM ALL THE SMSs AND PHONE CALLS

There is no advice on health – it’s all about assessing your problems, whether you need medical contraptions or to go to the hospital. That’s good on the one hand, however: Not one of the FIVE government bodies that contacts you tell you how to diminish symptoms and stay as well as possible.

Nothing about:
Vitamin C
Zinc
Getting daily sunshine even via a window (and if that’s not an option, take Vitamin D3).
I took these three measures daily since the coronavirus started in Israel, which could be the reason I had a very mild case. 

Not one of the FIVE government bodies that contacts you tells you to be sure to:
Eat healthily.
Drink 8 glasses of water a day
Exercise – yes, even in bidud
Shower daily to feel refreshed.
Set a daily routine.
No advice at all on how to deal with the hardship of bidud.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO BIDUD
Regarding ripping families (or any housemates) apart based on testing status: For members of the same household, there should be another option. As mentioned above, the CDC says contagion is possible up to 10 days after onset of symptoms. Therefore, why not count back to onset of symptoms, and let all negative-results household members test again 14 days after that? Breaking apart couple, and parents from children is heartbreaking and even traumatic, which in turn affects immune system function in the short and possibly in the long term. Individual isolation is awful for families (some are even placing their children alone in a room for the 10-14 days!).  I’m going to have to assume many families are not doing it, but are forced to keep silent otherwise risk being incriminated. Incriminated for wanting to stay together and get through Corona together. There is no risk to outsiders if they are all in isolation and ride out the transmission time frame together. To hug together. Hugs (and in general feelings of love and bonding) release oxytocin — a hormone which increases happiness and lowers stress. Note again this applies not just to families but to any communal living situation — housemates, dormitories, etc.

If members of a household or other communal living setting prefer to isolate from each other, it is best to discourage staying in one room – instead suggest the house be split up. Movement is healthy for immunity — sedentariness is unhealthy, as is the stress of 10-14 days in an isolated environment. Like my 75-year-old next door neighbor commented during Israel’s first lockdown, “The elderly are more likely to die from the lockdown than from Corona.” And that wasn’t even isolation — “just” lockdown.

If everyone performed health-promoting measures before and after testing positive, I wonder how many serious cases and deaths could have been — and still can be — avoided. Vitamin C, Zinc, sunshine or Vitamin D3, and hugs. These measures may keep Coronavirus effects from spiraling out of control, which is even more necessary in the inhumane environment of isolation.  If there’s going to be so much government overreach, at least let them harness it for bolstering immunity.

About the Author
Chaya Kasse Valier lives in the most Jewishly-eclectic place on earth - Nachlaot, Jerusalem - with her husband and their blessed four daughters and a son. She works primarily as a copywriter as well as a masseuse and doula. Connect with Chaya on LinkedIn.
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